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James J. Kenney

Managing Real Estate Broker with Fathom Realty PB00068179

James J. Kenney was born in in San Francisco, California back in 1869 to James and Nellie. In 1871, the family moved to East Bay.  After the death of his father he was taken in by an aunt Sarah.  She died in 1882, when another aunt Elizabeth, he lived with her and two of her brothers in a small, kit-built cottage on Addison Street.

He joined the local volunteer fire company.  He was elected chief of the association of Berkeley volunteer fire companies. In 1916, he drove to a fire at the El Dorado Oil Works.  A few blocks from the fire he hit a telephone pole, disabling the vehicle.  He ran the rest of the way on foot.  After being forced to retreat from the hat and smoke he collapsed on the sidewalk.  He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, he never recovered.

What you may not know about James is that he was the first fired chief in the city of Berkeley, California appointed to the position in 1914, the first in the United States west of the Mississippi.

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Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, James Dray 

Jan 30, 2021 04:59 AM
Raymond E. Camp
Ontario, NY

Good morning James,

A sad ending but the plight of so many first responders!

Make yourself an astonishing day.

Jan 30, 2021 05:03 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Oswego, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning James. Not a pleasant life but he was willing to give his all. Enjoy your day!

Jan 30, 2021 05:37 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

When I think of a fire chief, I think of Fire Marshall Bill the character played by Jim Carey, haha.

Jan 30, 2021 05:52 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, James... a position I'd never thought about (being a fire chief), but now I have a different perspective on a position I always took for granted.

Jan 30, 2021 06:02 AM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Good morning James Dray it seems so odd that it would take so long to get a fire chief into citites. I would have thought they had started decades earlier

Jan 30, 2021 06:40 AM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

Okay James Dray , I have to ask because you do have typo's from time to time: Was he the first hire or fired (or was just supposed to say "fire" period)? You state "he was the first fired chief". 

Jan 30, 2021 08:08 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, James, for sharing this story.

Enjoy the weekend.

Jan 30, 2021 08:20 AM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


When we lived in Northern Cal, Berkeley was referred to by the locals as Beserkley...Happy Saturday...A

Jan 30, 2021 08:20 AM
faye schubert
Retired - Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

That's why in my mind there is serious inequity in the worth of an athlete pay/status versus a first responder.

Jan 30, 2021 09:21 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi James Dray - too bad that he had a very untimely death.

Jan 30, 2021 10:15 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello James and thanks for the information on another first west of the mississippi


Jan 30, 2021 10:41 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi James- I'm surprised as well that it wasn't until James J Kenney that we didn't have a Fire Chief. 

Jan 30, 2021 11:26 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Too bad he died so tragically at such a young age.

Jan 30, 2021 12:26 PM
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

That is an interesting story. A short life well lived in a very interesting place.

Jan 30, 2021 12:41 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Sounds like Berkeley found the right man for the job. It's sad that doing that job led to his untimely death.

Jan 30, 2021 01:31 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Hi James,  Thanks for sharing another interesting story depicting a first.  The first fire chief - he definitely showed dedicated service to many. 

Jan 30, 2021 06:23 PM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

I didn't know that mr Kenney held that distinction until now. Thank you for sharing James Dray 

Jan 30, 2021 09:46 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

I was sad to read and learn about this HERO! many would not have done what he did, Endre

Jan 30, 2021 10:45 PM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

I guess that, in 1914, for a city to have a Fire Chief was not a bit deal. Yet, Berkeley is just across the Bay from San Francisco which has a devastating fire following the earthquake of 1906.

Aug 22, 2021 12:39 PM