History of Firefighting
Engine House 35, nicknamed Crypt Keeper, is located in a residential district several miles from downtown Milwaukee. The structure itself is only about 15 years old; however the property it was built on previously housed a nearly 100-year-old mausoleum.
From stories of lamps becoming spontaneously unplugged, to water faucets being mysteriously turned on full blast, the tales from Crypt Keeper abound. After spending several nights at the engine house, FF Mike Lopez is almost convinced. “I’m starting to believe in ghosts” said Lopez, “Not 100% yet, but I’m telling you it’s not going to take much more.”
Take a few minutes and read the full story on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal website. It’s creepy and interesting.
The red fire bell is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world of fire service. The first recorded use of a fire bell to signify a fire-related alert dates back to medieval England, though there is controversy over which monarch first instituted the practice. In any case, by the year 1068, a compulsory curfew had been imposed across the country of England, requiring all citizens to put out their fires and retire to their homes upon the sounding of the church bells. This served the dual purpose of keeping criminals off the streets, and preventing disaster caused by a neglected fire pit.
This law was in place for 35 years, until Henry II eventually repealed the mandate (though many English towns still sound bells in the evening). Centuries later the English curfew bell serves as the inspiration for the modern city-wide emergency alarm.
For many years emergency services have played a pivotal part in the history of the United States. In fact, Americans have been fighting fires since the beginning of our nation’s history.
America’s first recorded fire took place during 1608 in the colony of Jamestown. Just five days after 100 new settlers and a large store of supplies had arrived at the colony, a spark ignited a fort and Jamestown was burned to the ground. The fire would significantly hurt the settlers’ ability to provide for themselves.
Nearly fifty years later American cities began to institute fire safety laws in order to protect themselves from such destruction. By 1736, the first volunteer fire company would be instituted (by founding father Benjamin Franklin), and the rest is history!
Fire Prevention Week is a longstanding tradition in North America. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation. Then, in 1922, National Fire Prevention Day was officially extended to become Fire Prevention Week. Today, this event continues to be observed on the Sunday through Saturday period covering October 9th to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire.
This year Fire Prevention Week will take place on October 5-11, and encourages more frequent smoke alarm testing. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 96 percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm, but fires where there was no working smoke alarm present account for a combined 60 percent of all fire deaths.
To help keep the public safe, the NFPA has developed resources for those in fire service, teachers, and families alike. Additionally, the NFPA is also encouraging individuals to take the “Smoke Alarm Pledge.” Those who accept the pledge promise that they will test their smoke alarms each month.
For more information, visit the official Fire Prevention Week website.
At Fire-Dex, this tragedy hit close to home. As a fire apparel manufacturer, we take the task of developing and engineering the safest gear available to those serving in fire service very seriously. As a team, we take great care to insure that every step, every process, every stitch is sewn to protect and withstand the most severe conditions. We want to insure firefighter safety at every opportunity.
Fire-Dex CEO and President Bill Burke remembers receiving the news that a plane had struck the World Trade Center and thinking it was an accident. As a company, Fire-Dex had sales reps working all across the country that day. Lance Matiste was in New York meeting with FDNY at the time of the attacks. A few years ago, Lance shared his video account of that day and it is riveting. Allen Rom was traveling on behalf of Fire-Dex as well. In Allen’s words, “Almost 3000 people perished on September 11th. The U.S. fire service has done a tremendous job memorializing the 343 firefighters who died doing their job.”
As years passed, Bill has had time to reflect and understand the impact of 9/11 on the fire industry. Bill shared that before 9/11/01, the U.S. government allotted approximately $100M in grant money to the fire service. After the events of September 11th, the public was much more aware of the sacrifices and equipment used by those serving in fire and police safety. The federal government then increased the amount to $350M and again to $750M before beginning to lower that amount annually. Currently, the amount stays around $500M each year.
In reflecting back on that day and its influence, Bill says the public was much more aware and appreciative of public servants and the challenges they face daily in performing their duties.
