Fire Engineer Terry Mencuri hopes the Burbank Fire Department will
soon be able to honor its firefighters with a sound from the
Mencuri, who oversees the department’s museum, is trying to track
down two antique fire bells used by the department during the first
half of the 20th century. One of the bells was the department’s
first, and the other was on a beloved fire engine that was used for
nearly 50 years.
He wants to display the bells in the museum and use them for
ceremonies, such as ones to honor firefighters who have died.
Currently, when the department holds a “last call” bell-ringing
ceremony, it borrows bells from other departments.
“It would mean a lot more if we had a real bell that belonged in
Burbank,” Mencuri said.
The first of the bells he is searching for pre-dates the city of
Burbank itself. Purchased in 1909, it sat atop a hose cart and was
used to summon the then-volunteer firefighters for the village of
Burbank. The city wasn’t incorporated until July 8, 1911.
The bell originally sat in the 100 block of what is now San
Fernando Boulevard, but was later moved to the corner of Olive Avenue
and Angeleno Avenue, Mencuri said. The last mention of the bell he
can find was in a 1920 newspaper article, but said it was probably
retired in 1924 when a permanent fire department was established.
While Mencuri said he has “run into a lot of dead-ends” looking
for the bell, he wouldn’t be surprised if it was still somewhere in
“In those days, when a bell was taken out of service, it was used
in a church or something like that,” he said.
Mencuri has located the second bell and hopes to bring it the
museum soon. The one-foot tall bell was originally mounted on the
passenger side of a 1929 American La France fire engine, he said.
That truck remained in the fleet as a reserve unit until the
1970s, retired Battalion Chief Gary Sutliff said. Sometime in the
early 1970s, the bell was given to retiring Battalion Chief Fred
Olchvary. When Olchvary died, he passed the bell on to retired Capt.
After weeks of searching, Mencuri found Lean, who lives in
Concord. Lean agreed to donate the bell for the museum, and Mencuri
said he hopes to travel north to Concord in the coming weeks to pick
In a department that didn’t save many artifacts over the years,
Sutliff said it would mean a lot to have the bell back.
“I think this is probably one of the priceless heirlooms of the
department,” he said.