What is a Fire Mark?

Fire Marks were prevalent more than 100 years ago in this country. These small emblems were made of metal that could withstand a fire, and they were placed on buildings—usually on the front where they could be seen. They simply meant that you had paid for your fire insurance, and they acted as a mini advertisement for the insurance company. Fire Marks, also known as insurance company marks, were fairly widespread from about 1750 to 1900.

What’s interesting to note is that fire brigades were often owned by insurance companies, although that was certainly not always the case. Consequently, some people believed that the fire brigade would only respond to a fire if the property was being protected by the insurance company that owned the fire brigade. Today we know that was probably not the case. There is no evidence to the fact that structures were allowed to burn. In fact, volunteer fire departments got their support from other means, including community donations. If anything, the Fire Mark may have indicated that there was a potential reward for saving the structure. Or, it was simply a form of advertisement.

Image from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_mark_Dulwich.jpg

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Slow Down the Game: Get your head on straight before you put your gear on…

Dave LeBlanc writes about “getting your head on straight first, before getting your gear on.” Dave is a Lieutenant at Harwich FD in Massachusetts and a Fire Blogger at a View from the Front Seat.

For you baseball fans out there, you may recognize this phrase. Usually it is used in discussion about a player that has been struggling and the team has been working with him to slow the game down, so they are better prepared and better able to react. As with many ideas and practices from Major League sports, there are applications in the fire service. This is another case of us being smart enough to learn from others.

At Backstep Firefighter and The Front Seat, we often use “expect fire” when discussing various incidents and how the firefighters responded and reacted to the situation they found. The “expect fire” concept has to do with a mindset, a mental preparation that involves treating each run like it will be a fire, so that when you arrive and it is a fire you are not surprised. Seems simple right? Unfortunately it is an area that we don’t always handle well. There are constantly cases of firefighters arriving at scenes and looking like the carpenter with one foot nailed to the floor, spinning around in circles and accomplishing nothing. Expect fire means that you respond with your gear on, your mind is ready and expecting to go to a fire, you are physically ready to go to a fire.

Imagine arriving at 2:00 a.m. to heavy fire showing, and because you “thought it was a BS run” you weren’t dressed and ready to go. No biggie, right? You can get dressed in seconds. Except when the rig stops, the father of three is standing in the street screaming that his kids are inside. Now you are trying to get dressed while your “customer” is impatiently expecting you to go save his family. How fast can you get dressed under those circumstances? How good of a size up are you performing while you trying and get your arm in your sleeve for the third time while your heart rate hits 130.

Read the entire post here:  http://backstepfirefighter.com/2011/07/26/slow-the-game-down/

Leather Fire Boot Review by Lieutenant/Fire Blogger Dave LeBlanc

The FDXL100……for real.

I was recently given the opportunity to try the FDXL100 Leather Fireboot by Fire-Dex.  In conjunction with their summer boot giveaway, Fire-Dex wanted to get some pairs of their boots out there for people to try.

Now I have never had any real experience with any PPE made by Fire-Dex.  I had heard some things, both good and bad, but was excited to get the opportunity to put their leather boot through its paces and decide for myself.  Of course as one would expect, we didn’t do squat for fire duty during the demo period.  I did however have a lot of opportunity to wear the FDXL100 in multiple different situations.

First of all, out of the box it was probably the most comfortable leather fire boot I have worn. I ordered the same size boot as I wear around the station and from the first moment I put them on, it was as if I was wearing my favorite pair of sneakers.  And with each opportunity to wear them, they only became more comfortable.  These boots didn’t slip while walking of climbing.

Another area that I really liked about these boots was that the uppers broke in very quickly and did not remain stiff.  So in no time at all is was as if they had almost molded to my legs while wearing them.

The toe protection is very heavy duty, so they have held up very well during the short time I have been testing them.  These boots had plenty of traction, and performed well while climbing ladders, climbing stairs, kneeling, crawling and just getting in and out of the rig.  They also remained comfortable when worn for long durations.

From my short exposure to them, I would absolutely say they are worth checking out. I will update on their long term durability down the road, after having more opportunity to wear them.

Here is a list of the features for the FDXL100:

FDXL100 Webpage

Leather Boot Model: FDXL100


  • · 2.2 mm full grain silicone tanned waterproof and flame retardant leather.

Vapor Barrier:

  • · Crosstech Omaha military boot package with nylon inner liner. Waterproof, breathable and antiviral membrane is laminated to a polyester tricot and a nylon inner liner that wicks moisture away from the foot.

Stroble Bootie Construction:

  • · Waterproof Crosstech bootie designed with a flat sole bottom made from a W.L Gore gasket material. The seams are sewn and stitched around the outside circumference of the foot. The gasket material is cemented to the bottom of the boot to prevent liner pull out. All seams are taped with W.L Gore seam tape.

Shaft Thermal Barrier:

  • · 580g of Poly Felt insulates against heat and cold and provides cushion and comfort in the boot. This thermal liner is positioned between the Crosstech inner liner and the leather outer shell.

Foot Cavity Thermal Barrier:

  • · 200g Kevlar®/Nomex® blend for added cut resistance and thermal protection. This thermal liner is positioned between the Crosstech inner liner and the leather outer shell.

