Join Our Mailing List
For Museum Info Only


Stuart Flintham

Spence D. Turner

Cecil Gehr

Keith Klinger

Richard Houts

Clyde Bragdon

John Englund

Back to Collections

Stuart Flintham
County of Los Angeles Fire Department


the first · 1920 · 1925

Chief FlinthamThe Los Angeles County Fire Department as we know it today does not resemble the beginning organizational layout as was found in the 1920’s. The L.A. County Forestry Department, headed by Chief Forrester Stuart J. Flintham, was chosen by the County Board of Supervisors to be the department, to be in charge of fire fighting and fire prevention, beginning with the fiscal year of 1920-21. Therefore, a man who was a graduate forester only was expected to do what he could to instigate the fire protection system for the unincorporated L.A. County territory. Due to his natural organizational ability, he largely succeeded.

Stuart J. Flintham became the County’s first Fire Chief and remained so until his untimely death in 1925. During his tenure, the first Fire Protection Districts (30) were formed which allowed small towns in the unincorporated territory to pay for fire stations, engines and manpower. Chief Flintham’s successor, Spencer Turner, continued to build on the framework built by Flintham. By the time of his retirement in 1952, the Department had grown to have 80 fire stations and nearly 1,000 total personnel. During both the Chief’s tenure, fires in the brush-covered hills and desert areas continued to be fought by the Forestry Department exclusively using green engines and men having different uniforms, pay scales, retirement, Labor Unions, etc.

At all times, during the reigns of each Chief, a significant feature of the Department was its ability to develop new techniques and equipment to fight fires of all kinds; ultimately, these benefited the fire service in general and therefore all of the citizens of the United States. Some of these developments were:

  • the use of large tankers to haul water to wildland fires (1926-29),
  • the first use of a 2-way radio for fire control (1923),
  • the first use of a tractor with a bulldozer blade on a brush fire (1930),
  • the development of the Griswold Fog Nozzle for indirect fire fighting (1938),
  • the design and development and use of the Fire Paramedic Program, ongoing from 1969 to the present day, and lastly,
  • the re-design of the U.S. Army Blackhawk Helicopter into the Firehawk helicopter which uses that machine’s great speed and power to deliver 1,000 gallons of water/phoscheck per drop.
Flintham crew

Emergency incidents are too numerous to mention in this brief history. Suffice it to say that the wildland-urban interface fire is an L.A. County specialty. The major portion of the Department’s total effort is directed to preparing for and handling these often giant and complex projects. The balance of the Fire Chiefs since Chief Turner (Gehr, Klinger, Houts, Bragdon, Englund, and Freeman) have each been exposed to their fair share of such occurrences, and have made their indelible mark in the rich history of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department.

Borrowed from the County of Los Angeles Fire Department