History: 1911 through 1929

Jason Weber, Chief, Fire Department

Tamalpais Forest Fire District

On May 21, 1917 the Tamalpais Forest Fire District was created. This was the first legally constituted forest fire district in the State of California. Maximum taxing ability for the District was limited to ten cents per hundred dollars. The District had the power to take all actions necessary to operate the District. The Board was responsible to set rates within that limitation. In 1921, the boundaries were enlarged by an act of the Legislature to take in territory from Saint Vincents to McNears Point. Again in 1929, the boundaries were enlarged to take in territory from Bolinas to Inverness and the Point Reyes Peninsula. By 1940 the District boundaries encompassed approximately 257 square miles or 164,480 acres. The District at that point covered Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods National Monument, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Bolinas Ridge, Inverness Ridge, Carson Ridge, the Marin Municipal Water District watershed, Bolinas, Stinson Beach, Inverness, Olema, San Geronimo watersheds, and portions of East Marin.

Recent Large Fire History

The largest fire was in September 1923, which burned 40,000 acres from Lucas Valley to Bolinas. This same fire burned 35 homes in Woodacre Later that same year, the Tavern complex on the Summit of Mount Tamalpais burned to the ground. The second largest fire occurred in 1936 and burned 4,000 acres. The third largest in October 1917 on the ridge west of Inverness burned 2,000 acres. The fourth largest and the most disastrous from a monetary standpoint was the July 1929 Mill Valley fire. It burned 1,000 acres and destroyed 110 homes in Mill Valley. Damage was more than one million dollars.

Acquisition of Fire Equipment

Upon formation of the District, fire patrol was maintained on horseback. On May 1, 1921 this method of patrol was augmented by placing a man on the lookout at Mount Tamalpais whose sole duty was spotting and reporting fires. In the fire season of 1922 automobiles replaced the horsed for patrol work and carrying fire fighting equipment. The Automobiles were owned by District Fire Wardens who were reimbursed for mileage. In 1928, the first use of water in combating wildland fires in the Tamalpais Forest Fire District took place. This was the introduction of "back pack pump cans". This proved practical to such an extent that the District adopted them as part of their equipment.

Fire Lookouts

On May 21, 1921 the first fire lookout employed by the Tamalpais Forest Fire District was stationed at the lookout for the 1921 fire season. From 1921 until 1931, this lookout station was maintained. In 1931, electricity was brought to the Tavern below, and extended to the Lookout.