On the 13th anniversary of these attacks, take time to honor and remember the victims and families directly affected by the September 11th tragedy and thank your local public safety officers.
Believe it or not, the fire helmet was first introduced in 1739 as a leather hat. Jacob Turk, a gunsmith who would later become the head of the New York Fire Department, was the man to champion the invention.
Almost 100 years later, luggage maker Henry Gratacap would retool the design into something similar to the helmets we have today. The iconic design, inspired by jockeys who wore their hats backwards, featured a special durable type of leather, and a design that would protect firefighters from debris. The hat’s hard crown could even be used as a tool for breaking windows!
The traditional fire helmet is certainly one of the most significant tools of the trade. To learn more about the transformation of the fire helmet, see our blog post The Evolution of the Fire Helmet.
Click here to view the complete Fire-Dex helmet line.
The Cleveland Clinic is consistently rated one of the top hospitals in the nation. However, just eight years after first opening their doors the clinic was faced with a disaster that would change firefighting forever.
In the early 1900s one of the most popular ways to store medial information was on a medium called “Nitrocellulose Film.” Developed by Kodak, this type of film was lightweight and inexpensive. It was also extremely flammable. On May 15, 1929, staff at the Cleveland Clinic noticed a leak in a steam pipe in the basement where their records were kept. They contacted the repairman, but he was unable to find the source of the leak. Several hours later, the steam became serious enough to begin melting the film. This caused several explosions that would send highly toxic gas through the hospital.
Firefighters arrived immediately on the scene, but were unable to enter the building due to the poisonous fumes. Some of the staff and patients were able to escape via raised ladders and spread life nets, however the 123 that breathed the gas would instantly perish.
The disaster at the Cleveland Clinic was unprecedented in its time, and led officials to establish a number of safeguards to prevent such a disaster in the future such as hazardous material storage standards, and standard-issue gas masks.
When the phrase “natural disaster” is brought up, many think of the Great Chicago Fire. However, with over 3,000 casualties, the San Francisco Earthquake remains one of the United States’ worst natural disasters.
On the morning of April 18th, 1906, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 ripped through the city, destroying houses, buildings, and infrastructure alike. San Francisco resident Emma Burke is quoted in Popular Mechanics as saying that the earthquake “made such a roar that no one noise could be distinguished.”
The disaster’s enormous force had damaged the city’s gas lines and caused dozens of fires to break out across the city. The largest, dubbed the “ham and eggs fire” was lit after a local family attempted to cook their breakfast.
During the next three days, the city was ravaged. Damages from the disaster are estimated to have cost over $400 million – roughly $6.2 billion in today’s dollars. The city has since been rebuilt and is now bigger than ever, but the people of California still commemorate the disaster each year, gathering at Lotta’s fountain to honor first responders and promote disaster readiness.
Photo credit: The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco
These images were take on Tuesday, July 1st at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. It was a very calm morning with blue skies…much like the morning on September 11, 2001.
Right next door, stands the still-being-constructed Freedom Tower.
On September 11, 2001 Ladder Company 3 truck was led by its decorated captain, Patrick “Paddy” John Brown.
The Last Column. A three-story beam of metal that stood in the foundation of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.
The International Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week is an annual event, designed to increase awareness and reduce the risk of injury among emergency responders. The 2014 event will take place from June 15-21 and will focus on the theme “Train Like You Fight.” This theme was chosen in order increase responder safety on the training ground while ensuring that responders are adequately prepared for live emergency situations.
The National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Fire Chiefs Association, both co-sponsors of the event, have encouraged fire departments to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety & Health Week in order to focus on training and education. The event has been scheduled for a full week to ensure that all shifts and duty crew can participate.
Available on the official Safety & Health Week website is a series of resources, designed both for training, and promotion of the event. Included in the training resources section are a number of programs, studies, and online courses, all geared towards improving safety conditions during training, and improving health among responders. For Fire and EMS departments who are participating in the event, the planning section of the website includes free downloadable promotional material, activity ideas, sample press releases, and more.
