A little over 100 years ago the pride and joy of the fire department was the horse drawn wagon. This would be state of the art firefighting in San Luis Obispo until 1916 when petrol would replace equine power.
This photo was made a year after one of the worst fires in history struck downtown, destroying a whole city block. A few months later in 1905, the city’s first luxury hotel, the Ramona, was also destroyed in a fire. This is no reflection on the bravery of the firefighters, who would find their faces blistering in the heat. The technology of firefighting had not yet caught up to the demands of urban living. Or the city was to stingy to upgrade services.
At this time dynamite was sometimes suggested as a method for preventing the spread of an out of control fire by knocking down buildings next to a conflagration.
The surnames of the firefighters reflect the Western European settlers who made the Central Coast their home. I don’t see any Asian, African or Native American’s represented in the ranks. At least six of the firefighters sport extravagant mustaches that would make breathing equipment of today less than comfortable.
A teamster’s knowledge was required then, a skill modern firefighters are not trained in. City streets are unpaved, but who would want paved streets in a horseback world.