The San Jose Fire Department, initially an intensely dedicated volunteer organization until the hiring of professionals in 1876, was established by a City ordinance in 1854. In that same year, a firehouse was erected on Lightston Street, functioning as the only firehouse in the community until the increased equipment storage space problem called for the construction of another building in 1869. Known as the Empire Firehouse, the new headquarters at 375 Second Street housed Empire #1, San Jose's first fire engine. For twenty-three years, the Empire Firehouse served the City of San Jose until it was destroyed in a fire that consumed several blocks of the downtown area in July 1892.
Special acknowledgement is gratefully extended to the City of San Jose, the San Jose Firefighters Union, the San Jose Historical Association, the Santa Clara County Buildings and Construction Trades Council and countless individuals for their contributions to this project.