San Rafael resident with a passion for collecting firefighter memorabilia

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  • Tom Forster/Marin Fire History Project

    Dr. Stephen Mizroch with some of his collection of firefighter patches and other memorabilia.

  • A range of San Rafael patches that are part of Dr....

    Courtesy of Stephen Mizroch

    A range of San Rafael patches part of the Dr Stephen Mizroch collection.

  • Dr. Stephen Mizroch recently retired from the San Rafael Fire...

    Courtesy of Stephen Mizroch

    Dr. Stephen Mizroch recently retired from the San Rafael Fire Commission this year. This photo is from 2008.

  • Part of Dr Stephen Mizroch's collection hangs in his...

    Tom Forster/Marin Fire History Project

    Part of Dr. Stephen Mizroch’s collection hangs in his home in San Rafael.

  • A photo from the collection of Dr. Stephen Mizroch.

    Tom Forster/Marin Fire History Project

    A photo from the collection of Dr. Stephen Mizroch.

  • Dr. Stephen Mizroch has been collecting public safety memorabilia for...

    Tom Forster/Marin Fire History Project

    Dr. Stephen Mizroch has been collecting public safety memorabilia for over 30 years.

If you have a question about Marin’s fire service history, look no further than Dr. Stephen Mizroch.

The San Rafael resident has spent 30 years collecting and accumulating 6,000 firefighter crests and other historical memorabilia, from California and beyond, some of which are framed and hung in his home. He also served on the San Rafael Fire Commission for more than three decades, including the last 11 as chairman, before retiring in late March.

Mizroch enjoys connecting with other fire patch collectors around the state for camaraderie and trade.

Q How did your collection start?

A I had known Roger Tobin of San Rafael Rare Coin Co. for a few years. He knew I liked weird stuff and he said, “Dr. Steve, why don’t you come here?” There are badges I want to show you. I go there and they were hand carved and beautiful. He got me addicted. It was the beginning in 1992. For me, it’s about history. When you discover a patch, you learn more about the department and its history.

Q What draws you to these articles?

A I’ve always been a baseball card and coin collector, but I found the badges and patches so interesting. They tell a story. As the San Rafael patch was very simple at first – it said San Rafael Fire. Before 1972 they didn’t wear them, until one time they got caught as gas station attendants and they went to the chief and said we wanted a patch saying we’re the fire department. It creates an identity and helps you define yourself.

Q What is a memorable find?

A The next patch is my favorite, the next one I collect, the one I’ve never seen before. But when I travel, that’s when it’s fun to have a patch. I went to Armenia and received a patch. I have a patch in Patagonia, it was great, it’s a penguin throwing ice cream from a bucket on a fire. A clever, whimsical and wonderful patch. And I like those of San Rafael, of course.

Q Where does your love of firefighter culture and history come from?

A The fire department is an indispensable central element of public safety. Firefighters come out when you have a heart attack, or have an unexpected baby, or your horse falls into a ravine and needs someone to pull it out. They’re there in no time in your deepest crisis. There’s something very special and heroic about that. What I thought at first, and still feel today, is that the fire department is one of the premier organizations in the county, and to be associated with such a quality organization was very appealing and an honor.

Q How did you come to the commission?

A I saw an ad in the IJ. I applied and they offered me a substitute position. It allowed me to attend meetings, sit and participate fully as an alternate rather than an actual member, but a few months later one of them died and they m have been promoted to member of the commission. My hobby as a collector, my professional life at the time at Kaiser in San Rafael and the fire commission go hand in hand.

Q You worked for more than 30 years at Kaiser San Rafael in internal medicine and geriatrics. How has this helped your work in the committee?

A Two-thirds of calls to the fire department are from paramedics, and being a doctor has allowed me to understand and interact in a very satisfying way. So when things came out about CPR or public safety, I was able to translate.

Q Did you interact with the firefighters before joining the commission?

A This happened because sometimes I was on call at night and the paramedics brought someone to the hospital, and when they brought people in, I often interacted with the firefighters and talked to them, and I saw what they were doing.

Q Why retire?

A The fact that I served for a long time will be unique because there is now a two-term limit. I retired because I was fired. would I have stopped? Probably not. I really enjoyed that. But I support him — it’s good to have new blood. I really felt that the strength of the commission was the group made up of different people, different perspectives and different ideas. We’ve accomplished a lot, but we’ve done it together.

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