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The original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh

Firebaugh is a city located on the San Joaquin River of western Fresno County.  Firebaugh is one of the oldest American communities in San Joaquin Valley having been settled as the location of Firebaugh's Ferry in 1854.  Traditionally Firebaugh has been served by California State Route 33 which was one of the original Sign State Routes announced during August 1934.  In modern times California State Route 33 is aligned through Firebaugh on N Street.  Originally California State Route 33 headed southbound passed through Firebaugh via; N Street, 8th Street, O Street, 12th Street, Nees Avenue and Washoe Avenue.  The blog cover depicts early California State Route 33 near Firebaugh crossing over a one-lane canal bridge.  The image below is from the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Fresno County which depicts the original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh.


Part 1; the history of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh

The community of Firebaugh is named in honor of Andrew Davidson Firebaugh.  Andrew Firebaugh was born in 1823 and was known for serving in the Mexican-American War.  Upon arriving in California during 1849 Andrew Firebaugh would participate in the Mariposa Indian War which led to the first European sighting of Yosemite Valley.  In 1854 Andrew Firebaugh established Firebaugh's Ferry over the San Joaquin River at the present site of downtown Firebaugh.  Andrew Firebaugh was also notable for establishing the Pacheco Pass Toll Road which formed the basis for modern California State Route 152.  

Firebaugh's Ferry soon grew into a community large enough to warrant Post Office Service by 1860.  The Firebaugh's Ferry Post Office shuttered in 1862 but would reopen as the Firebaugh Post Office in 1865.  Firebaugh's Fresno can be seen on the highway leading from Fresno Station (modern day Fresno) to Pacheco Pass on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.  

A historic plaque regarding Firebaugh's Ferry can be found in Firebaugh City Park.  



During 1885 Firebaugh's Ferry was replaced by the "Great Drawbridge of Firebaugh" which is otherwise known as the Firebaugh Drawbridge.  The Firebaugh Drawbridge was a swing span which was located at the San Joaquin River at the end of what was once 12th Street.  The swing span of the Firebaugh Drawbridge operated until 1911 when the last freight ship passed through the structure along the San Joaquin River.  A picture of the Firebaugh Drawbridge can be found at the Chevron located at the corner of modern CA 33 at 12th Street.

During the early 1890s Firebaugh was further established as a center of overland transportation when the Southern Pacific Railroad laid a line through the community.  Firebaugh would incorporate as a city on September 17th, 1914.  Firebaugh can be seen on the 1914 C.F. Weber Map of Fresno County on the Southern Pacific Railroad and on several overland roads.  


State Highway service did not reach Firebaugh until 1933 when Legislative Route Number 41 (LRN 41) was expanded west from General Grant National Park (now Kings Canyon National Park) to Tracy.  LRN 41 through Firebaugh was announced as part of California State Route 33 (CA 33) in the 1934 California Highways & Public Works.  CA 33 was largely aligned through western San Joaquin Valley as a Sign State Route between then Tracy south to Maricopa. 


Originally CA 33/LRN 41 headed southbound passed through Firebaugh via; N Street, 8th Street, O Street, 12th Street, Nees Avenue and Washoe Avenue which can be seen on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Fresno County.

The November 1938 California Highways & Public Works features a substandard canal bridge on CA 33/LRN 41 near Firebaugh.  



A realignment of CA 33/LRN 41 through Firebaugh over a 2.9-mile project zone was announced as being budgeted for the 91st-92nd Fiscal Year in the February 1939 California Highways & Public Works.  The realignment of CA 33/LRN 41 in Firebaugh is cited to begin one mile north of the community extending one and half miles south of the community.  The realignment of CA 33/LRN 41 in Firebaugh is stated to include two new canal bridges.  


The February 1940 California Highways & Public Works references the realignment of CA 33/LRN 41 in Firebaugh as being contracted during 1939.  The article stub notes the realignment of CA 33/LRN 41 would eliminate an at-grade crossing of the Southern Pacific Railroad (12th Street).  


While not overtly stated in the California Highways & Public Works the new alignment of CA 33/LRN 41 on N Street appears on the 1940 Division of Highways Map


The March/April 1947 California Highways & Public Works notes Fresno County and Madera County were accepting bids to construct two new bridges over the San Joaquin River in Firebaugh.  One bridge would be located over the main course of the San Joaquin River whereas a second would be located over the river overflow channel.  The structures were to be constructed by the Division of Highways at the behest of Fresno County and Madera County.  


Ultimately the Firebaugh Drawbridge which replaced by a new bridge at 13th Street during 1948.  The Firebaugh Drawbridge was dismantled after being replaced but the western approach span and turn table can still be found Riverside Park.  






The California State Automobile Association Sign below can be found at the eastern end of 11th Street at the San Joaquin River.  This sign would have been located on what was CA 33 northbound at 12th Street and O Street in downtown in Firebaugh.  Upon the completion of San Joaquin River Bridge at 13th Street the original through highway grid in Firebaugh was fully severed.  

In 1964 the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped in favor of field signage.  CA 33 was simply reassigned as the new Legislative Route associated with Firebaugh given it was the existing Sign State Route. 



Part 2; a drive on the original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh

In June of 2019 I drove the original alignment of CA 33 in Firebaugh heading southbound.  My approach to downtown Firebaugh was on N Street where I made a left hand turn onto 8th Street.




CA 33 would have turned right from 8th Street onto O Street.  Until an older Ford dealership was located at the corner of 8th Street and O Street but had been recently demolished.



CA 33 south would have traversed downtown Firebaugh on O Street before making a right hand turn onto 12th Street.  12th Street eastbound would have accessed the 1885 Firebaugh Drawbridge and Madera County Line. 









CA 33 south originally continued west on 12th Street over the Southern Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific) and Main Canal to Washoe Avenue.


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