The First Modern Fire Department History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Over the years, the fire department has saved lives and saved buildings. The fire department has made a big impact on daily lives, and in our town’s history. Men and women are coming together to protect you every day. People sometimes take the fire department for granted, like when you have “mice with matches”. Keep reading to find out how firefighting had been impacting people since its beginning.
In western culture, the first full time fire department was located in Rome 2,000 years ago. They chose people to walk around the city, sounding an alarm, putting out fires, and enforcing fire codes. These men were called “The Corps of Vigilies”. Napoleon Bonaparte was awarded for organizing the first “professional fire brigade”. Napoleon Bonaparte helped save Paris from fire destruction with the help of thirty standard “fire pumps” in the 1800’s. (Fireflys)
Francisco de Mouriez was interested in better fire equipment. He donated twelve pumps to Paris so he could become the “First fire Chief” of “Des Pompes de la Villa de Paris. The French fire brigade was called “Compagnie des Gardes Pompes”, meaning “Company of the Pump Guards”. French Firefighters were called “Pompiers”, a French word for pumpers. The French government announced that service from the brigade would have no cost on March 11, 1733. Edinburgh, Scotland says to have the first “municipal” fire department in the world. In 1824, Edinbergh Fire Engine Company was formed, and then London followed in 1832. James
Braidwood believed that he should be credited with the organization of the first “modern” fire department. Boston had a small crew that controlled their one pump system and put out fires as early as 1678, after the “Great Fire of London” in 1666. (Fireflys)
Cincinnati was the first United States city to replace volunteers with horse drawn pumpers to steam engines and to organize a paid career-fire department on April, 1853. The first American Fire Department has been credited to Ben Franklin around 1736 in Philadelphia. This started as a “co-op” to protect homes from fires. Boston had some fire apparatus in 1678 and also a small, paid crew. James Braidwood did partially contribute some parts to firefighting. Most fires in his day were fought from the street. This was made possible due to the intervention of better pumps and apparatus in 1725. Defendable leather pumps and hoses were another big help in 1672. (Fireflys)
Some cities, including New York City had volunteers called “rattle watch” in 1648. “Buck brigades” were formed quickly if a fire was found. New York has records of purchased fire apparatus in 1731. This steam “engine” was a hand-pump break bar engine. Ben Franklin’s newspaper from 1735 nominated him the first fire chief. Franklin saw a need to protect all property, which made him different from other brigades. Franklin’s brigade was and still is known as “The Union Fire Company”. It was made up of around thirty volunteers. They met monthly to discuss techniques. More departments in Philadelphia were known as “Britannia”, “The Heart and Hand”, “Fellowship” and many others. Many houses were made up of volunteers, and still are today. George Washington was a volunteer at a fire house in Alexandria, VA. He donated a brand new engine to the town. A lot of volunteer houses held barbeques to raise money for the
department and town. During the Civil War, fire companies served as “Elite Battalions”. The rank system gives credit to the Civil War, who developed it. (Fireflys)
In 1678, Boston, Mass made home to the first fire engine company. In 1721, Richard Newsham patented his new design for a “water engine”. In 1743, Thomas Lote built the first engine in America. In 1821, rubber-lined “cotton web” fire hose was used. In 1841, the first American “self-propelled” steam powered engine was built in New York. In 1873, Truckson LaFrance founded LaFrance Manufacturing Company and made steam powered engines. In 1878, a fire escape ladder was patented. (Fireflys)
In 1835 on Canal Street, the Village of Woonsocket had the “Great Fire”. It destroyed the post office and several mills. This made people aware of how dangerous fires are. People started to think that the city needs full-time workers to put out fires, a fire department. At the June meeting of the general assembly an act was agreed to have a local fire department. This meeting has become a very important piece of Woonsocket’s History. In 1836, a charter was argued to elect fire officers. On November 9, 1839, a “Hook and Ladder” company was formed with William Sheckleford as captain. Woonsocket was later divided into five districts. Each district had a mill and stored fire hoses. In 1857, the fire house was located at Mechanics Corner, which used gas lighting for the first time in Woonsocket. (Department History)
On June 29, 1822, the first steam fire engine was purchased. Coasting $4,000 was built by Jeffers. There company was called Jeffers Engine Company Number 1. Three years later another steam engine was bought from Cole Brothers. This engine was known as Steamer Number 2, and also known as “Social Steamer”. The village of Woonsocket was broken into five districts,
