History of Firefighting
The Great Fire of 1910 is known for being one of the largest forest fires in the history of the United States. The fire was often referred to as the “Big Blowup,” the “Big Burn,” or the “Devil’s Broom Fire.” The harmful results of the fire had a significant impact on the importance of forest fire control in the United States.
The particularly dry conditions during the summer of 1910 created a scenario that led to the intensity of the fire. Due to the harsh dry-spell, the forests were extremely vulnerable to catching fire. The causes of prior, less severe fires during the summer came from trains, lightning, sparks, etc. By mid-August, it was estimated there were approximately one to three thousand smaller wild fires throughout the states of Idaho, Montana, and Washington, and parts of British Columbia. As a result of a cold front traveling across these areas, the individual fires combined to create one large inferno.
At the time, the United States Forest Service had only been established five years and was not prepared to deal with a massive forest fire extending across the three states. Overwhelmed by the size of the fire, the new agency reached out to President Taft. He sent four thousand soldiers to assist in extinguishing the fire. The fire lasted for two days, August 20th to 21st, then terminated when another cold front came through the area, bringing with it a great amount of rainfall.
The massive fire caused eighty-seven deaths, burned approximately three million acres of forests, and destroyed several towns. During this time period, a debate on whether or not to interfere with nature’s forest fires was present in the U.S.; however, it was quickly put to rest after the Great Fire of 1910. As a result of the mass destruction, new fire prevention and suppression policies were established through the U.S. Forest Service. Despite the negative impact of The Great Fire of 1910, it did help establish the foundation for the U.S. Forest Service. The agency received more funding to use for research and hiring more employees. This resulted in the agency being more prepared for situations such as this in the future.
A massive explosion rocked the small town of Coal Glen, N.C on the morning of May 27, 1925. Touched off by either coal dust or natural gas, the blast came from the Deep River Coal Field, where local miners were working nearly a thousand feet underground. The blow was devastating: fifty-three miners lost their lives and the mine has remained closed to this day.
The event did speed passage of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, making North Carolina the forty-fourth state to pass such legislation. The majority of the families were dependent on the income of their husbands, sons and fathers working in the mine. The Act “guarantees compensation for injuries by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, without having to prove negligence on the part of the employer.”
Reporter Ben Dixon McNeill covered the catastrophe for Raleigh’s News & Observer. His account was featured on the front page of the newspaper for five straight days, including his first-person account of his own descent into the mine on May 31. A total of seven photographs were featured with his articles, many with the caption “need no explanation.”
The National Theater in Washington, D.C. has over 200 years of history including presidential inaugural balls, world premieres of landmark American musicals and presidential performances. This building serves as the oldest enterprise on Pennsylvania Avenue. However, these historic and future events were nearly missed due to a devastating fire on March 5, 1845.
The fire is thought to have started in the oil room in the back of the theater while the theater was in performance. Luckily, an alarm was signaled and everyone was able to escape without serious injury. The fire extended down the block catching fire to stables, buildings and several nearby houses. It was almost a complete loss.
In 1850 two local businessmen joined together to manage the restoration and renovation the theater in order to welcome vocal legend Jenny Lind.
Today, the structure is proudly protected by the Washington D.C. Fire Department and has been rebuilt several times, including partial reconstructions after five additional fires in the 19th century.
Whether fires are termed flammable, toxic or radioactive, they can strike at any time. Fire fatality data indicates age may impact the risk of death in home fires. The statistics below provide a glimpse of this fire trend from 2007-2011 as reported by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey.
- 30 percent of home fire fatalities were at least 65 years of age.
- Fires in homes of occupants 65 years and older increased from 19 percent to 31 percent.
- The risk of non-fatal fire injury is highest for those between 20 and 49, according to a survey from 2003-2007 by the NFPA.
Passing through the town of Madison, Indiana you might not think twice about the city’s Fire Department. However, the Washington Fire Company No. 2, serving the community since 1846, is one of the proudest and longest standing Fire Departments in the Nation. The Fire Co. operates out of its first, and only home, the Washington Fire Company No. 2 Firehouse. Built in 1848, this building is the country’s oldest continually operating firehouses, serving the city’s 12,000 residents for over 150 years.
The Washing Fire Company No. 2 is the second oldest Fire Department in Indiana, founded in 1846. Not long after opening the department began construction on their historic firehouse. Designed by the “Temperly and Dutton” architecture team for only $6, the building’s narrow, two-story construction allowed the Department to operate efficiently in a part of town that was low on ground space. Since the 19th century changes have been made to the Firehouse – the wider equipment bay door, or the replacing of the old wooden roofing, for example – but as a whole the building stays true to it’s original design.
Today the Washington Fire Company No. 2 stays true to its roots, installing the original nickel-plated number “2” onto each of it’s trucks, along with the original bell that hung from the Company’s first steam apparatus.
If you are interested in learning more about the Historic Washington Fire Company No. 2, please visit the building’s entry in the National Parks Service, or its public record in the Library of Congress.