Sacramento’s oldest firehouse gracefully turns 80

Adolf Hitler was on the rise, Prohibition was coming to an end and the mighty Alhambra Theatre was still standing when Sacramento’s oldest fire station opened its double garage doors.

The year was 1933, and Fire Station 4 was christened in a vaulted-roof brick building that has aged gracefully at 3145 Granada Way, now just south of the Safeway on Alhambra Boulevard. The station actually dates back to 1902, when the first edifice was built on 26th Street between L Street and Capitol Avenue.

The new location meant that the station would spend many years living in the shadow of the Alhambra Theatre, where the Safeway parking lot exists now. The theater was demolished in 1973. The fire station has survived and remains virtually unchanged.

On Saturday, the fire station opened its doors to the public to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

A walk through it reveals dorms offering prim bedding and 1930s-era bedposts. The only obvious concessions to modern times are computers, a treadmill and a large-screen TV.

Firefighting has changed drastically since the station’s opening. Today, firefighters spend 80 percent of their time on medical or assistance calls. Three-alarm fires are rare. Even rarer is sight of the trademark Dalmatian.

In charge of this fire station is Capt. Lisa Stumpf, who joined the academy when she was 27.

“I had some exposure to people who worked for the Fire Department when I was working in the Department of Corrections,” she said. “I found that this kind of work was up my alley – helping and training people.”

Stumpf has been captain at the station for seven years. But she was originally assigned to the station as a firefighter in the early 1990s. She was promoted to other positions before being made captain where she started her career.

She said the station rarely gets more than 15 calls a day.

“Weekends are slower because we don’t have the state workers downtown, and we do not have as much foot traffic,” Stumpf said.

Four firefighters are assigned to the station every shift. The standard shift is 48 hours long, followed by 96 hours off.

If this station is defined by anything, it is that it has always been a training ground for young firefighters.

“This is a good training house,” she said. “They do their basic training and when they are in their probationary period, they can be with me from four to eight months,” Stumpf said.

Stumpf, who plans to retire in December, joined the firefighting profession because “This is the greatest job – I feel blessed,” she said. “I feel blessed I’m walking out of here on my own two legs.”

If Stumpf represents the past, a portent of the future is 4-year-old Caleb Marchi, a visitor who was donning what looked like standard-issue firefighter overalls – complete with reflective banding at the hemline.

“We cannot seem to get the uniform off of him,” said Caleb’s father, Jeff Marchi, an east Sacramento resident.

Caleb’s firefighter hat was trademark red, but much of the red was obscured by writing in black marker. These are the autographs of more than 70 firefighters. The family attends as many fire station open houses as they can.

In this case, it is not exactly “like father, like son.”

“Me? When I was young? I wanted to be a policeman,” Jeff Marchi said.

Marchi said his son has been fixated on being a fireman since he could talk – without prompting. He would not be disappointed if someday his son worked as a firefighter.

“I don’t want him to be a sheet-metal worker, like me,” Marchi said. “If he wants to be a firefighter, I’m going to support him in any way I can.”