Little Bits of History

Worth Every Penny

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 1, 2014
Early steam fire engine

Early steam fire engine

April 1, 1853: Cincinnati, Ohio gives firefighters a salary. Miles Greenwood owned Eagle Ironworks. In 1852, much of his business was lost to a raging fire. By March 2 of that year he was working on obtaining the first practical horse-pulled fire engine for the county. Steam-powered pumps would spray water. He and two co-inventors, locomotive builder Alexander Latta and locksmith Abel Shawk, worked for nine months on the idea. It was presented to the city on January 1, 1853. Having a paid staff to help run the engine was the next phase. Greenwood also became the first fire chief. All members of the fire company were paid, but rates were higher for lieutenants, captains, pipemen, drivers, and engineers.

Putting out unwanted fires became a problem even before the taming of fire itself. Even with dire consequences for the spread of fires, it was deemed a luxury item to have a paid department. Volunteers could be found, since stopping the spread of fire was in everyone’s best interest. Even in ancient Rome, there were no paid firefighters. Citizens were used to put out blazes in community areas and the richer folks used their slaves to contain fires. Sometimes containing a fire meant razing buildings in the path of the flames. Marcus Licinius Crassus would buy burning buildings for cheap, let them burn to the ground, and then have his enormous slaves force erect new buildings on the sites to either rent or sell.

Bucket brigades were often the only measure available to combat a fire. Water moved along a line of people to arrive at the flames and hopefully extinguish them. This did not work for large fires. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, some parishes began to organize firefighting teams. Fire insurance was introduced by Nicholas Barbon who then formed his own fire brigade. If you paid to insure your building, he would send his fire brigade to put out the flames. If not, your building burned – unless it was next to an insured building in which case it might save Barbon money to put it out. In 1833, many fire brigade companies joined together to form The London Fire Company Establishment.

Today’s Fire Departments are organized to best utilize scarce resources. Administration is responsible for budgets, policy, and human resources. Service offers the actual extinguishing of fires as well as safety and education training to the public. Training creates special corps of people to train both the fire fighters as well as the public on aspects of fire safety. Operations saves the public from harm. Many departments have fire stations set up throughout their areas to facilitate speedy arrival at fires. They also often have medical services available with ambulances and emergency medical technicians and/or paramedics to help with any injuries or transportation to acute care facilities.

Firefighters are some of the most selfless public servants you will ever encounter. – Denis Leary

Our firefighters are our last line of defense, baby. – Jack Scalia

Firefighters are indispensable foot soldiers here at home. – Christopher Dodd

Firefighters are essential to the safety and security of our local communities. We owe it to these men and women to provide them with better training and equipment so they can do their jobs more effectively and safely. – Carl Levin

Also on this day, Money, American style – In 1778, the $ was invented.
Hitler Jailed – In 1924, Hitler was sentenced to serve a jail term.
Wrigley Company – In 1891, the soap and baking powder company was founded.
Spaghetti Trees – In 1957, the BBC played and April Fool’s trick.

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