From the inside cover: Dramatic fires were always a part of life in early California. San Jose began earlier than most towns and has a history of firefighting spanning almost two centuries. Dick Nailen has re-created the days of the volunteer fire companies, the near-destruction of the heart of the town; the loss of the State House, the Court House, and the whole of a Chinatown. In the earthquake of 1906, as severe in San Jose as in San Francisco, the performance of the Fire Department turned potential destruction into mere property damage.
The era of the fire horse in San Jose was picturesque, but the later period of public apathy about fire protection contributed equally colorful improvisations in equipment which amazed fire buffs of the era, and delights them still. The struggle of firefighters for adequate equipment and compensation as the small town became a big city is not unique, and in this history of the Fire Department Mr. Nailen has written the story of Everytown, U.S.A. It always took a near-disaster to bestir the citizens to provide what fire chiefs had demanded for years. San Jose demonstrated this when more hose and power were hastily acquired after the Court House dome hurled to the ground because water could not be pumped to the second floor.
Every fireman knows the frustration, excitement, and tragedy which go into the superb systems of fire protection in today’s cities. He will find himself in the long list of unknown heroes and characters who man the engines in the text and photographs of Guardians of the Garden City.
About the Author
Born in San Jose in 1928, Dick Nailen grew up not far from San Jose Station 8. He graduated in 1950 from the University of Santa Clara with a degree in electrical engineering, and worked as a designer of electric motors and generators, becoming Chief Electrical Engineer for the Louis Allis Company of Milwaukee. He was active on the Canteen Committee of the Milwaukee Fire Bell Club, also serving as the Club’s Corresponding Secretary and editor of its quarterly newsletter. He was an honorary member of the Milwaukee Fire Department, Associate Member of the National Fire Protection Association, and Staff Correspondent for Fire Engineering magazine.