History of Firefighting
The Jacksonville Fire Museum in Jacksonville, Florida serves as a link for past and present fire history for Jacksonville. The museum also serves as the State of Florida Fire Museum.
Exhibits include photos and information about the Great Fire of 1901, a fully restored 1902 American LaFrance horse-drawn fire engine (pictured) and a working 1926 American LaFrance fire engine.
The museum was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1901 in Jacksonville on May 3, 1901. In 1973, Fire Station No. 3 was placed on the National Registry of Historical Monuments. The building was declared unstable in 1993 and a restoration project began. Today, Fire Station No. 3 sits in the Jacksonville Metropolitan Park.
Heading to the Sunshine State this spring or summer? Click here and plan your visit to this storied fire museum.
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Fire-Dex is the premiere fire protection gear company. Manufacturing firefighting equipment from fire helmet to fire boots and everything in between, Fire-Dex protects those who risk personal peril in service of others.
Photo credit: Jacksonville Fire Museum
FDIC is the world’s largest fire training-based conference and exhibition dedicated to delivering the finest training available to the men and women of the fire service. This year’s event will be held in Indianapolis April 7-12.
Visit Fire-Dex in booth 1810 to see our new gear and gloves AND to win daily *gear* prizes!
In the 1800’s the Great Potato Famine ravaged the Celtic nations. Hundreds of Irish immigrants made their way to the east coast of the United States, bringing with them their traditional bagpipe music.
While Irish immigrants were able to escape the famine, they faced discrimination in the United States. Housing was difficult to find and many businesses would not hire Irishmen. The only jobs these immigrants were able to find were as firefighters or policemen – the jobs that most people thought of as undesirable, dirty, and dangerous. During this time it was not uncommon for several firefighters to die each day while on duty. The Irish firefighter’s funeral was typical of all Irish funerals and included the traditional bagpipe music.
The bagpipes haunting and mournful sounds added grandeur to solemn funeral services, soon families of non-Irish firefighters began asking for the pipes to be played for all fallen heroes. Today, the bagpipe is undoubtedly intertwined with the fire service, with bagpipe bands of 60+ members being a common sight at most fire houses. Together, these musicians honor their fallen heroes, as well as their profession’s noble history.
One of the oldest fire museums in the country, the Houston Fire Museum is partially housed in the former Houston Fire Station No. 7. The downtown building was originally built in 1895, and served as the first home of the Houston Fire Department. The station remained active for over 70 years, until a new station was built in 1969. Years later, in 1980, the city began to renovate the building for use as a museum. As the museum expanded, an additional building was added to hold the various exhibits; however, the original building still remains a part of the facilities, today having been remodeled to look as it did in 1895 when it was first in use.
Today, the Fire Museum serves to house Houston’s rich fire fighting history, including the roots of the ten original fire companies, some of which still operate today. Some of the largest exhibits include a set of 19th century apparatus (complete with horse-drawn steamer), an interactive display detailing the 1950’s era firefighter, and a rotating collection of 20th century fire service artifacts. Guided tours through the city’s history are also available with prior scheduling.
*New* special exhibit for 2014, “Fire Houses of Houston”, will feature a short history of each fire station from the Greater Houston Metropolitan area. Each station will rotate throughout the year with a new station highlighted every other month.
Keep up with the growing Houston Fire Museum on their website and be sure to stop by if you find yourself nearby!
Photo credit: Houston Fire Museum Facebook Page
Military General, President, and Firefighter? Not many people associate George Washington’s name with firefighting, but our nation’s first president was fighting fires several years before he was elected into office.
In 1774, two years before the American colonies declared independence, George Washington joined the Alexandria Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter. In 1775 Washington purchased the town’s very first fire engine.
According to the FASNY Fire Museum, after Washington was elected president he would reportedly visit various local fire companies to inquire about developments in apparatus and speak with firemen.
Not much information remains about Washington’s involvement with the Alexandria Fire Department; however, we do have the following graphics. The image on the left depicts a young Washington pulling a fire pumper, while the image on the right belongs to a mural in Cambridge, depicting the firefighters of Engine Company No. 5. George Washington is pictured holding a pail to commemorate the time he spent in Cambridge during the revolution, and in recognition of his service as a volunteer firefighter in Virginia.
