The history of fires and fire fighting goes back thousands of years. From the moment man gained knowledge of how to start a fire, fire-related accidents have happened time and time again. Over time, we have established many agencies, forces, and groups to fight the fire and help people recover from the loss of life and monetary losses caused by a conflagration. Throughout this article, we would focus on those moments in history that have led us to change the way we have perceived fire and fire suppression. We will show how we have established different units to combat the different infractions caused by the fires and how we have improved our effort over the years.
Man had learned to control fire thousands of years ago, and the archaeological evidence found in Egypt and China is a testament to this fact. According to sources in history, the first firefighting team was formed by Caesar to protect Rome from fires.
Throughout the history of the United States, there have been massive fires; the first in Jamestown in 1608, just a year after its founding. This was a massive conflagration and caused huge losses of life, property and money. This left people with only two options, either to return to England or face the brunt of angry Indians and the belligerent winter cold. This was the first major fire in American history, and many more would follow.
In 1630, Boston was founded, and this city has probably seen the largest number of conflagrations in the United States. The fires of 1631, 1654, and 1676 struck Boston over and over again. These fires represented losses that are still not accounted for today. The fires were so severe that they led the administration to give serious thought to fire fighting and fire prevention. All of this led to the formation of new codes and rules regarding firefighting, including laws regarding the use of open spaces, fire-resistant building material, and the formation of firefighting departments. These were the first “written” rules related to fire fighting and prevention.
Again, it was after Boston’s first great conflagration in 1631 that a law banning smoking in public places was passed in Massachusetts in 1638 to reduce the devastation caused by fire and to prohibit the public display of fire-causing items. Peter Stuyvesant was the first American governor to form a firefighting association in the form of the “Fire Wardens” in 1648, which was supposed to protect the new establishments that were being established in New Amsterdam (now New York). The ‘Fire Wardens’ were the first firefighting group in America. Some of the responsibilities of fire guards include ensuring the safe exit of all people trapped in hell, especially escorting people with disabilities to the predefined safe exit, to ensure that all doors, windows and all equipment that may Causing a fire in the future should be put out as long as there is no danger to the personal safety of firefighters. Most of the rules and responsibilities established for fire guards have served as the basis for most of the existing rules and guidelines, especially in the US.
Because Boston had witnessed some of the most devastating conflagrations of the 17th century, the first paid fire departments, locomotives, and firefighters settled here in the latter part of the same century.
Following in the footsteps of the Boston administration, the New York administration also established the Volunteer Fire Department in 1737. According to internal United States government records, about 73% of all firefighters in the United States have entered through the VFD. o Volunteer Fire Departments. The main difference between volunteer firefighters and regular firefighters lies in the fact that volunteer firefighters do not actually work fixed shifts and do not reside in fire stations; rather, they are called as and when they are needed. Since the inception of the Volunteer Fire Department in New York, firefighters have been coming to the service of the nation over and over again through this medium.
From there, awareness grew about fires, fire suppression, and the need to suppress potential fire hazards, and Benjamin Franklin established an insurance company that covered losses due to fires, and it was known as American Fire Insurance Company.
This was the starting point of the long struggle between insurance companies and their clients in the United States. The first major incident that occurred after dozens of fire insurance companies, claiming to cover all losses incurred due to the fire, occurred in abundance, was in December 1835 in New York, when the Great New York Fire left thousands of homeless and jobless people, and most of the insurance companies that had covered the buildings involved went bankrupt due to the Great Fire.
After this incident, stricter measures were put in place to ensure that insurance companies covering fire losses were not exceeding insurance by more than they could cover in the near future. Laws relating to this issue were also applied and put into practice.
Consistency was felt in the practices that firefighters are following and to establish consistency between fire prevention and fire insurance. This led to the formation of the National Board of Fire Insurers, which was founded in 1866, and was responsible for investigating issues related to fire losses, how insurance companies covered them, and detecting defaulters, if any. .
This led to a win-win situation for firefighters, insurance companies, and the general public in which none of the three parties involved in arson, conflagration, or wildfire could be fooled by any of them. Later this union, which was made up of many companies and dealers, came together and formed what is now known as the Office of Insurance Services. The ISO is headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey and contains more than 11 billion insurance records to date.
Firefighters and firefighters have been put to the test time and again and the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and the Wisconsin Wildfire the following year were two of those situations. These two incidents led to the disappearance of a quarter of insurance companies and firefighting houses and was a major blow to the morale of the firefighting administration as a whole in the US.
One incident that led to the modification of existing rules on how to prevent fires and what kind of signs and preventative measures were used was the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois in December 1903, which killed more than 600 people. Supposedly, the building was totally fireproof according to the preventive measures existing at that time. When investigated, it was revealed that although the building was carved out of fully fire-retardant material, there were some flaws in the construction that led to the outbreak of hell. Furthermore, the confusing signs showing that an emergency exists at the end of the fire and the inability of security to combat the stampede and fire were the main reasons for such catastrophic results. This led to some basic modifications to existing laws at the time, including some obvious things like doors that open outward rather than inward, mandatory installation of fire alarm systems, and a mandatory fire exit drill that would be carried out. held weekly for security employees to make them able to fight such situations.
Firefighting, as we know it today, is not just limited to fighting and preventing fires, but firefighters are considered as those heroes who have come to the rescue of many lives trapped in dangerous situations, be it a trapped child in a high-rise building. or an old woman trapped in a sewer. The role of firefighters has changed over the years, and a major incident in history, which led to this metamorphosis, was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This earthquake had lasted for more than 90 minutes and had destroyed more than 500 city blocks, killing more than 600 people. Firefighters were responsible for saving the lives of people trapped in rubble, under rubble, or caught in a fire. The traditional roles changed from here on and led to the new roles of firefighters, evolving from firefighters to heroes for many.
Even after so many drills were conducted, preventative measures were taken, and so many rules were established, devastating fires continued to occur from time to time, reminding us of the importance of involving the latest technology and ideas in fire fighting. One such incident, which happened in modern times, was the Boston nightclub fire, which affected the Coconut Grove nightclub, killing 500 people and registering as the worst nightclub fire in history.
Things changed with the times, and after the Boston Nightclub incident, the use of technology and the quiet use of modernity in firefighting equipment led to the phasing out of traditional equipment. Gasoline-powered fire-fighting engines were introduced in 1900 and the last steam engine was retired in 1932 in New York. The concept of firefighters for hire was also introduced and caught up with the department very quickly. Wes Barnes, was the first paid fire marshal for the City of Jefferson, and was paid a salary of $ 45 a year.
In the series of new changes related to fire fighting and fire prevention, ‘Sparkey’, the fire dog was featured as the NFPA mascot as a symbol of national security in 1950. The story behind Sparkey is interesting . Sparkey was a shy puppy, who sat outside a school fence and wanted to play with the children, but being shy, this Dalmatian stayed away. One day, as he followed these children home, he saw that the children’s house was on fire. The dog was barking to the fire station to call the fire department, and this led to Sparkey being the symbol of national security.
It has not been a comfortable trip for the firefighters and their respective departments. During the 9/11 attack on the WTC Twin Towers and in the days that followed, there have been some tragic days for firefighters. During the incident, many firefighters, most of whom were volunteer firefighters, had disappeared or lost their lives. There were skeptical opinions about the then mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, regarding the lack of preparation of the firefighters he had sent on duty, so many of them had to lose their lives. Whatever the end result, the firefighters fought the circumstances with full vigor in that situation as well, and were the silent heroes of so many lives they had saved.