The first Chinese settlers arrived in Ventura in the 1860s. They were highly skilled farmers and designed the irrigation system for the area. Approximately 200 of these Chinese immigrants lived in China Alley, located in front of the Ventura Mission. The Ventura fire department provided insufficient protection for their wooden shacks from fire, so they formed their own fire brigade.
The Chinese Fire Brigade responded to fires outside of China Alley and had been reported to be more effective than the regular Ventura fire department.

China Town at Ventura Has Fire

The Big Six Thousand Dollar Auto Fire Engine Moves Slowly--
Chinese Children Panic Stricken
Ventura first fire in months occurred this afternoon, at which time that limited portion of the city known as “Chinatown” came near being wiped out of existence.  The roof and much of the interior of a building at the corner of Ventura Avenue and Main street, owned jointly by Soo Hoo Mon Li and Mrs. Bock was burned and grocery stocks owned by Mrs. Bock and the Wing Tai Yuen company were badly damaged and water soaked.  The Chinatown fire department and the uptown company as well did remarkably good work in getting to the scene of the blaze on short notice and in getting the flames under control.  It is impossible to give losses or to detail the insurance.
How the Fire Started
There are two stories as to how the fire originated and, strange to say, they all emanate from the irrepressible small boy- or perhaps it is better in this instance to say from many of them.  Bennie Bock informed the reporter that when he arose early this morning he saw two men sleeping on the roof of the Soo Hoo Hon Li [sic] building; that they were lying close in behind the Tong Guy ladies underwear sign at the edge of the roof over the sidewalk.  He said he called the attention of his mother to the strange find, went on about his business and did not pay attention to what the strangers were doing. The Chinamen about the place this afternoon were inclined to give much credence to the little fellow’s story and seemed to believe it likely they set the roof on fire at that time, whether intentionally or unintentionally they did not understand. 
Premature Firecrackers
But the most likely story came from a little group of boys, not talking for publication, who agreed that the fire started from a burning firecracker thrown on the roof by one of their companions, whose name they gave as “Eddie Garcia.”  They said he did not throw it on purpose and that, in fact, he made an effort to recover the burning stump but was too late.  It may or may not have been Eddie Garcia who threw the firecracker, but this looks to be the most probable story of the origination of the blaze.
$6000 Machine is Idle
While the pow-wow at the California street fire department over the advisability of taking the $6000 machine out of its stall and trying to get to the fire with it was in progress the Chinatown fire department was in action.  One elderly Chinatown got the cart out of its stall and jerked it out into the street in rush order and got the end of he hose to the hydrant across the street in time to meet George Hartman and Joe M. Argabrite, who attached it and were ready to turn on the water when the Chinaman and one or two white assistants had disconnected the hose and applied a nozzle.  The stream was doing valiant duty when the big apparatus from the California street station tore down Main street.  Soon, however, the uptown fellows had a fine stream playing through a hose attached to a plug near the Santa Clara house.  The pressure was very poor, however, and it was fortunate for that part of town that the burning building was low and all parts of it were easily reached. 
Children Panic Stricken
It was pitiful to hear the wails of the Chinese children when they became aware of the peril that threatened.  All in all, the fire and its attending features comprised the most excitement there has been on Main street for many a day, the automobile episode of Friday not being a starter---Free Press (Oxnard Courier June 30, 1911)