It is no secret that emergency responders face physical and psychological stress each day on the job. However the co-sponsors of Safety & Health week believe that with safer, more complete training, we can reduce preventable injury and death in fire and emergency services.
For more information about the event, visit the official Safety & Health Week website. For more information about health and safety among responders, read our blog, Improving Heart Health for Firefighters.
When motorized vehicles first appeared at the turn of the last century, it didn’t take long to adapt the technology to fire apparatus. Fire departments first experimented with motorized vehicles using runabouts, or standard production automobiles, assigned to chief officers.
It soon became clear that there were many advantages to using motorized vehicles, including durability and cost, when compared to horse-drawn apparatus. Nevertheless, some firefighters were reluctant to adopt the new vehicles. Over a period of time the switch was eventually completed nationwide; however, a number of innovations had to take place:
- In 1906, Waterous Engine Works delivered the first gasoline-powered fire engine to the Radnor Fire Company of Wayne, Pennsylvania.
- By the end of 1906, Knox and Combination Ladder Company, originally a manufacturer of horse-drawn apparatus, began to advertise an assortment of motorized apparatus for fire departments.
- In 1909, the Tea Tray Company manufactured the first triple combination pumper on an American Mors chassis. It included a pump, hose bed and chemical tanks. Prior to this, most had operated as two-piece companies, using a steamer and a separate hose wagon.
- In 1909, the International Motor Company (now Mack Trucks) delivered a motorized tractor to Allentown, Pennsylvania that may have been the country’s first motorized ladder apparatus.
- In 1910, American LaFrance began the manufacture of a combination chemical hose wagon for Lenox, Massachusetts.
- In 1912, Christie Front Drive Auto Company began the manufacture of two-wheel tractors that were used to motorize fleets of horse-drawn steamers, ladder trucks and water towers. This market, which lasted about 10 years, made it possible for fire departments to modernize their fleet without having to start from scratch.
- The 1920s saw the introduction of the quad. This apparatus was a stretched triple combination pumper chassis that also carried ground ladders. This provided an attractive option for fire departments that didn’t need to service high buildings, allowing them to save on the purchase of a ladder truck.
- In 1928, Pirsch and Sons introduced the first custom-built enclosed cab fire apparatus for the city of Monroe, Wisconsin. Considered to be ahead of its time, these did not replace open-cab pumpers until the 1950s.
The switch to motorized fire apparatus enabled fire departments to save money and more effectively service their community. For more information on the evolution of fire apparatus, see our blog The Fire Truck: A Representation of Pride and Identity Throughout History.
There is no question that Fire Fighters have a long and proud history across the world. For years brave men and women have faithfully served to protect the people. But how far back does the Fire Fighting tradition go? It might surprise you that the oldest team of Fire Fighters on record traces back to Ancient Rome.
Wealthy Roman governor, Marcus Licinius Crassus, is on record as having created the first organized fire brigade. However, Crassus was no hero. In ancient times Rome was particularly susceptible to fires due to a combination of the city’s early urban architecture, and the heat of the Italian summer. Crassus took advantage of this by creating his brigade of 500 men who would rush to burning buildings at the first sign of trouble… and negotiate a satisfactory price before beginning to fight the fire. Soon after, early Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, saw the need for a city-wide fire brigade and in AD 6 created the proud order of the Vigiles Urbani, the Watchmen of the City.
The Vigiles were stationed in city barracks and would patrol the streets for unsupervised fires. Upon finding a budding fire a cohort of Vigiles would dispatch from the barracks with a horse-powered fire engine, and an expert in the city’s water supply – known as an aquaria. During their time as servants of the city, the Vigiles saved many lives, putting out fires, and often laying out mattresses and blankets to allow people to jump to safety. Little did they know that their vigilance would begin a tradition of honor and bravery that would stretch all the way to the 21st century and beyond.
