Royal Towns (center) and two Oakland firefighters standing outside of fire engine no. 22
In 1919 the city of Oakland began seeking and testing African Americans applicants to serve as firefighters for a segregated unit of the Oakland Fire Department. As a result of this test, on January 1, 1920, three African American men were hired. The first firefighter worked at a pumping station at Lake Merritt until two additional men were hired. These men worked in the same firehouse on 8th and Alice as their white counterparts but on separate shifts. In 1925, the first all-African American firehouse 22 Engine opened in west Oakland at 3230 Magnolia Street.
Royal Towns was one of the many African Americans to work at 22 Engine. He served as a firefighter for 17 years before being promoted to Lieutenant. He helped recruit African American firefighters and conducted classes to help them study for the fire-