According to public record, the first major fire in Orinda occurred in the 1880s. The conflagration consumed the home of Theodore Wagner, who at the time was U.S. Surveyor General of California. Among the early settlers, he is the personage after whom the ranch and the elementary school are named.
The second blaze, in 1915, destroyed the estate of Jose Vincente De laveaga, this notwithstanding heroic efforts by neighbors, farmhands and cowboys to quench the flames.
Eight years later, in 1923, the Orinda Volunteer Fire Department was organized. The first station (photo), costing $500 to build, was funded entirely by private donations.
The original apparatus consisted of one fire truck outfitted with two barrels of water, rakes, axes, shovels and ropes. A siren sounded when volunteers were needed.
By the 1940s there were three stations, still the number found within the Orinda city limits.The 1960s saw an expansion of services to include not only fire fighting, but also fire prevention and fire education.
In 1968 voters approved a bond measure to build a 14,000 square foot station – No. 45 – on Orinda Way, adjacent to Village Square and opposite the community park. The firehouse was commissioned in October of 1969.
Station 45 also serves as headquarters for the Moraga-Orinda Fire District, formed in 1997 when the two separate districts merged.
Today the combined district consists of 74 full-time staff, 18 paid on-call and eight volunteers. The four battalion chiefs, one fire marshal and one financial administrator report to the fire chief.
Tip of the old fireman's (er, firefighter's) cap to Darrell Lee, the battalion chief who provided the old photographs and historical particulars. For further information on the fire district, visit www.mofd.org.