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Fire Fighter History

Where was the first American Fire Department?

The first American (volunteer) fire department company is often credited to Ben Franklin, around 1736, in Philadelphia. This started as a "club" or co-op, to protect each other's homes in the event of a fire. But there were organizations resembling firefighting "clubs", also known as "Mutual Fire Societies" in Boston prior to this. Boston also had "Fire Wards" as early as 1711. As early as 1678, Boton had some fire fighting reqiupment and a paid crew to maintain it and respond to fires. In 1648, New York, and a few other cities, had a volunteer "rattle watch" who patrolled the streets. If a fire was discovered these people would sound an alarm and help organize bucket brigades. As early as 1731 there is a record of the City of New York purchasing fire apparatus. This was a hand pump/brake bar engine.

Fire Apparatus History

The first pump designed for fire fighting may have been created by Ctesibius of Alexandria around the second century BC. The technology was subsequently lost, when Alexandria burned, and reinvented in Europe during the 1500's. Thomas Lote built the first fire engine made in America in 1743, although some hand pump units were imported from Europe prior to that time. John Ericsson is credited with building the first steam powered fire engine. The first self propelled steam engine (pumper) was built in New York in 1841. It was the target of sabotage and scorned by fire fighters and it's use was discontinued. Self propelled (motorized) fire apparatus did not gain acceptance until after 1900. In 1853, Alexander Bonner Latta invented the first practical fire engine, a "steam" engine. Built and tested in Cincinnati Ohio, it's main feature was a boiler made of 2 square chambers. The inner fire box and the outer one for water and steam. That same year, Cincinnati became the first American city to replace volunteers with the horse-drawn steam fire engine and to form a paid fire department.

A little historical photo journey

One of the first motorized pumpers for Dallas, Texas. Circa 1915

Hose tender and steam pumper, East Dallas FD. Circa 1886.

Philadelphia Fire Department - Engine C. Circa 1905.

Detroit Fire Department. Circa 1911.

New York City FD with one of it's first motorized Fire trucks. Circa 1913.

Boston's Engine Company 3, Horse Drawn Wagon. Circa 1900.

Boston Ladder Company 1, Horse Drawn Ladder Truck. Circa 1890.

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