The Organization of the Montezuma Fire District and its Early History
By Phil Pezzaglia
On June 11, 1928 the Board of Supervisors, of Solano County met in Fairfield. Those present at the meeting were: Thomas McCormack, presiding and Jos. B. Danielson, D.M. Fleming, F.W. Birchmore and C.E. Schmeiser. At that meeting Supervisor Schmeiser brought to the table a motion, which was unanimously, passed declaring that it was the intention of the Board to establish the “Montezuma Rural Fire Protection District.” An election was
called for the proposed district formation, on Friday, July 6, 1928. Precinct No. 1 held their polling at the County Voting Booth on Willow Road. Neal Hamilton held the position of Inspector, Clyde Brann was Judge and E.C. Dozier acted as Clerk. Precinct No. 2 held their polling at the I.O.O.F. Hall in Birds Landing with R.W. Bacon acting as Inspector, Ella Sullivan as the Judge and Albert Larsen held the position of Clerk.
When County Clerk G. Halliday received the returns of the election on Monday July 9th the results showed that of the seventy-five votes cast, seventy-one voted for the formation of the rural fire district. In the Montezuma district the results of the vote were fifty-three for and four against, while the residents of Rio Vista were unanimously in favor of the forming of the fire district.
The first vehicle purchased by the new department was actually purchased before the vote was held. Confidence was high and the consensus was that the vote would pass, so a truck was purchased with equipment mounted on a REO Speedwagon chassis, capable of a speed of fifty-five miles per hour, with a 600-gallon capacity. The vehicle had the ability to throw four streams of water at one time, and was equipped with additional hose and extra supplies along with all of the necessary equipment for fighting grain and rural fires. The delivery of the truck was held back a few days, as the vehicle needed to be reconditioned at the factory, after a few minor details were found to be faulty on the apparatus, following a test made by the committee in charge. After the corrections were made the truck was delivered to the Rio Vista Fire House on the evening of Thursday July 19th. The funds used to pay for this vehicle came about in a slightly different then standard way.
Ten individuals involved in the organization of the Montezuma Fire District went to the Bank of Rio Vista and each gave a personal note, with a combined total of five thousand dollars. With the money obtained from the bank this first vehicle was purchased, prior to the July 9th vote.
On August 6, 1928 members of the Rio Vista Fire Department and the temporary Trustees of the Montezuma Fire District, consisting of: Peter Cook Jr. Milton Talbert, Vernon Young and Wood Young, held a joint meeting to discuss the arrangements with regards to the new rural fire truck. It was decided that Roy Anderson would be appointed as driver and main caretaker of the vehicle, while the members of the Rio Vista Fire department would see that the truck was properly housed, maintained and manned. Maps of all of the roads and property in the newly formed fire district were supplied to the department. It was decided that on rural calls three men would respond to all calls and would be assisted by farmers, however the local Rio Vista fire fighters would be in charge, at the scene. When the permanent commissioners or Trustees for the district were appointed: Peter Cook, William Peterson, Wood Young, Edward Dozier, and Milton Talbert, filled the positions. Eventually Melvin Robertson replaced Edward Dozier and Walter Blacklock filled Wood Young’s position.
The second vehicle purchased by the district didn’t occur for a few more years. A 1935 Ford tank truck followed by a 1937 Seagraves pumper, and then by a 1941 Chevrolet which featured two engines, one to run the pump and the other to operate the truck. Van Pelt built the fire modifications to this 1941 vehicle.
The fifth truck purchased by the department, was a much needed 1946 International water truck, which carried 1200 gallons. In 1951 the department purchased an 1951 Oldsmobile sedan (#350) to be used by Chief Heringer as his chief’s car. This vehicle was marked the first time that all three fire departments, Rio Vista Volunteer Fire Department (Est. 1926), Montezuma Fire Protection District (Est. 1928) and Delta Fire Protection District (Est. 1947) purchased a vehicle jointly.
