Sliding Down the Fire Pole – The History of the Fire Pole

David Kenyon, a Chicago firefighter, invented the fire pole in 1878 to help firefighters quickly reach their fire trucks. Prior to the fire pole, firefighters used spiral staircases or sliding chutes.

Kenyon discovered the unique transportation method when a fellow firefighter slid down a wooden binding pole normally used for hauling hay to the firehouse. Kenyon swayed the chief of his department make the necessary hole in the building so that a pole could be installed. The first pole was made from pine beam and was three inches in diameter. It worked!  After the installation, the Chicago Engine 21 Company was usually the first to arrive on scene.  As a result, the chief ordered all Chicago fire stations to install a fire pole.

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8 comments on “Sliding Down the Fire Pole – The History of the Fire Pole

  1. David Kenyon was my great great grandfather. I just found in my mother’s photos an old photo of him with his fire engine and crew. Let me know if you would like a copy and where to send it.

    • Hi there, I would like a copy of that photo of your great great grandfather, please. I am working up a free lance story regarding the history of the fire pole, and I think it would be nice to share that photo as well.


      Jerry Schwartz
      Boise, ID

    • I am writing a novel and am including David Kenyon and Company 21 in my story. I would love to have a copy so I could better describe the crew.

    • Fred – I am a retired firefighter from South Bend, IN and spent a lot of time riding with Engine 61 in Chicago. That firehouse had three poles that we used on many runs.
      I would love to have a picture of your great great grandfather for my private collection. Please let me know details. Thank you.

    • Hi Fred,
      I am putting together a small history of the fire pole for children. I would love to see the picture of your Great great grandfather and possibly use it. I would also love to talk with you if you have any other info you would be willing to share.
      Thank you so much!

    • Hi Fred

      I volunteer at a fire museum in Los Angeles. We tell the story of your grandfather and would love to have a picture of him for the museum.

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