Racing to the Future, The San Francisco Fire Department
No city may owe more to its fire department than San Francisco. Between 1849 and 1851 alone there were six fires that caused over $1 million in damage each, including a blaze on May 13th, 1851 that caused $12 million in damage. Pictured above is one of San Francisco's many vintage firehouses, the Engine Company 48 on Potrero Hill. This firehouse was originally manned by eleven fireman and horses. In 1912 Fire Chief Thomas R. Murphy introduced the first motorized fire truck to San Francisco. However the new contraption was met with skepticism by the city's fire brigades. To convince the locals of the wisdom of the new technology a race was arranged between a horse-driven fire engine and the new engine powered by a four-cylinder engine.

The race was set up to start at the Number 26 firehouse in the Presidio with the horse-drawn steamer going to a hydrant at 11th and Lake and the motor truck racing to a hydrant at 13th and Lake. A fire alarm started the race and both teams raced off. In the end the new motor truck won by two minutes and twelve seconds, causing Fire Commissioner Brandenstein to declare that "There will never be another piece of horse-drawn apparatus purchased for San Francisco." Sure enough the last horse-drawn fire engine in San Francisco went off duty nine years later in 1921.
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