US Patent # 203,517
May 7, 1878: Joseph Winters is granted a patent for a fire escape ladder. The ladder was mounted on a wagon and was to be used by Chambersburg, PA, fire department. Winters improved his design and received a second patent a year later.
We commonly think of the iron ladders on the sides of multi-story buildings as fire escapes, but bringing ladders to the scene of the fire so as to enable trapped people in higher stories to escape were also methods employed by the USA and England. Because of the possibility of using this safety feature as a means of gaining access to a building to commit a crime, fire escapes are rarely used today. Instead, an inside fire well, a staircase with fire doors on each floor, is usually used.
The fire engines in use today come in a variety of types. There are several methods for pumping water onto blazing buildings. Fire engines come equipped with hoses and an array of valves to enhance water dispersal. Some come with a fixed “cannon” used to deluge a blaze to bring it under control. Engines carry equipment used to extinguish fires such as extra ladders, pike poles, axes, Halligans, and fire extinguishers. Today’s ladders are part and parcel with the engine itself unlike old style freestanding ladders on wheels. The ladders are hydraulically or pneumatically controlled. Some have a platform or basket at the end. Most fire engines’ ladders can telescope out 100 feet, but some larger models can real over 328 feet.
Fire safety is more than just having a means of escape, although this is important. Planning your route in case of a fire is essential. Having fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fireproofing are vital. Storing of flammable materials in a safe manner limits spreading of fire. Fire safety is as much about preventing fires as it is concerned with escaping the disaster if it strikes. Even with fire safety methods, over 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and ≈ 20,000 more are injured in fires.
“For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind.” – Eleanor Everet
“Precaution is better than cure.” – Edward Coke
“While on a ladder, never step back to admire your work.” – Unknown
“When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.” – Edward F. Croker
Also on this day, in 1915 the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine.