BFD History

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The Burbank Fire Department celebrated its Centennial in 2013.

Watch a video of Fire Chief Lenahan talking about the history of the Burbank Fire Department.

Centennial black and white photo

The City of Burbank was incorporated in 1911, with a population of 500. In the early years of the town of Burbank, when a fire was spotted, a fire bell was used to summon the Volunteer Firefighters. This bell was purchased in 1909 and was mounted on a hose-drying tower near a small shed that housed the hose cart and equipment. The hose cart carried a reel of hose, nozzles, axes, hooks, ladders and fire extinguishers. In a 30-day period ending August 6, 1913, there had been eight fires, three of which caused serious destruction. These incidents influenced the Burbank Board of Trustees to establish the Burbank Fire Department (BFD) on August 9, 1913. The first record of any volunteer Fire Chief, Chief O.L. Bashford, was found in an article in the Burbank Review dated February 23, 1912 however the first paid Fire Chief was Homer Davis in 1923. In 1916, $25,600 was approved by the voters for the City of Burbank Fire and City Hall bonds. Part of this bond issue was to purchase a fire apparatus to replace the hose cart. City Hall was built with the BFD in the east wing annex and the City purchased a Seagrave 250 gallon per minute triple combination pumper for $6,750. The fire bell was relocated behind the new City Hall.

Centennial black and white photo

As the City of Burbank continued to grow, a Seagrave Suburbanite 350 gallon per minute pumper was purchased in 1924. In 1926, a $50,000 bond was passed for three new fire stations, land acquisition and apparatus for the operation of the fire stations. Station 1 was a two-story structure, built at a cost of $12,375, Station 2 at $4,364, and Station 3 at $4,244. Authorization from the City Council for 14 additional paid firemen on May 31, 1927 brought BFD from a partly paid, mostly volunteer to a paid Fire Department with a holdover of some volunteers. The last record of a volunteer responding to a fire was in June 1928. The authorized strength of BFD in 1927 was 19 men. BFD reached a milestone in its early history with an almost entirely paid Department, three new stations, and two new pieces of apparatus.

Centennial wreck

In addition to its rich fire service history, BFD has been an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider for over 40 years. BFD’s paramedic program began on August 19, 1974, when nine firefighters entered a five month paramedic training program. On January 20, 1975, Squad 4 was placed into service followed by Paramedic Engine 4 on March 29, 1976. BFD’s Advanced Life Support (ALS) capabilities were further enhanced on February 1, 1978 when Squad 5 was put into service. BFD assumed full control of ALS delivery in 1979 by taking over the transportation component, converting both Squads into rescue ambulances (RA). The third RA, RA 11, was placed into service on September 15, 1999 in order to handle the steady increase of EMS calls and to better serve the citizens of Burbank. In 1993, Burbank Fire Paramedics piloted field treatment protocols, setting the standard for efficient, clinically effective field care for Los Angeles County’s EMS practice. These field protocols are now being utilized by 10 fire departments within the County. With the introduction of paramedic services in the 1970s, BFD continues to provide high quality, state-of-the-art care to its citizens and those who work in and visit Burbank. The EMS program delivered by BFD is recognized as one of the best in the State of California.

Centennial fire

The Verdugo Fire Communications Center (VFCC) was established on August 1, 1979 by the founding cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. The purpose of VFCC was to allow the three cities to make optimum use of fire service resources and increase the overall effectiveness of the fire defense system of the joint cities. The agreement also included a “no borders” clause – the closest fire engine responded to calls regardless of jurisdiction. In its first year of operation, VFCC dispatched over 19,000 incidents. In 1996, the cities of South Pasadena and San Marino joined VFCC. Today, VFCC continues to be jointly owned by the Tri-Cities and provides fire, EMS and rescue dispatch services on a contract basis to the Bob Hope Airport as well as 10 other cities in the region including Alhambra, Arcadia, Monrovia, Montebello, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Vernon.


Today, BFD is a full service fire agency and protects 17.16 square miles. The resident population of Burbank is approximately 108,000, with a daytime population of approximately 200,000. BFD provides a variety of services to the community including fire suppression, EMS, fire prevention, hazardous materials program, emergency preparedness, residential and commercial inspections and public education.

Centennial group photo

BFD consists of seven divisions: Fire Prevention Bureau, Fire Suppression (which includes the Hazardous Materials and Urban. Search & Rescue Programs), Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Management, Fire Apparatus & Equipment, Training & Safety and Administration. The Office of the Fire Chief is within the Administration Division and the Fire Corps, a volunteer program, is administered by the Emergency Management Division. Some of the regular tasks assigned to the Fire Corps include arson watch patrol, canteen service during emergencies for firefighter relief, meeting auxiliary communications obligations, and promoting disaster awareness in the community. There are a total of 136 BFD employees (120 sworn and 16 civilian) and the annual operating budget is approximately $33 million.


BFD has six fire stations and a training center. First line emergency response apparatus include six Engine Companies, two Truck Companies, three Paramedic Rescue Ambulances, a Hazardous Materials Response Vehicle, a Water Tender, a Brush Patrol and a Battalion Chief Command Vehicle.