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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