History of Firefighting
The classic helmet shape dates back to the early 1900s, when helmets fabricated with leather and metal caught on with firefighters everywhere. The design was purposeful: a high dome to deflect falling objects and a wide brim to protect the firefighter from debris, water and burning embers.
The Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 was a consolidation of four fires during the morning and afternoon of Monday, May 21st, 1917. Beginning at 11:39 a.m., the first fire erupted on the West End of the city at the Candler Warehouse. Just four minutes later, another fire was reported at a cotton warehouse in the downtown area. The third fire started at 12:15 p.m., on Woodward Avenue. Roughly thirty-one minutes later, the roof of a building located on Decatur Street burst into flames.
In 1866 the San Francisco Fire Department was established. Since then, the department has left its mark on history responding to crises such as The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 to the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.
- Most of the firefighters injured last year were hurt during fireground operations, where 27,015, or 42.6 percent, of all firefighter injuries occurred. This was a decrease of 10.2 percent from the previous year, the lowest number since 1981.
- Injuries at the fireground decreased from a high of 67,500 in 1981 to 27,015 in 2014, a drop of 60 percent.
- The number of fires also declined steadily, for an overall decrease of 55.1 percent, and the rate of injuries per 1,000 fires has fluctuated over the past 34 years between a high of 28.3 injuries per 1,000 fires in 1990 and a low of 20.8 injuries per 1,000 fires in 2014.
- These results suggest that, even though the number of fires and fireground injuries declined during the period, the injury rate did not, meaning the fireground injury rate per fire risk has not changed much since 1981.
Fire-Dex was formed after A Best Products Co. purchased Morgan Protection Apparel in Rome, GA in 1983. Since the primary business was manufacturing welding and firefighting gloves with good dexterity, the name “Fire-Dex” was an obvious choice.
Fire-Dex strategically grew by adding more accessory items such as fire hoods and suspenders and then began manufacturing structural turnout gear in 1987. Expansion continued in the following years, adding ParaDex EMS and USAR Gear. In September of 2008 Fire-Dex acquired the Chieftain brand, bringing with it a long history in the fire industry, dating back to 1927.
Fire-Dex entered the firefighting footwear market in 2010 when they launched their first structural firefighting boot, the FDXL-100 Red Leather Boot.
Finally, TECGEN® PPE became a Fire-Dex brand in September of 2015.
Modern day advances provide many tools that have contributed to the success in fighting fires for many years. For example, the fire hydrant allows firefighters access to a water source in close proximity to the fire. It is easy to take such tools for granted.
Prior to the creation of the fire hydrant, firefighters used a bucket brigade and/or hand pumping system. This process called for buckets of water to be moved from a nearby water source to the location of the fire by volunteers. In order to gain access to a great amount of water, firefighters had to dig a hole into the water main. Once they no longer needed water, “fire plugs” were created in order to close the hole. These slow and inefficient systems did not suffice for extinguishing fires of great size.
Credit for the first fire hydrant in 1801 goes to Frederick Graff Sr., a fire engineer from Philadelphia. Although, the patent for his creation of the fire hydrant is not verified due to a fire that occurred in the patent office where all destroyed records. As a result, according to some sources, George Smith, a fireman, is given credit for creating the first fire hydrant in 1817.
For more historical facts on modern advances in firefighting checkout our timeline of the motorized fire apparatus.
The leaves are changing and the air is beginning to cool. Along with the change in season comes National Chimney Safety Week. As you are aware, it’s vital to the health and safety of your community and citizens to regularly clean and maintain chimneys. September 27th-October 3rd marks National Chimney Safety Week and to educate the public about the occasion, we have debunked four common myths about fireplaces.
MYTH: The chances of having multiple chimney fires are slim.
The chances of having a chimney fire increase if the home has already experienced one. Sometimes chimney fires aren’t caused by buildup but instead result from poor construction.
MYTH: Gas-burning fireplaces don’t need inspected.
Gas-burning fireplaces do not leave a visible residue like the soot and creosote of a wood-burning fireplace. Because of this, people often dismiss inspections of their gas-burning fireplaces when in fact corrosive substances are still present. This is a helpful link to share that allows users to search by zip code and find a professional chimney sweep in their area.
MYTH: Creosote is easy to spot.
Creosote, defined as “the harmful residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney,” can appear in many forms. Creosote can be black or brown, flaky or sticky. This highly combustible substance can easily cause chimney fires.
MYTH: It’s difficult to spot a chimney fire.