The number one cause of death for firefighters on the scene is heart and blood vessel disease, causing an average of one death per week. Even more cases occur away from work. Take a look at these alarming statistics, according to a Harvard University Study:
- Firefighters are 12 to 136 times more likely to die of heart disease when putting out a fire.
- Firefighters are 3 to 14 times more likely to die of heart disease while responding to an alarm.
- Firefighters are 2 to 10.5 times more likely to die of heart disease while returning from an alarm.
- Firefighters are 3 to 7 times more likely to die of heart disease during physical training
These numbers caused the NVFC to launch their Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program in 2003 to combat this alarming trend through education, awareness, and resources. The NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program is a national program dedicated to saving America’s firefighters and EMS personnel. Their Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program promotes fitness, nutrition, and health awareness for all members of the fire and emergency services, both volunteer and career. The program offers multiple resources including cookbooks, workshops and fitness challenges.
On the scene, firefighters deal with extreme heat and exertion and are exposed to toxic substances and psychological stress. These all can have severe repercussions on an already weakened heart. It is important to take the necessary steps to improve the health of your heart. The longer you can live healthy, the longer you can do the job that you love.
What steps are you taking to improve your heart health?
The Fire Museum of Memphis, located in downtown Memphis, TN, is dedicated to preserving the local fire fighting history and promoting fire safety. Established in 1998, the museum is housed inside the historic Fire Engine House No. 1.
Visitors to the museum can expect a truly unique experience. The many exhibits all tell the story of Memphis’ expansive fire fighting history… by allowing the viewers to experience a fire emergency as close to first hand as possible without joining the department! Visitors can explore an early 20th century firehouse, ride a snorkel basket and attempt to extinguish a virtual fire, and even step inside the Fire Room and see what it feels like to be inside a burning building. Other exhibits include a number of restored early apparatus, as well as several memorials to fallen fire fighters.
In addition to their large number of exhibits, the museum also holds fire safety workshops, aimed at teaching children how to prevent fire emergencies.
If you are stopping through Memphis you should definitely make a point to tour their fantastic fire museum. However, if you can’t make it right away, the museum offers several “virtual tours” so that you can explore a few of the exhibits right from your desk.
Photo credit: Ol’ Billy from The Fire Museum of Memphis.
“Ol’ Billy – A life-sized animatronic talking horse and the Fire Museum’s official greeter. By listening to Ol’ Billy and watching the accompanying video, children learn about the history of the Memphis Fire Department during the era of the horse drawn fire apparatus.”
On September 11, 2001, 343 members of the New York City Fire Department gave their lives in service of their city. The incredible FDNY Memorial Wall serves as a reminder of their bravery and heroism.
The memorial is located at the FDNY Engine 10, Ladder 10, directly across from the site of the World Trade Center. Emblazoned across the face of the memorial are the words “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on. May we never forget.” Alongside the inscription stands a bas-relief sculpture of the World Trade Center buildings with firefighters on either side. Beneath the scene are the names of the 343 firefighters whose lives are honored at the memorial.
The memorial also pays special tribute to volunteer firefighter, Glenn J. Winuk, who gave his life assisting in the rescue efforts after rushing from his office in New York’s Financial District.
The FDNY Memorial Wall sits in downtown New York and may be freely visited. You can learn more about the wall, and the incredible story of the New York Engine Company 10, on Firehouse 10’s website.
Photo Credit: FDNY Firehouse 10
Take a look at any firehouse around the world and you’re likely to see some form of the iconic cross-shaped fire department logo. Have you ever wondered where this logo originated, and how it came to be synonymous with “Fire Department”? While the evolution of the icon is fuzzy, it can be traced back to two distinct points of origin, one as early as the 4th century.
Saint Florian’s Cross
The earliest origins of the cross trace back to Saint Florian, a Roman officer in the early 4th century who, in addition to commanding the ranks of the Northeastern Roman army, was tasked with organizing firefighting brigades. Florian’s men weren’t the first group of firefighters in Rome, but they were certainly the best. Florian was so dedicated to protecting Roman citizens that he organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires.
