............February 23, 1997


by Joshua Sens

Firefighter Jim McCrw isn't scared of the dark. But he would be Afraid to see the light go out.

"I'd hate to be on duty if that ever happens," McCraw said.
"None of the guys want to be here if something happened to the light."

The light, of course, is the famous naked bulb that has shined faintly from the ceiling of Fire Station 1 for close to a century.
Celebrated by Ripley's Believe- It-or-Not as the planet's longest
Burning, the light was first flipped on in 1901, when it was donated to the department by a local businessman.

Since then, it has kept glowing and glowing, except for an
Occasional power outage and a 23-minute respite back in 1976,
when Station 1 moved from First Street to its current location on
East Avenue.

Over time, the bulb has become a quirky tourist attraction,
Drawing hundreds of visitors a year from as far away as Japan
And Australia.


It has popped up in newspaper and radio reports across the

Charles Kuralt has featured it in his TV special,
"'An American Moment."

No wonder firefighters such as McCraw would hate to see
It fizzle out.

"I figure if that happened, we'd all be brought in and
interrogated," said McCraw, a 25-year veteran with the
department. "They'd want to know if we had something to
do with it."

No such fate is likely to befall the bulb, which was designed
To outlast the men and women who labor in its glow.

Manufactured in the valley by the now-defunct Shelby
Electric Co., the bulb was made from hand-blown glass
And a carbibe filament about as thick as a pencil.

It burns at low wattage, and has been spared the wear-and-tear
Of being turned on and off.

Reliable though it is, you wouldn't want to read by it; the
Bulb shines about as brightly as a toaster coil.


Back in 1901, when local businessman Dennis Bernal gave the Bulb to the department, firefighters used it as a night light.

But in those days, the light was hung from a lengthy cord,
Dangling so low that the station left it swinging to and fro.
McCraw recalls that around 20 years ago, when Frisbees
Were the fad, firsfighters often nicked the bulb as they
Tossed the plastic discs around the station.

"It was also realy common back then to come into the station and gave the bulb a swing with your hand," McCraw said. "We never really worried that it would
Go out."

Today, the bulb hangs high above the station on a
shortened cord, far out of reach. It has held that lofty spot since the day it was moved to its East Avenue location in a procession befitting the President.

"We gave it a Code 3," said McCraw, referring to the code word for an emergency. "We had all the trucks out with sirens and lights flashing. It was like the O. J. Simpson chase we moved it so slowly down the

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