Rough and Ready Fire Department History
As long as there has been a town, there have been those there to help in the event of a fire. Up until 1963, there was no official formation of a fire department. As a result, the early years relied on fire suppression efforts from whoever was around with additional help from the Forestry Service out of Nevada City.
In the early years, it is said that there were barrels of water in the general location of where the market is located today. In the event of a fire, town folks would form a brigade and pass pails of water to quench the fire while waiting for additional help.
In 1961, there were 6 firefighters and a chief named Frank Fox. There are no records prior to that time. In 1963 the Rough and Ready Fire Department was officially established. There were six firefighters and the chief was Joe Miller. Many of the Board members were also firefighters.
The department was equipped with a 1948 Dodge truck which was purchased from the California Department of Forestry. It sat in a field across from where the Animal Clinic is today. The Dodge did not operate, but there were plenty of helpers (some who just put their 2¢ worth in) who would work on it until the early hours of the morning. Parts were obtained at a discount from Placer Motors in Auburn.
Once the truck was running, it was kept in the barn at Bruce Davison’s home. Fund raising and donations kept the department going. There was a lot of work done by the newly formed Auxiliary. First year donations were $500.00. At this time funding, for the fire department was only accomplished by donations. It wasn’t until 1969 that an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) was made (and approved) to create a fire district. The first annual budget as a tax supported district was $2,200.00
When there was an emergency call, the sheriff’s office would call one of two people, who would then call the firefighters on the list in hopes of getting someone to respond. One person would call the top half of the list, while the other person called the lower half of the list.
In 1968, Al Moniz became Fire Chief. Al obtained a fully equipped engine from the Office of Emergency Services for the price of $1.00. The stipulation from O.E.S. was that the department had to provide a fire station to house the equipment. That was something we did not have. In the interim, the engine was housed in an apple barn on the Bursill farm. The next summer, the Auxiliary raised enough money to purchase the land where the old fire station was on Rough and Ready Road. A loan was obtained to purchase a steel building to house the fire equipment. April 25, 1970, the foundation was poured for the new fire station which was located on Rough and Ready Road. When the building was completed, we had a fire station, two engines, and 16 volunteers.
Fund raising continued and over the years and more equipment was purchased. In 1974, a new 1973 Ford Fire Engine was added to the equipment list, followed shortly afterwards with a used water tender. We now had 4 engines and a station that held two. The ’48 Dodge was then moved back into Bruce Davison’s barn. Bruce had Bantam Chickens, and one of them made a nest in the engine. When there was a call, the chicken would go for a ride to the call, and then return home safely with the engine. Any fire department can have Dalmatians.
In October 1982, construction started to expand the fire station. Three engine bays, a kitchen, and a meeting room were added. This project was finished on July 5, 1984
On February 22, 1986, Don Gannon joined the department. It was not his plan to do so, but he was invited to a spaghetti dinner (recruitment dinner), and got roped in. In April 1988 Don became the Assistant Chief of the department, and a month later he became Fire Chief when then Chief Cole Hudson decided to resign. Don had a goal and started the process of building a new fire station in 1995. Not much was done design-wise over the first 10 years, but through Don’s fiscally responsible ways, the Board was able to start saving a little money each year towards the new station. As the years rolled on, the saving money momentum started building as the Firefighter’s Association and the Fire Auxiliary started donating money from fund-raising into the building fund. Any donations to the department, not earmarked for a specific cause, were placed into the building fund.
The first piece of property for the downtown station was sold to the fire department on July 27, 1998 at a reduced price. This was from the Baumgart family who used to own the Rough and Ready Market. Bill Baumgart Jr. was fire chief from 1977-1978. This property is located on the east side of the Blacksmith Shop. The second piece of property was donated to the department in 2000 by the Cramer family. This lot is where the new station resides today.
January 2004, the four department officer’s at that time started to design the floor plan for the new station. Don Gannon drew the first floor plan along with the placement on the lot. From that point, minor changes were made to that first plan. This design project was headed by Assistant Chief, Bob Vaughn with his computer and design knowledge taking input from everyone. That was worked on for a couple of years before being given to an architect to work out the kinks. Fund raising over the years has netted about $25,000 of private donations while the department saved and raised $900,000 for the project. As the new station was gaining momentum, we were fortunate to be able to apply for, and receive a matching grant from the Federal Government (ARRA Grant) for a large portion of the money we needed to get the project going. The grant was for 1.126 million dollars. Fund-raising continued, and the final piece of the puzzle came into place when we the last $400,000 from USDA to finish the project.
Assistant Chief Bob Vaughn was instrumental in the design process of the new station and was the person who wrote the $1.12 million grant for the new Rough and Ready Fire Station. Both Chief Gannon and Assistant Chief Vaughn were the two main people responsible for bringing this two-decade project to fruition. Construction began on the new facility in 2010 and was completed in January of 2012. In 2013, Chief Gannon retired and was replaced by Bob Vaughn, who held the Fire Chief position until his own retirement in 2021.
In 2019 the Fire Department proposed a Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment on all Rough and Ready property owners, in order to provide improved response efforts. On May 30th of that year, the ballots were counted and the assessment passed with 60% in favor and 40% opposed to the initiative.