Benicia Volunteer Firemen, Inc., and Benicia Fire Museum
Benicia Fire Museum

Highlights of the Museum Collection

Phoenix Engine

Originally owned by Pacific Steam Mail Co., it is believed to be the first fire engine to arrive in California. Built by Roger & Son in the 1820’s, the Phoenix spent her first 27 years in the New York Vol. fire Dept. The Pacific Steam Mail Co. purchased her from the New York Volunteer Fire Dept. for the sum of $2300 in 1847.

The Pacific Steam Mail Co. set the Phoenix on one of their three masted sailing ships from New York, around the horn of South America to arrive in Benecia that same year, where it remained privately owned until 1878, when the Benicia Volunteer Firemen purchased it for the sum of $2000.

Records show the Phoenix responding to many fires in Benicia and surrounding areas, including the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. It took the Phoenix engine and her crew 18 hours to reach the devastated city by barge.

The Phoenix remained in service until 1923. Her last recorded fire had her being driven into the waters of the straits by the Volunteer Firemen, where the volunteers stood chest deep in water, and pumped the vital water to the new steam engine.

Owned by Benicia Volunteer Firemen Inc.

Solano Engine

Purchased for $608 and $113 for shipping in October of 1855, the Solano was the first fire engine owned by the Volunteer Firemen.

The shipping cost was still owed upon arrival, and the Volunteer Firemen did not have the entire amount. After begging, borrowing, and pleading with local residents and businesses, they still fell short. If the balance was not paid before the delivery ship set sail, the fire engine would return still on board.

It was decided to “borrow” a horse that was posted in front of a local saloon and sell it back to the blacksmith on West Coolen alley, which raised enough to pay off the balance to get the engine off the ship. Fortunately, the horse belonged to the Mayor, who was also a volunteer firefighter. When he found out about the transaction, he gave them 48 hours to get his horse back before he would have them hung for horse thieving.

Owned by Benicia Volunteer Fireman Inc.


Originally purchased by the town of Okawville, Illinois on April 26, 1883 for $585, Benica Fire Museum curator Ron Rice found and purchased it for $1900 in 1985. The pumper was transported to back Benicia on top of a recently purchased Benicia ladder truck.

After 23 months of hard work by the Exxon Fire Brigade, the Griffin was officially dedicated as Benicia Refineries #1 Pumper on April 26, 1985.

The griffin is an animal from Greek mythology, that features the head, breast, and wings of an eagle that represents spirit, and the body, legs, and tail of a lion that represents strength.

Owned by Valero Refinery.

The Tub

This replica of the first hand pumper ever made was built in 1976 by Tom Wurzbach of the La Selva Beach Volunteer Fire Dept. Mr. Wurzbach spent many years touring the western states, displaying The Tub at musters and other fire activities.

Generously donated to the museum in 2002. Owned by Benicia Volunteer Fireman Inc.


Originally part of the Arsenal Fire Department at a time when the armed forces, in anticipation of entering WWII, were depleting the their motor pool of all chrome or reflective materials.

In 1932, the Dodge was sold to the Benica Volunteer Fire Department for $1.00, with the understanding that if the city was attacked, the volunteers would respond to first to any fires at the Arsenal.

Owned by Benicia Volunteer Fireman Inc.

Chief Solano Engine No. 5 FWD (four wheel drive)

Built in Clintoville, WI, the Benicia Volunteer Fire Department took delivery of this engine in 1949. Currently, the FWD is the only open cab four wheel drive fire engine west of the Mississippi. It is still capable of pumping 1300 gpm.

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