The San Francisco Fire Department is doing something this year that it hasn't done since the late 1940s in having firehouses compete to see who creates the best holiday decoration display.
Between 1948 and 1950, SFFD stations were decked out across the city as part of a contest to see which fire crew could go all out with lights and merriment. The Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub did a nostalgia piece about the contest just after Thanksgiving, and that inspired the SFFD to revive the contest for 2020 — in a year when we could all use a little extra cheer in our midst.
"The San Francisco firefighters union — I mean, hats off to them! I could not finish my sentence on my idea before they were, ‘We are in!'” says department spokesperson Lt. Jonathan Baxter, speaking to KPIX this week.
Fire stations will finish decorating Dec. 17-20— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) December 8, 2020
We're planning to feature decorated stations with a map in the @sfchronicle
Tight deadline but excited to see what stations come up with. 1950 entries included lights, props & in one case live animals ⬇️https://t.co/Qm2GSK3yT5 pic.twitter.com/glqi7yEG6v
The news comes after fire officials read last week's @sfchronicle article about the epic 1948-1950 contest - which was beloved by citizens but ended bitterly. ⬇️— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) December 8, 2020
SFFD hoping the contest will provide safe & distanced holiday joy during tough end to 2020.https://t.co/iOiYQYoAiH
The original contest got killed off in 1951 when it was revealed that firefighters had been spending their own money on decorations — and well above the stated spending limit of $50 per fire house. That was also the year the city's voters voted down a proposition that would have given police and firefighters pay raises, so the contest ended in a bit of spite.
The revived contest begins now with fire houses having until December 20 to finish decorating. Then they will be judged, and the winner will get a $3,000 prize that will be donated to charity — with second and third prizes of $2,000 and $1,000, too.
And like the previous contest, it will give an opportunity for families to tour the city safely, in cars or on foot, and look at the firehouse displays.
"We want to do something that’s going to bring as much of that back as possible, while still adhering to the protective measures that are in place for COVID-19,” Baxter said to the Chronicle. “The community wants or needs this as much as I think our firefighters do in San Francisco."
Fire Station 6 on Sanchez Street in Duboce Triangle has already got their lights up, as seen below. Follow more using the hashtag #SFFIREDECORATIONS2020.