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Ceres Fire turning 100
Ceres Fire Department was established a century ago and city officials are planning some sort of commemoration to honor 100 years of service.

Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes said the city is exploring a number of ways to celebrate its fire department's 100th year of existence. Tentatively the city is shooting to host fire station open houses, displays of memorabilia or an old fashioned fireman's muster timed between the Ceres Street Faire and the beginning of summer.

For most of its existence, Ceres Fire operated as a volunteer department with a paid chief. That worked well when Ceres was handling under 50 calls a month and volunteers got excited to get one call per day. As laws required more sophisticated training, and Ceres' call volume grew with the population, the volunteer program was put out of commission and paid firefighters were hired. Ken Burrow was the department's last volunteer, then transferred into a reserve program which was phased out in 2009.

The history of the department goes back to several catastrophic fires in the 1880s. Daniel Whitmore's Ceres Flour Mill burned in 1883. In 1889 Ceres lost its Baptist Church to fire. Fire also claimed the Ceres Creamery on September 16, 1905. The new structure's loss was estimated at $16,000, a whopping sum then. The losses prompted Ceres to organize its volunteer fire department in June 1911. Ceres merchant George F. Wood was elected the first chief, a post he held until 1921 when the department was reorganized.

In the late 1980s the city merged fire and police departments together into one Department of Public Safety.

The department's most celebrated fire of recent memory was the Jan. 11, 1991 fire of the former Whitmore School which at the time was the Ceres Unified School District headquarters.

Nicholes was tapped to replace long-time chief Brian Weber last year. Nicholes came to Ceres Fire Department in 1983 and left in 1987 to return to Burbank-Paradise as the fire chief. Nicholes returned to Ceres Fire Department as the Fire Marshal in March 1989.