Early History of the Department
The Rodeo Fire District was formed on February 26, 1937 as an independent special district. The District was established to provide fire protection services in the unincorporated community of Rodeo. In 1978, the City of Hercules was annexed into the Fire District and subsequently the name of the District was changed from the Rodeo Fire Protection District to the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District (RHFPD).
In the early 1920’s, Frank Del Monte became the first Fire Chief for the Rodeo Volunteer Fire Department directing his men, armed with buckets. He was succeeded by Sam Kramer, and later by Tom Lewis, whose force possessed in addition to the buckets, a hand-drawn hose cart.
By 1927, when Mr. Lewis was Chief, the need for an official, larger fire house had become apparent, and the whole community pitched in to make it possible. Lots were purchased and the notes guaranteed by community members. A highly successful Whist Party attended by many citizens helped contribute towards the note and provide funds for the construction of a fire hose. In April of 1927 the original brick fire house on Third Street held official dedication ceremonies.
Alex Gonyer became the next Fire Chief followed by Earl Gomez, Lloyd Cooper, Art Cooper and Tom Birdwell.
Ten years after the fire house had been built, the importance of the growing Department was well recognized, and in April 1937, the official Rodeo Fire District was formed in Contra Costa County, with a Board of Commissioners to govern it. The first Commissioners were James Guthrie, Jerry Mahonie and S.J. Claeys.
Although Rodeo had a full-time paid firefighter on duty for some time, in 1946 the Board of Commissioners approved in order to have a firefighter on duty at all times, day and night, to give added protection to the community. With the safety of the community always in mind, the Department continually added to its apparatus and firefighting equipment. In 1949, the Department joined with other fire districts in Contra Costa County in a three-way radio communication system. The whole community of Rodeo gathered at a Whist Party given by the Rodeo Firemen’s Association to raise two-thirds of the money needed for two new two-way radios for the Rodeo Fire Department. The rest of the money was contributed by the Association, the firemen’s social organization with its own funds when tax money had not been available.
The District Today
Today the District is an independent fire district serving an area of approximately thirty-two square miles including the City of Hercules with a population of about 25,500 and the Town of Rodeo with a population of about 8,500 in the unincorporated area of Contra Costa County. The District contains a major oil refinery (Phillips 66), numerous underground fuel pipelines, two major rail lines and the I-80 Freeway. It is governed by a five-member locally elected Board of Directors and derives its principal funding from normal property taxes, a benefit assessment that was enacted by the Board in 1989 and Measure O, enacted by the voters of the District in 2016. The District’s revenue is fixed according to the assessed valuation of the properties within the District’s boundaries.