Fire Trucks & Fire Fighting Apparatus Used at Hearst Castle State Historic Park

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Fire Trucks & Fire Fighting Apparatus

Used at Hearst Castle State Historic Park
by James G. Davis, Retired, Chief Ranger, Hearst Castle, 1968 - 1969
NOTE: If you want more information on any truck described below or a larger sized version of any photo, just send your request to with the picture number.
Before discussing the fire fighting apparatus that has served the State Division of Beaches and Parks and then the State Department of Parks and Recreation at Hearst Castle it is necessary to touch on the equipment purchased by the Hearst Corporation for the Castle. What the H C acquired for fire services at the Castle, the Ranch Headquarters, San Simeon Village, the Horse Ranch at Pico Creek and the airport prior to 1945 is unknown to the writer.
In 1945, the Hearst Corporation purchased from the Van Pelt Fire Truck Company of Oakdale, California two (2) fire trucks described as: 1945 Dodge platforms (cab and chassis) complete with a Van Pelt built front bumper mount centrifugal pump (pump output 350 GPM), a fire truck body containing a water tank, siren, Code 3 lights.
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Picture 1, 1945 Van Pelt Fire Truck

It is assumed one of these trucks was housed at the Ranch or the Airport or San Simeon Village and the other at the Castle on the Hilltop. In 1946 the Hearst Corporation bought a mate to the earlier two this time on a 1946 Dodge platform. Where it was located is not known.
There appears to have been one 1945 Dodge either on the Hilltop, the Ranch, the Airport or the Village at the time California State Parks assumed ownership at the Castle, late 1957 or 1958. With the construction of the Visitor Center Maintenance facility one truck was kept in there. It is reported that State Park forces did use the truck from time to time on fires. This truck was donated by the Hearst Corporation to State Parks where it was restored and is now on display in the Visitor Center area.
The second of the 1945 Dodge trucks was sent to the Hearst Compound at Wyntoon, a private estate in rural Siskiyou County, California. Information from a Hearst family member tells of the recent restoration of this truck and return to full duty as needed in fire service. The 1946 Dodge may be at the Hearst Corporation’s Jack Ranch near Chalome, an unincorporated community in San Luis Obispo County. The writer has been unsuccessful in obtaining pictures or information about this truck.
When California State Parks assumed ownership and staffed the Castle in late 1957 or early 1958 it is assumed that a 100-gallon “slip-in” firefighting unit (likely borrowed from another Park unit) was the Castle’s first fire fighting apparatus. The John Bean Co., or the Gordon Hurst Corporation or possibly the Western Fire Equipment Company probably built the unit.

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Picture 2, 100 gallon “slip-in” firefighting unit example

In the late 50’s or early 60’s a 3/4 ton four wheel drive pickup was purchased for the Castle, State Park Green in color. The truck shown in black and white is painted green and equipped with red lights and siren. The picture was taken in 1962 on the occasion of the one-millionth visitor to the Castle. With his back to the camera is Monument Supervisor Bill Allison; in the suit is Governor Pat Brown talking with 3 Park Rangers (possibly Dave Rawlings, Earl Hoover and John Fleming at far right).macintosh hd:users:jeffprice:desktop:davis trucks:3.jpg

Picture 3, Governor Brown and Rangers 1962
The truck shown above was later repainted red. A winch was mounted on the front bumper, red lights and siren modernized, a 100-gallon, slip-in unit was installed, along with dual rear wheels and fenders. The tailgate was removed and a rear step was installed. Combination tool boxes/crew seats were built and installed on the rear left and right side of the truck bed.

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Picture 4, Gayle and Sherry McKillop riding in same truck in Picture 3, after painted red and modified.

In November 1965 DPR entered into a lease agreement with the California Disaster Office (CDO) for a fire truck described as a 1953 GMC/Van Pelt, CDO Number 35. The truck carried 500 gallons of water and had a Hale 1000 GPM mid-ship mounted centrifugal pump. This was a large city type fire truck. The lease agreement expired in July 1970 with DPR buying the truck for a reported $1.00.
Between October 31, 1969 and August 1, 1973, CDO #35 was transferred as follows:

  • It left Hearst Castle State Historic Park.

  • It arrived at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

  • It left Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

  • It arrived at Big Sur State Park.

It was unsuited to the job to be done in Big Sur and in the fall of 1978 it was donated to the newly formed Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.

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Picture 5, 1952 GMC/Van Pelt, CDO Number 35

A void appears to have been created in the Hearst Castle fire truck compliment from the departure of the truck in Picture 5 to the arrival of the truck shown in Picture 6. This suggests that only the Hearst Corporation fire truck at the Visitor Center Maintenance Yard and the truck shown in Pictures 3 and 4 on the Hilltop. We do not believe this void existed and would like to know if it did and if it did not what sort of fire truck filled it.
In 1977 a highly placed and now retired CDF member delivered to the Castle a surveyed CDF Model 5 – Generation 1 fire truck described as follows: A 1959 Ford four wheel drive with front bumper mounted winch and 500 gallon water tank. The pumping unit consisted of a skid-mounted 250 GPM Berkeley centrifugal pump coupled to a Hercules engine. The unit was mounted crosswise on the truck frame behind the cab. Park forces painted this truck yellow at an unknown date. Exactly when this truck left the Castle or where it went are unknown.

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Picture 6, CDF Model 5, Generation 1 Fire Truck

In 1990's the Castle acquired a 1983, surveyed CDF International Model 1.
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Picture 7, Cal Fire Model 1 Fire Truck

The truck pictured above, was sent from the Castle to Sierra District in 2002. In exchange, the Sierra District sent a CDF Model 14, pictured below, to the Castle.
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Picture 8, CDF Model 14

The 1983 Model 1, International Harvester Corporation, truck was sent from the Sierra District to Mt. Diablo SP, where it is today.
In 1963 the State Office of Emergency Services (OES) contracted with Van Pelt Fire Trucks of Oakdale, CA to build a number of fire trucks for OES on 1963 GMC platforms (cabs and chassis). These trucks were numbered OES 101 through 103. OES truck 102 was issued to the Carpinteria/Summerland Fire Department where it remained until 1985 at which time it was acquired by DPR and assigned to the Castle. It remained there until 1999 at which time it was surveyed and sent to an unknown fire agency in Mexico.
The two-wheel drive truck had a midship-mounted 1000 GPM centrifugal pump and carried 500 gallons of water.
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Picture 9, 1963 Van Pelt Fire Truck

In 1999, DPR purchased an HME/West Mark structure-type fire truck for the Castle, with a 1250 GPM mid ship mount pump and a 500-gallon water tank.
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Picture 10, HME/West Mark Fire Truck

In 2007 a model 2500 four wheel drive Chevrolet pickup with a 200-gallon “slip-in” unit on the bed was purchased. No photograph is currently available. This truck may have been purchased with funds for the Prescription Burn program in the Castle area. It was probably never assigned to the Castle fire department.
Your comments, questions, suggestions, additions and/or deletions will be gratefully received. Please contact me directly.
Mahalo and Aloha,
Jim Davis

My sincere thanks to Jeff Price, fellow retired California State Park Chief Ranger, for his review, layout, and editing.

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