There are some clear signs that homeowners can keep a watchful eye on to prevent chimney fires. The Chimney Safety Institute of America lists “Nine Signs You’ve Had a Chimney Fire:”
- “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
- Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
- Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
- Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
- Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
- Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
- Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
- Cracks in exterior masonry
- Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
Tributes to September 11, 2001 are found around the world.
Phoenix, Arizona: A large ring inscribed with written statements that are projected onto the base when sun shines through.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Two beams from the WTC, granite walls inscribed with remembrances of the events and a sculpture of bald eagle.
Beverly Hills, California: A steel beam salvaged from the wreckage of the WTC.
Ramot, Jerusalem: A cenotaph in the form of an American flag transforming into a flame sitting on a base of metal from WTC.
Hilliard, Ohio: A park with a sculpture, engraved granite walls, fountains, a trellis resembling beams, and artifacts from the WTC.
Parsippany, New Jersey: Steel sections from the WTC, pieces of United Flight #93, and soil from the Pentagon are surrounded by water.
Jersey City, New Jersey: Two long steel slabs, separated by a path, bear the names of the deceased and frame a view of the changing WTC site.
Christchurch, New Zealand: A tribute to firefighters worldwide using steel from the WTC site.
Venice, Florida: A piece of the WTC sits on a base engraved with names of firefighters, victims and other fallen heroes.
Overland Park, Kansas: An artifact from the WTC sits in the center of a park where people can touch it to reconnect and remember.
The Great Plague struck London in 1665 and resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand citizens. Due to the plague epidemic, many citizens temporary left the city to escape exposure. Unfortunately, less than a year later citizens found themselves fleeing the city again when The Great Fire of London began. The fire lasted a total of four days throughout the central parts of London, beginning on September 2nd and lasting until September 5th, in 1666. Although, the massive fire caused a great amount of destruction in London, it fortunately did not result in a great number of causalities. In addition, the fire helped force the city to re-build itself from all of the destruction and despair it had encountered over the past two years.
The fire started at a bakery owned by Thomas Farriner, King Charles II baker. The housemaid did not properly turn off an oven in the bakery; as a result, the heat spread throughout the wood home and eventually caught fire. Unfortunately, the fire quickly spread from building to building and home to home with devastating results. Because many of the homes and buildings were made out of wood and it occurred after a hot summer season, the wood shingles were dry and vulnerable. Many citizens decided to flee the city, but King Charles II chose to stay in order to operate the city.
There was fear that the fire would cross the North River and invade the South side of the city. Luckily, the weather significantly changed over the course of the ensuing four days and the winds reversed direction. Subsequently, the fire remained stagnant in the same already burned down area and eventually died out.
The fire burned approximately 13,200 homes, 87 churches, and numerous buildings of city authorities, as well as the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral. There were only six recorded casualties, but this record has been questioned over the years because the intense heat of the fire could have lead to a lack of remains.
Despite all of the negative consequences of the fire, many believe it helped the city of London recover from the harsh post-conditions of The Great Plague and become a stronger city. The fire helped the filthy streets of the Great Plague to become sterilized. In addition, as a result of London encountering a great amount of destruction, the city was able to completely to reconstruct itself, providing citizens with better living environments.
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.
The fireboat is one of the most important fire apparatus for many waterfront cities. Their maneuverability and power, not to mention their supply of water, has proven invaluable in many emergency situations. But do you know how this craft came to be?
The first recorded use of a fireboat in U.S. emergency service dates back to 1809, when a group of New York City volunteer firefighters mounted a hand pump to a small watercraft. By the middle of the 19th century, the fireboat had become a recognized asset to the fire service, with many departments purchasing older tugboats to retrofit with firefighting equipment. Still, the cost and limitations of single-boiler tugs placed the boats out of reach for many cities.
This all changed around the turn of the century. With innovations such as multiple boilers, wide beams, and eventually the diesel engine, the fireboat became much more practical for many port cities. It is, in fact, these early designs that serve as the basis upon which many modern fireboats are created.
Today, the modern fireboat can be one of the most iconic apparatus for port cities in the U.S. One of our country’s most recognizable crafts is the historic Edward M. Cotter of the Buffalo Fire Department. Used for fighting early 20th century warehouse and factory fires across the city’s waterfront, the Cotter is recognized as the worlds’ oldest active fireboat, and was designated a National History Landmark in 1969. There is no question that the fireboat has played a critical part of firefighting history, and will continue to play a part for years to come.