MPS: Yuba City, CA, USA: In May of 1909 Yuba City purchased five hundred feet of hose, two nozzles and two hose carts. A citizen donated a barn for the city's use as a fire house and so the Yuba City Fire Department was created, manned by volunteers.
In September of 1909 two horses were purchased to pull the hose carts and it was quickly discovered that the horses became quite skittish during the excitement of a fire. In an effort to calm them the city added two Dalmatians to the department as companions for the horses.
Named Smokey and Sparky, the two dogs quickly became beloved members of the department. They lived and slept with the horses and played with the firemen during idle moments, and on several occasions they guided victims from burning structures to safety. They were much loved by the community.
On October 10, 1910 as a fire raged through a hay barn several firemen were trapped in the barn. Blinded by smoke they were unable to find an escape from the advancing flames. Smokey and Sparky ran into the fire engulfed barn and lead the firemen to safety.
Then, for reasons never discovered, the two dogs ran back into the conflagration. The barn burned completely to the ground and in the smoldering ruins lay the charred bodies of Smokey and Sparky. They were posthumously awarded Yuba City's Medal of Honor.
The fire department decided to have the dogs stuffed and placed in front of the fire house as a memorial to the dogs. However, the dogs were too badly burned to be restored. The fire chief purchased two more Dalmatians and had them stuffed. They stood in front of the firehouse for fifty-two years.
In 1963 when the fire department moved into a new building it was decided the dogs were too worn and weathered to represent Smokey and Sparky. They were replaced by modern molded plastic Dalmatians. Today they stand facing each other in front of the Yuba City Fire Department building, still, soulless representations of the noble beasts that once graced the fire wagons of yesteryear.