Later in Florian’s life he was found to have refused to worship the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. His body was recovered and buried, and he was later venerated and declared a saint. Ever since, fire fighters and military bands worldwide have adopted the iconic cross that can be seen in many depictions of Florian.
The Maltese Cross
Though Florian’s cross is probably the most common, many departments have adopted the “Maltese Cross”. Though similar, this particular icon has a different origin story. The first group to don the cross was known as the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, or the Knights of St. John. This group, founded in Jerusalem during the 11th century, banded together and risked their lives to fight off the attacking Saracens and their deadly fire-bombs. As recognition for their bravery, the Knights of St. John were given the island of Malta. Soon after, the symbol on the island’s flag became synonymous with this order of fire fighters and the bravery they showed in the Holy Land.
Whether your department uses St. Florian’s Cross, or the Maltese Cross, it is clear that the symbol represents the honor and bravery shown by firefighters. As the New York City Fire Department puts it: “The Maltese Cross is a firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage – a ladder rung away from death.”
The San Antonio Fire Museum, located in downtown San Antonio, Texas, was originally proposed in 1997 by a group of San Antonio fire fighters. This group aimed to create a museum that would preserve the rich history of the San Antonio Fire Department, as well as enhance local fire prevention education. However, lack of a site, as well as constant budgetary cutbacks put the project on hold for nearly 16 years! Construction and inspection was finally completed in May of 2013.
After many years of hard work, the museum is now open and ready for business. Members of the museum committee and many other volunteers have gathered a number of historic apparatus and other fire fighting related items. They have even managed to restore the beautiful 1927 American LaFrance Fire Engine to its original state.
The fire education portion of the museum is on track as well. Many educational displays are already available for children, as well as adults. Also, in conjunction with the Fire Prevention Division of the San Antonio Fire Department, the museum will host a variety of educational programs for students, businesses, and the public at large. These programs will cover diverse topics that should be useful for anyone attending.
The San Antonio Fire Museum is set to quickly become a prominent site in the Texas city. If you’re nearby, you’re definitely going to want to visit!
Photo credit: The San Antonio Fire Museum Facebook page.
On the evening of October 8, 1871 two of the worst fires in history raged through the Midwest. The first being the Great Chicago Fire, the other, North America’s most devastating forest fire to date: the Great Peshtigo Fire. The disaster known as “America’s Forgotten Fire” would go on to destroy millions of dollars worth of property in Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and take between 1,200 and 2,400 lives.
The origin of the fire is unknown, but the coupling of a widespread drought in the Midwest, and dangerous industrial practices like the “slash and burn” method of clearing land, provided the perfect conditions for such a disaster to take place. Once the fire began, roads covered in sawdust from the many sawmills and factories nearby ensured that the blaze would reach the town.
A small industrial town in Northeastern Wisconsin, Peshtigo was, like many Midwestern towns, extremely vulnerable to fire. Once the flames reached the town, the many timber-framed buildings proved prime fuel for the fire. Temperatures would reach up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – enough to cause nearby trees to literally explode from the heat. Worse still, the only way to cross the river that bisected the town was by way of an entirely wooden bridge that would be quickly engulfed.
The fire would kill upwards of 2,400 people, nearly 10 times the death toll of the Great Chicago Fire. Flames continued to burn for days, ravaging 1.5 million acres of land in Wisconsin and Michigan, only beginning to die out once the high winds ceased and rain began to fall.
Today, 3,502 people reside in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, where the Peshtigo Fire Museum is open from May to October, closing its doors on October 8 with a candlelight service marking the fire’s anniversary.
A massive fire erupted in Chicago, Illinois on October 8, 1871. The devastation of that event included the deaths of 200+ people, the destruction of 70,000 buildings, 73 miles of roadway, and 90,000 homeless. It would be hard to find someone who hasn’t heard some rendition about this monstrous blaze that became known as the “Great Chicago Fire”. But what actually started the fire?