On Wednesday, May 21st, the 9/11 Museum will open to the public after many years of anticipation. This infographic designed and shared by Fire-Dex details some of the numbers behind the museum. Be watching for more details and pictures about this historic landmark in the coming months.
On December 2, 1998, tragedy struck the town of Linton, Australia. The town’s fire department had been fighting a large bushfire that was quickly burning through private and public land. Late in the day, two firefighting crews were called upon for assistance. As the crews and their apparatus entered the hot zone, the winds shifted direction and engulfed the entire team of five volunteer firefighters.
Soon after the incident, an Australian firefighter named J.J. Edmonson began laying the groundwork for the International Firefighters’ Day. The response to the idea was overwhelmingly positive, and the international fire community quickly came together to help coordinate the event.
May 4th was chosen as the day for International Firefighters’ Day, given its significance in Europe as the “Day of Fire Service”, as well as the feast day for patron saint of firefighters, Saint Florian. The symbol chosen was the red and blue ribbon. Edmonson chose these colors to represent the elements that firefighters work with: red for fire and blue for water.
This May 4th, join in with Fire-Dex and firefighters worldwide in honoring International Firefighters’ Day. Participants are asked to proudly display their red and blue ribbons or to participate in a memorial event, showing gratitude to the firefighters everywhere who dedicate their lives to protecting us all.
To learn more about International Firefighters’ Day, visit the official IFFD website.
May 4, 2014 will mark the start of National Arson Awareness Week. This goal of this weeklong event, designed by the U.S. Fire Administration, is to raise awareness of arson and provide individuals with the strategies needed to help keep their community safe.
Arson Awareness Week takes place each year and typically focuses on public education and helping prevent specific types of arson-related fire disasters. Past topics have included “Reducing Residential Arson,” “Arson for Profit,” and “Working Together to Extinguish Serial Arson.” This year’s topic is “Vehicle Arson – A Combustible Crime,” and will concentrate on preventing vehicle arson, a crime that has made up 26.5 percent of all total arsons in the last 10 years.
Groups participating in National Arson Awareness Week include government agencies like the USFA, a number of national partner organizations, and countless firefighters across the nation. For those interested in joining, the USFA’s official Arson Awareness Week website has a variety of resources and tools. Included on the site are statistics and facts about vehicle arson, a free downloadable Arson Awareness Week poster, and a helpful guide to investigating vehicle arson.
Vehicle arson is responsible for approximately 40 deaths, 75 injuries, and $169 million in property loss each year. Help keep your community safe and join the National Arson Awareness Week initiative.
This infographic conveys U.S. Firefighter Injury statistics as compiled by data collected by the NFPA from fire departments responding to the 2012 National Fire Experience Survey.
Click here to read the report in its entirety.
Since 1968, 9-1-1 Service has been a vital part of emergency and disaster response in the United States. Even though 9-1-1 has been around for over 45 years, some are still unsure about how to properly utilize the service. In order to enhance public awareness of 9-1-1, the National 9-1-1 Education Coalition has designated April as National 9-1-1 Education Month.
The National 9-1-1 Education theme for 2014 is “Be 9-1-1 Ready” and will help teach individuals how to most effectively utilize 9-1-1. The 2014 campaign is centered on the following key messages:
- Know Where You Are: Where are you right now? Could you tell 9-1-1 exactly where to find you?
- 911: Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t: Your local 9-1-1 may not be able to accept text messages, photos and video. A voice call continues to be the best way to reach 9-1-1.
- Use a Landline: Whenever possible, use a landline to call 9-1-1. Cell phone calls aren’t always routed to the closest call center and it could take valuable time to transfer your call to the appropriate response center.
- Stay Calm & Ready to Listen: 9-1-1 is here to help you until help arrives. Be ready to listen and follow directions.
The U.S. Congress first recognized April as National 9-1-1 Education Month in 2008 to aid the initiatives of the eight organizations that make up the National 9-1-1 Education Coalition. For more information on the 9-1-1 Education Campaign, as well free downloadable resources, visit Know911.