Motorization of the Riverside Fire Department began on September 15, 1909, with the $4,750 purchase of a Seagrave, combo hose wagon and chemical engine. With this purchase, the fire horses gave way to smoke belching, noisy, gasoline-powered trucks. The handsome and powerful steam pumper, previously impressive behind galloping horses, actually came to be towed behind one of the new engines.
Following another major fire loss in 1924 at the Motor Transit building in downtown Riverside, the number of fire hydrants was doubled. The fire also contributed to the passage of a 1925 bond issue, which increased fire protection, further improved the water system and allowed the purchase of two additional engine companies. By 1926, two new Seagrave engines and three American LaFrance engines had been purchased. One of these engines was later restored and is owned by the Riverside City Firefighter Association. By 1938, Riverside had 33 firefighters and five engine companies housed in four stations.
Growth of the department slowed to a walk during World War II. The firefighters, however, were highly essential in the establishment of the block warden program. In the early forties, Riverside gained national recognition when one of our firefighters, Ed Strickland, invented the pre-connected 1 ½" hose. This was soon adopted nationwide. During this same period, the department created a medical assistance program by placing a resuscitation unit on the back of a pickup truck.
The Department's continued growth and interest evolved to include more than the traditional emphasis of fire suppression and medical aid services. Even prior to World War II, fire prevention efforts received considerable attention. Another area of interest that received national recognition was the Driver Certification Program. This program taught all aspects of driving an emergency vehicle and tested each person prior to allowing them to drive an apparatus. This probably stemmed from the 1913 crash of its horse drawn steamer. The program continues today producing highly qualified apparatus drivers and operators.