Frederick D, Kohler, a former Alderman of New York, was the first Chief Engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department. He was, in fact, appointed before the department had been organized.
Kohler, born in New York in 1810, was for a long time a resident of that city. He was an early day fireman in the big city, becoming Assistant Engineer of New York's department. He came to San Francisco with the gold rush of 1849, and went into partnership with the famous David Broderick in the business of assaying and stamping gold bars in an office on Clay Street opposite Portsmouth Square.
On December 26, 1849, just two days after the first great fire, he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Volunteer Department, pending its organization. At a meeting of the Town Council January 28, 1850, he was duly elected. He organized several companies and served as Chief until September 20 of the same year, when he resigned.
Under an ordinance of July, 1850, it had been determined to elect Chiefs by popular vote of the firemen themselves, and, using this method, Andrew J. McCarty was placed in the position on September 23, 1850.
Previous to the election the Association of Delegates from the department had adopted resolutions claiming the fire election ordinance was incomplete. A few days before the election of McCarty, it had been determined by some of the Aldermen that Mayor John W. Geary had no authority to call the election, and it should be put over until September 27.
But on the forenoon of September 23 it was discovered the election was going on and that several of the fire companies were ignorant of the fact. Several companies were accused of irregularities in voting and it was asserted that Protection Engine Company, with only 50 members of its lists, had polled 104 votes. The upshot was that Chief McCarty resigned on September 30, expressing regrets about the whole affair. A new election being ordered for October 19, 1850, Kohler was voted into office, which he held until August 25, 1851. His resignation at that time disclosed he had been appointed Adjutant General of the State. He died in 1864, his remains now being in Pioneer Memorial Park here.
By: Frederick J. Bowlen, Battalion Chief, S.F.F.D. (1939)
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