San Francisco Examiner....Aug. 1, 1994




New Fire Chief Stewart Gary has more on his mind than protecting his community against disasters-natural and otherwise-budget cuts,
personnel woes and similar mundane issues.

Like the chiefs before him over the past 93 years, one of Gary's
biggest heachaches centers on a tiny light bulb in his main station- the one that's been glowing in his department since 1901.

Gary was sworn in as chief six months ago and, at 39, he expects a long and bright future with the department that could be dimmed by the obvious.

"Nobody wants that darn bulb to go out on their watch," Gary

His concern is understandable according to experts from the
Guinness Book of World Records, "Ripley's Believe It or Not" and from General Electric.

They have all concluded that Livermore's little light bulb is the
longest burning bulb in history
given two moves and a few power outages over most of the 20th Century.

"If that thing goes out while I'm still chief it will be a career's
worth of bad luck," said Gary with a nervous grin.


Previous chiefs have had standing orders that if any firefighter, for whatever reason, accidentally broke the light they would suddenly find plenty of time to update their resumes.

"No, I don't have any similar order," Gary said the other day.
"But I sure wouldn't want to be the one to break it either."

It might be a coincidence, but all the ladder trucks in the
Department are kept in other firehouses.

The basketball hoop in Station One is located at the
Opposite end of the cavernous apparatus room from where
The tiny bulb glows with all the intensity of a cheap toaster.

"Everybody is keenly aware of the bulb's signigicance and we
regard it as more than a department mascot," said Fire Inspector
Randy Griffith, who comes in early every morning and gingerly
Checks on its status.

"Our bulb is treated with a certain reverence," Griffith explained
in almost hushed tones.

Tourists, locals and periodic classes of wide-eyed students often drop
By the station for a first hand look at the tiny piece of history.

A guest book located on a desk under the bulb, that hangs from a
Tall ceiling on an 18-inch cord, is testimony to its worldly fame.


Not only from throughout the United States have they come, but
Also from France, Japan, Belgium and Australia to marvel at a
Rarity-something that was obviously built to last.

According to a thick file carefully kept by department historians,
The bulb was donated to the department in 1901 by Dennis Bernal,
A pioneer in the are who owned the Livermore Power and Water Co.

"It was hung as a night light in a downtown garage that served as
both a police and fire department five years before the great
San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906," Griffith said.

A few years later, the bulb found its way to the "new" pre-Depression
City Hall that also housed the two departments.

It finally found its last socket in Station One about 20 years ago
Where it has burned ever since.

So what happens if and when Griffith arrives to work and his
Worst fears are realized:

"I'd just quietly turn around and go back home and swear I was
never here that dark day."

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