First published in February 2001
In the early years, Homestead’s fire protection service came from the Marin County Fire Department. In 1940, Ove Johnson watched helplessly while his home at 235 La Verne burned to the ground. The county fire fighters had responded to the call, but they were not authorized to fight structure fires—they were there to prevent the fire from spreading onto grassland and forest. Ove was furious. He did something about this sad state of affairs. After rebuilding his home, he bought an old Hudson truck. He and five friends refurbished it as a fire truck. In an emergency, Ove’s wife sounded the siren on top of their house. The volunteer fire brigade rushed to the Johnson’s garage, started up the fire truck and sped off to the fire.
In 1950, Mrs. White, who owned a lumber yard, gave the firemen all the lumber they needed to build a firehouse. She also sold them the lot on the corner of Evergreen and Melrose for $100. Dirt from excavating for a school expansion across the street was used as fill over a culvert for the creek. Lee Holden, a contractor, built the firehouse. A dance was held there on New Year’s Eve.
In 1962, paid firemen were hired—no more volunteers and the Homestead Valley and Tamalpais Valley fire departments merged. In 1972 two new bays were added to the building. In 1980 the firehouse was closed. Through a joint powers arrangement, Homestead was served from firehouses in Mill Valley and Tam Valley. The Homestead firehouse was rented as a residence.
In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the firehouse severely and it was demolished. With financial help from the Homestead Valley Land Trust to pay for a landscape architect and materials, volunteers developed the site into a park. Volunteer Park was dedicated in 1992. The Land Trust leased the park from the Fire District for $1 per year.
In 1993 the joint powers agreement between Mill Valley and Tam Valley fire departments was voided. The Tamalpais Fire Protection District decided that a fire station must be located in Homestead Valley. In 1994, a temporary solution was found. Two firefighters were housed in a home on Evergreen—an ambulance and a fire truck were parked in the yard next to the house under a temporary canopy.
In 1998 detailed engineering and architectural plans were developed for the construction of a new firehouse on the site of Volunteer Park. This project was abandoned in 1999 when the Southern Marin Fire Protection District was formed by merger of Tam Valley’s and Alto-Richardson Bay’s fire departments. A new arrangement was made for Homestead to be served once again from the Mill Valley and Tam Valley firehouses.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.