Protective Toe:

  • · #88 composite toe complies with NFPA, CSA, ANSI. Composite toes are lighter than steel and do not conduct heat or cold as well as steel keeping the foot warmer when it’s cold and cooler when it’s hot.

Puncture Resistant Barrier:

  • · Lenzi composite puncture resistant fabric complies with CSA and NFPA. This flexible fabric allows greater movement and dexterity in the foot especially when in use in a leather fire boot with a cement sole.


  • · 5 inch long, ¾ wide, triple ridge steel shank. Provides comfort and stability to firefighters when standing on ladder shanks.
    Internal Heel Counter:
  • · Poly material heat formed and cold molded to maintain longevity of the heel cup. This process molds the heel counter to each individual boot creating a better fit and increasing the longevity of the boot.

External Heel Counter:

  • · 3D molded flame retardant abrasion resistant rubber. By compression molding this heel piece the same abrasion levels of the outsole can be achieved.

3D Toe Cover:

  • · 3D compression molded toe guard is placed over the leather and the composite protective toe. This toe guard will increase the longevity of the boot while offering the firefighter great traction and slip resistance when in positions where the toe comes into contact with the ground.

Pull On Holes:

  • · Pull on holes are reinforced with a double layer of leather sewn together with Kevlar thread for increased longevity. The holes are of ample size enabling firefighters to use efficiently when wearing fire gloves.


  • · All threads are made of Kevlar, Nomex or a combination of the two materials.

Cement Cup Sole:

  • · This sole is compression molded with Vibram’s exclusive “Fire & Ice” rubber compound. The combination of rubber compound, sole design, and production method provides the end user with the most durable, slip resistant, flame retardant and comfortable and functional sole in the industry.

Fire & Ice Rubber Compound by Vibram:

  • · The Fire & Ice compound by Vibram was developed to maximize abrasion and slip resistance in the most extreme conditions. The sole is flame retardant and flexible in both hot and cold temperatures. The combination of the sole design, construction method, and compound maximizes slip resistance in extreme cold conditions.

Heat Shield at Vamp:

  • · The heat shield is an extra layer of foam placed at the vamp to reduce the discomfort caused by radiant heat that naturally hits the boot in the vamp area of the boot.

3 Density Sock Liner:

  • · This three density liner starts off with a nano-printed pattern on the cover of the sock liner.
  • · This nano-printed pattern increases circulation in the foot and legs during prolonged use. The cover of the sock liner has both anti-microbial and moisture wicking capabilities keeping the foot healthy and ready for action.
  • · Under the sock liner there is a layer of EVA memory foam. Over time this memory foam will make an impression of the user’s foot creating the cradling effect.
  • · Under the EVA memory foam is a base of polyurethane, which acts as a shock absorber.
  • · At the ball of the foot and the heel of the foot there are two gel drops. These gel drops are placed at the high impact points of the foot. The gel drops are designed to absorb and disperse the energy created by a heel strike or push off from the ball of the foot.
  • · The combination of all these features are intended to reduce foot, leg and back fatigue allowing a firefighter to operate at peak performance for longer periods of time.
  • · The sock liner is custom cut to fit perfectly inside each boot.
  • · The sock liner is removable for drying or replacement.

Dave LeBlanc is a Lieutenant at the Harwich, Massachusetts FD with more than 25 years in fire service. Dave’s blog tends to focus on current day issues and maintaining a commitment to the ideals and principals that created the fire service, while keeping today’s firefighters safe.

A Quicker Way Down: A Brief History of the Fire Pole

Ask kids about their favorite feature at the local fire station, and they will probably reference the fireman’s pole. Also known as a sliding pole, the device was invented in Chicago in the 1870s, although it is often incorrectly credited to the Boston Fire Department. Prior to this time period, spiral stairs and sliding chutes were used in firehouses, but they just weren’t fast enough. Chicago firefighter David Kenyon changed all that.

Kenyon worked in Chicago’s Engine Company No. 21 where the hay for the horses was stored on the third floor. At that time, the second floor was used for recreation and sleeping, while the ground floor housed the firefighting equipment. When the hay was being transported to the firehouse, it was secured to a wagon using a wooden binding pole. That pole was stored in the hay loft when not in use. One day firefighter George Reid slid down the pole in response to a call for help. It inspired Kenyon to create a permanent pole.

In 1878, Kenyon convinced the fire chief to cut a hole in the building so that a permanent pole could be installed. The pole, which was three inches in diameter, was made from Georgia pine beam. The firefighters shaved and sanded it, and then applied several coats of varnish and a coat of paraffin. Over time, fire houses everywhere adopted the pole as a means for quickly descending to the ground floor when the alarm sounded.

Although fire poles have been an endearing symbol of firehouses for many years, most are now being removed or are rarely used. It seems they’ve been the cause of more than just a few broken ankles.

Pictured above: Lubbock Fire Station No. 1 has two McIntire Brass Works Inc. fire poles used to get to the ground floor of the station. The poles were transferred downtown from Fire Station No. 3 in 1979.