Each year around Christmas time, hundreds of San Gabriel residents and shoppers look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus riding atop his fire sleigh through our streets, wishing everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays.
Quite often, the San Gabriel Fire Department is asked a variety of questions about this grand tradition.
Here’s a FAQ to answer some of your questions:
What is Santa’s route?
Santa’s route in the City is spread over four consecutive nights from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the same dates every year. From December 20 to December 23, the City is split into four quadrants with the following route:
- Dec. 20. Southwest: This is the area south of the railroad tracks to the I-10 FWY and from Del Mar Avenue, west to New Avenue.
- Dec. 21. Southeast: This is the area south of the railroad tracks to the I-10 FWY and from Del Mar Avenue, east to Charlotte Avenue.
- Dec. 22. Northwest: This is the area north of the railroad tracks to Longden Avenue and from Del Mar Avenue, west to Alhambra Road.
- Dec. 23. Northeast: This is the area north of the railroad tracks to Longden Avenue and from Del Mar Avenue, east to Willard Avenue.
The route is driven primarily for the City of San Gabriel. Periodically, for ease of travel, the Santa sleigh may enter unincorporated areas of San Gabriel but it’s done for the purposes of maneuvering the fire engine.
How did this tradition start?
According to Captain Lynn C. Youngs, this San Gabriel tradition began in 1973 as a “spur of the moment idea” from then Captain Don Davies. Santa is brought to Plaza Park every year on the fire engine to the tree lighting ceremony. After the ceremony, instead of going back to the fire station, Captain Davies gave the order to then Engineer Youngs to drive through as many streets as possible to ensure that Santa could greet everyone at home who didn’t have a chance to attend the tree lighting.
What type of fire engine is Santa’s fire sleight?
Santa’s sleigh is a 1957 Mack fire engine. But did you know that wasn’t always the case? For the first five years of the parade, Santa rode atop a 1969 American La France fire engine. Afterwards, Santa was pulled on a low riding trailer walled off with clear plexiglass. The 1957 Mack was ultimately used as the full-time sleigh beginning in 1985 once it was taken out of the fire department’s emergency fleet.
How many passengers fit on Santa’s sleight?
The sleigh fits 13 passengers.
Who drives the Santa sleigh?
The Santa Sleigh is driven by firefighters from the San Gabriel Fire Department.
We hope this FAQ answered a few of your questions. We look forward to driving Santa around again this year and if you have any further questions, please feel free to call Fire Station 51 at 626.308.2880. Happy holidays!