A Walk Through the History of Firefighting
Posted On: Mar 09, 2015

Inception of Firefighting

Firefighting in the modern sense traces its origins back to those days when Ancient Rome had a fire department that consisted of 7,000 paid firefighters. This was the 1st century A.D to be exact. These fire brigades were not only responsible for fighting fire, but also patrolled the streets to impose physical punishments on those who did not abide by fire-prevention laws.

Ctesibuis of Alexandra was the first person to invent a fire pump in 200 B.C.; however, his idea was re-conceptualized and reinvented in 1,500 A.D.

When the Great Fire of London broke out in 1666, the only equipment in place to put it down was two-quart hand syringes and a somewhat larger syringe. Nonetheless, the utter destruction wreaked by the London fire encouraged the development of piston pump on wheels which could be operated by two people at a time.

The pump that could be operated by 10 people, invented by the English inventor Mr. Richard Newsham in 1725, continued to be widely utilized for quite some time. Later, in 1743, Mr. Thomas Lote made the first fire engine for America.

The United States

In the early days, firefighting companies in the US were either volunteers or privately owned. The firefighters were recruited on the basis of firefighting prowess and their ability to protect the company and its property & equipment. The insurance companies paid the firefighting companies for rendering their services. In colonial areas, the firefighting equipment was quite basic; some of the equipment included leather buckets, hooks & chains, swabs, ladders, and pumps.

The fire buckets in colonial towns had the names of its owners painted on them. According to the law, residences and households were supposed to purchase them and keep in repair. The number of buckets required by a household or business was determined by the threat of fire. For instance, a baker must have 3Blog030915-2 buckets of fire, whereas a brewer must have at least 6 buckets. The ‘Bucket Brigade’ was consisted of two lines of people that passed the bucket from the well to the fire. The watered buckets were passed onto the area where there was fire, emptied, and then returned back to be refilled.

When hand pumper was invented, the bucket brigade was merely used to keep the pumper filled with water at all times. The hooks and chains were used to pull down walls of the burning buildings to prevent the fire from spreading out. The swabs were used to clear away the ashes on roof.

In 1648, the governor of New Amsterdam (now New York City), Mr. Peter Stuyvesant, was the first person to appoint a fire inspector who was responsible to enforce fines and punishments on people who violated the rules and regulations pertaining to fire prevention. Moreover, Boston imported the first fire engine to reach America in 1679.


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Contact Info
San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association
8925 IH 10 West
San Antonio, TX 78251
(210) 699-9400

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