The Construction of the Montezuma Fire District Fire House 1954
By 1953 the Montezuma Fire District was twenty-five years old and the Rio Vista Fire Department was twenty-seven years old. That same year the city of Rio Vista had a population of 2,200 citizens who were extremely proud of their thirty-two man volunteer fire department. Eleven pieces of fire fighting equipment were owned in part by the city of Rio Vista, the Montezuma Fire District and the Delta Fire District, and fell under the leadership of Fire Chief Howard Heringer.
In late 1953 work began on construction of a firehouse for the Montezuma Fire District on the property adjacent to the Rio Vista Fire Department was located. Before construction could start the existing two-story house that was situated on the property had to be torn down or moved. It was decided that the house would be moved, and it was placed on a piece of property on the south side of Montezuma Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets, were it still stands today. The new 6,500 square foot firehouse, constructed of basalite walls and cement ceiling, adjoined the existing Rio Vista Fire Department firehouse, which had been constructed in 1926.This new structure contained garage bays for five engines and one ladder truck. The new facility also contained a kitchen, dormitory, washroom, chief's office, general office and radio room. The six garage doors measuring 12' x 14' were installed so as to be either operated collectively or individually by push button or manually. The two-way radio station would be in operation twenty-four hours a day and funds to man it would be jointly paid by the three fire districts. A formal dedication for the new $50,000 Montezuma Fire District Firehouse was held commenced at 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday March 21, 1954. The new building followed the dedication with an open house until 6 p.m. The afternoon was unfortunately marred by rain and a hailstorm, however that did not deter the thirty-two members of the Rio Vista Fire Department as well as several hundred additional excited individuals who attended the ceremony. Reverend James McRenyolds of the First Congregational Church of Rio Vista opened the dedication ceremonies by giving the benediction. Fireman Val deFlores held the position of master of ceremonies for the days event, introducing a variety of guest speakers, which included: Supervisor Raymond Church, Fire Chief Howard Heringer, County Fire Coordinator Chuck Green of Fairfield, John Wilcox, Delta Fire District Commissioner Peter Cook and Mayor Harry Alley.
One of the most informative and well-received speech of the day was that of Milton Talbert of Birds Landing, who handled the dedication speech with great ease. It was fitting that Mr. Talbert had been selected to give a speech, as he was one of the members of the original movement to start the district back in 1928. He had also held been a member of the board of fire commissioners since the organization. Mr. Talbert opened his speech very eloquently by stating "When I was first asked to give the dedication speech today, I felt very pleased and extremely honored. I accepted although I am not a public speaker but because I felt I can give you some of the history and facts behind our fire district growth". He closed his speech by saying: "We have labored and sacrificed to gain the position the fire district holds today and we feel we have now reached a new height of achievement so it is with deep pride that I now formally dedicate the new Montezuma Fire Protection District Fire House".
Montezuma Fire's Not-So-Distant History
Over the decades following, Montezuma personnel provided emergency services to all residents and travelers-through. Solano county saw its share of large-scale emergencies, as well, such as the 1961 fire that raged between Dixon and Elmira and the 1972 flood of Brannan Island.Until 1992 Montezuma Fire Department had been contracted to provide emergency coverage for Rio Vista and across the river into Sacramento County. In October of that year contracting for those areas ceased and the fire departments of River Delta and Rio Vista began coverage of their own areas. MFPD’s current coverage area still includes Ryer Islands.
Contracts changed, but department members remained. They continued to work as volunteers within both Rio Vista F.D. and Montezuma Fire Protection District, though in 1993 the Montezuma Fire Fighter’s Association was formed.
To assist in quicker responses to areas in Solano County it was determined that several fire stations would be created where fire apparatus would be housed, giving swifter access and shorter response time. These new fire stations were provided for approximately a decade and served well for the purpose they were established. Around the year 2011 a large building was erected at 2151 Collinsville Road and was able to house the fire apparatus from multiple locations. Station 52 now stands to assist with service along with Station 51.
In time, it was determined that it was not favorable to have individuals as members within both departments; 2016 brought the complete separation of Rio Vista Fire and Montezuma Fire personnel. Notably, there are currently several people within Montezuma Fire that have served their community for several decades and are continuing to offer their service today.