There are many myths surrounding this epic event that destroyed one of the largest cities in the U.S. at that time. Many have heard the version involving Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. After the fire, a Chicago Tribune reporter, Michael Ahern, published the story that the fire started when a cow kicked over a lantern while a woman was milking it. Though the woman was not named in the original report, Mrs. O’Leary was soon identified, since her barn had been the source. Multiple illustrations and caricatures soon circulated depicting Mrs. O’Leary with the cow. The story took the population’s imagination and is still widely spread. In 1893, Mr. Ahern admitted that he made up the story because he thought it would make colorful copy.
While the O’Leary story is the most popular urban legend about the blaze, there are several other myths explaining the start of the fire. Some say it was started by a group of craps players while others believe a milk thief is to blame. Still others attribute it to Biela’s Comet, which was passing over the Northern Hemisphere at the time. Some believe the comet could have dropped methane, which ignited the flames.
What is for certain is this: A warm, southeastern wind blew across the Midwestern Plains on that fateful night. Devastating fires erupted in many cities including Chicago. No one can say for certain the true cause of the fire, however, in 1871 the city was made almost entirely of wood, including wooden sidewalks. As a result, the southwestern wind that blew into the city that night fueled a fiery tempest that demolished the city.
This infographic highlights the details of the Great Chicago Fire. Last week, we featured the history of Fire Prevention Week, which resulted from the Great Chicago Fire. Later this week, we will share myths about the Great Chicago Fire. Stay tuned for more interesting organized information about this historic event.
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 inferno that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.
National Fire Prevention Week kicks off October 6th and lasts through October 12th. The theme this year is “Prevent Kitchen Fires”.
What special events will you be hosting at your firehouse during Fire Prevention Week?
Earlier this year on June 30th, you may recall the Yarnell Fire Department lost 19 of its Granite Mountain Hotshot Firefighters in a tragic fire in Prescott, Arizona. We are proud to support their fire family as they begin rebuilding their lives and department.
Further, since the event we have donated additional Fire-Dex gear, 9 Extrication Overalls and 2 Wildland Coats.
If you would lilke to support the Yarnell FD in their efforts to rebuild and recover, you may donate to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation managed fund, the Yarnell Hill Fallen Firefighters Fund. This fund was created to provide the families, friends and colleagues immediate help and assistance. The NFFF states that 100% of the monies collected will be used for this purpose. To donate to this fund, please send your check to NFFF, c/o Yarnell Hill Fallen Firefighters Fund, PO Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, MD 21727 or you may also donate online.
One such story comes from a Regional Sales Representative Lance Matiste. He was in a meeting with FDNY just a few blocks from the World Trade Center when the attacks happened. Lance recalls that day: “It was like a scene out of a movie, like the world ended or something. You’re going through the biggest city in the United States and there was nobody.”
Pat Burrows was several states over, working at Fire-Dex headquarters in Medina, Ohio when the planes hit. Pat still remembers the feeling of shock that she felt that day. Through the years it has served to remind her that when she sews gear she is “sewing the lives of our fire fighters out there.”
No matter what you were doing, everyone remembers where they were on 9/11/2001. You can watch Lance, Pat, and other members of the Fire-Dex team tell their stories by watching Fire-Dex Remembers 9/11 on our blog.
To commemorate the events of September 11, 2001, countless memorials and parks have been constructed. The most notable of these is, of course, the beautiful 9/11 Memorial Park at Ground Zero in New York City. The beautifully designed grounds features artifacts, stories, and photos from the aftermath of the events. The memorial itself honors the nearly 3,000 people that lost their lives on September 11th; each person’s name is inscribed in bronze around one of the twin memorial pools.
Also in the memorial park is the famous “Survivor Tree”. This tree was found on Ground Zero during the aftermath of the attacks and transported to a nearby nursery. In December 2010 after reaching a height of over 30 feet the tree was returned to the memorial park to become a symbol of hope and renewal.
Another such memorial is in downtown Hilliard, Ohio. The First Responders Park is the largest of its kind besides the aforementioned one on Ground Zero. The theme of the park is “We Will Never Forget” and features a stainless steel sculpture that combines elements of light and shadow to cast images depicting the 9/11 attacks.
In addition to these large memorials many U.S. cities, and even cities around the world have established 9/11 memorials of their own, many including pieces of steel that were distributed from the rubble of the World Trade Center.