The San Mateo Consolidated (SMC) Fire Department officially commenced operations on January 13, 2019. The department was formed by the establishment of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and represents the merger of fire departments in San Mateo, Foster City, and Belmont. At that time, it was the first JPA to commence operations in the State of California in nearly a decade.
SMC Fire has over 260 years of combined history providing emergency services in the three communities. The new department is staffed by 154 personnel that provide emergency services utilizing 10 engine companies and two ladder trucks from the existing nine fire stations. The consolidation allows SMC Fire to continue providing comprehensive emergency response services to all three cities in a more cost-effective way, while maintaining the high level of service the communities rely upon.
The efforts to explore this collaboration began in 2010 when Foster City and San Mateo agreed to share duties of then Fire Chief Dan Belville. Over the next two years, the two cities expanded their partnership to include other key Command Staff positions. In 2013, under the leadership of Fire Chief Mike Keefe, the City of Belmont/Belmont Fire Protection District joined the partnership. At that time, the three cities agreed to share, jointly staff, and relocate the Foster City Ladder Truck to a centralized location that better served the three communities. In 2015, newly appointed Fire Chief John Healy was directed by the three City Managers to study the viability of completing the merger of all fire protection services. The goal was to continue to provide the same high-quality emergency services in a more sustainable model. Staff from the cities and fire departments explored available options and determined a JPA was the most viable option.
The JPA was officially established on November 22, 2017, and on January 13, 2019, SMC Fire commenced operations as an independent fire department.
Before the Consolidation
San Mateo Fire Department
After two disastrous fires in five years, five community members called for a public meeting to be held on April 6, 1887 at Library Hall. That same afternoon, the hall burned to the ground because they had no way to fight the fire and had to wait until Redwood City could arrive on the scene. On May 7, 1887, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors appointed a fire commission. The Commission then held an election to raise money for a hose, hose cart, hook and ladder unit, and a building in which to store them. The Volunteer Fire Department was officially organized on March 18, 1889.
Belmont Fire Department
On June 21, 1926, 42 men gathered in the auditorium of Central Elementary School and organized the Belmont Volunteer Fire Department. For the first several months, water buckets and wet sacks were the only equipment the department utilized to suppress fires. After a series of fundraisers, the department was able to acquire a second-hand Seagrave chemical and hose truck from the City of San Leandro for $700. On March 28, 1928, the Belmont Fire Protection District was organized as an independent political subdivision with tax-levying powers to raise money to finance the department.
During the depression in 1935, the department’s central fire station was built on O’Neill Avenue as part of the State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) to put unemployed residents to work. In 1938, the department hired its first full-time paid employees. The department staffed two fire stations with 21 Firefighters. The Fire District’s Board of Directors was comprised of members of the Belmont City Council, and their meetings were held concurrent with the City Council Meetings, which occurred on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month.
Foster City Fire Department
Foster City Fire was a relatively "young" department, having been formed in 1965 before Foster City itself was officially incorporated in 1971. The department originally operated as a Public Safety Department with all personnel performing both Police and Fire functions. In 1976, the Police and Fire Divisions separated, and personnel became dedicated to a single function, Police or Fire, though both divisions continued to be administered by a single Public Safety Chief. It was not until 1981 that Police and Fire became separate and distinct Departments under separate executive management.