Woonsocket Furnace Company, Justin Ballou Mill, Clinton Mill, Smith Arnold Mill, and Woonsocket Manufacturing Company. There was a lot of talk about where the engine house should be built. High Street was an idea. In February, 1884, a meeting took place at the engine house, but the location is not known. (Department History)
Prior to 1844, the fire department meetings were held at Whitcombs Hotel and Richards Hotel, which were also called “Central Hotel”. The department had fifty men in 1869. Their name was changed from “Fire Corps of Village of Woonsocket” to “Woonsocket Fire Corps”. Mills were big supporters of Fire Corps. A lot of apparatus was given to corps from mills. (Department History)
In January 1889, the Fire Department moved to town hall and was called Station Number 1. In 1889, George Bachelor became the village’s first fire marshal. In the early 1900’s Jay Niel became the first permanent chief. The department now has 58 men and four horses, known as 1 platoon system. In 1886, Woonsocket installed their first electric fire alarm system. Also a fire tower system was built. During this time the town of Woonsocket was made into a city in 1888. In April, 1885, the Village of Woonsocket became a city because of the purchase of a water-works company for $298,612.62. This company made it possible for the fire department to extend lines. The fire alarm took up fifteen miles of wire in 1889. In 1889, there were 349 fire hydrants in Woonsocket. (Department History)
Woonsocket starts to modernize their fire department drastically in the mid 1900’s. Station 1 was built in 1961 on Providence Street. Station 2 was built in 1926 on Cumberland Hill Road. Station 3 was built in 1926 on North Main Street. Station 4 was built in 1903 on Main Street, but was later knocked down and rebuilt on Mendon Road in 1961. Station 5 was built in 1912 on Social Street but was closed in the late 1900’s. Station 6 was built in 1928 on Fairmount Street. It is now vacant and is used for training. (Fortin 54)
All equipment was improved by 1934. More trucks were purchased or fixed by men on duty. Flood and hurricane came to the city in 1936 and 1938. After the department went to shorter hours, 70 hour week/2 platoon system. During this time there were 6 engines, 3 ladder companies, 1 rescue and 1 fire alarm truck. The department went to even shorter hours, 56 hour week/3 platoon system with 129 men. A new rescue was purchased to replace the first one built in 1932. In 1984, the second rescue was added to the department and was put at station 3. In 1983, station 5 on Social Street was sold to the Housing Authority. Station 2 had many renovations done. Ladder 2, rescue 1 and headquarters were moved from Station 5 to Station 2. Personnel were brought to 137 in 1985. (Department History)
The stations built in 1845 and 1903 were rebuilt in 1961. Two ladder trucks and a pumper were purchased. In 1965, a Ward 1000gpm was bought. Then in 1969, a Maxim Foam Pumper was bought. The department went to a 50 hour work week/one Kelly day off. Then again in 1971, went to a 46 hour Kelly. In 1971, the Department had 131 men, two ladder trucks, 6 engines, one rescue, 1 fire prevention car, 1 fire alarm truck, 1 mechanic truck, 1 Training Director Car, 1 chief car, and 1 deputy chief car. The city purchased a new Hahn 1250gpm. Then another
pumper was bought in 1976, a 1250gpm. In 1977, another Hahn was bought. (Department History)
In 1911, the Woonsocket Fire Department was studied by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. They proclaimed that two new fire stations are to be built, one in the majorly-crowded Social district and the other to replace the Bernon Street Station. Chief Augustine J. Cote stated that he needs more permanent firemen, on the payroll in order to carry out a successful organization of fire prevention. (Fortin 53)
The Woonsocket Fire Department began to modernize their systems in 1913. They purchased their first motor-driven truck, named “Knoxy”. The guaranteed speed was 45 mph, and was so for the next 23 years. In 1921, all horse-drawn equipment was replaced with modernized apparatus .Station 5 was opened and was in later years came to be one of the cities wisest municipal investments. Mayor Snyder provided the city with a new $8,000 fire alarm system and new fire alarm boxes at all schools. During Mayor Soucy’s year in office, the modernizing of the fire department was complete. (Fortin 54+64)
Fire service apparatus is numbered by when they are put to work. If a department builds their 6th station and buys their 6th engine, that company will be named Engine Company six. Older departments still don’t number their stations and engines. A long time ago, apparatus was extremely expensive. (Fireflys)
The fire department has impacted me over the years because my dad is a firefighter. He has been a fireman for 20 years. He has fought over 15 mill fires in his career so far. My dad and many more are patrolling the streets to keep me, and everyone on them safe. We thank those who have put their lives on the line to save yours. The fire department is a very important part of the place you live, maybe at some point of your life, they will be saving you.
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