A Century of Service

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The Newport Beach Fire Department in 1931.

Newport Beach will celebrate 100 years of fire protection on Sunday.

The Newport Beach Fire Department became official on April 17, 1911, and started with a small, volunteer team and limited equipment. Over the past century, it has grown to 150 full-time employees, including firefighters, lifeguards and staff.

“We’re celebrating 100 great years,” said Capt. Rob Beuch, who is organizing the centennial events.

The fire department kicked off their year of Centennial Celebration with the annual pancake breakfast on Saturday. There will be several more events throughout the year, as well as informational fliers about the department’s history, services and employees, to celebrate the anniversary.

Battalion Chief Jeff Boyles visited each fire station and passed out commemorative centennial fire badges on Tuesday. The new badges are the same general shape and size, but have a different design. The design includes the text “100 years of service” and each individual’s personal badge number.

Newport firefighters practice using their new ladder truck at Fire Station #3 at Fashion Island. Photo by Sara Hall

The firefighters will wear the celebratory badge for the rest of the year and then return to their regular badge, Boyles said.

The new badges were purchased by the individual firefighter or staff person, said fire spokeswoman Jennifer Shultz.  No city funds were used to purchase the new badges, she said.

The centennial badges were also presented to members of the City Council and Civil Service Board on Tuesday by Fire Chief Mike Morgan and Newport Beach Firefighters Association President Brian McDonough

The first department badges were purchased in 1913 for $8.50, according to the department’s flier about the history of the badges. None of the originals still exist.

The symbols on the badge all have meanings behind them, said Beuch.

The trumpets, or bugles, go back to when early firefighters used them for communication. The bugles represent the rank of the individual, more bugles means higher up in the chain of command. If they are crossed, it symbolizes a high honor, Boyles said.

Historically, the badges have also had ladders, fire hydrants, helmets and/or trucks on them, Boyles said.

The NBFD was created after a city trustees meeting room burned in 1910 and residents became worried about fire protection. The city passed Ordinance 65 and called for a volunteer fire department, according to the city website.

W.A. Cornelius was appointed chief and residents filled up the rest of the ranks. They purchased three hose reels and a fire hose and built a fire hall just a block away from the Balboa Pavilion.

Visit www.newportbeachca.gov for more information about the Newport Beach Fire Department’s Centennial Celebration.


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