I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.

KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007)



My sons think it's a fireman's pole, but I forgot to cut a hole through the ground into the kitchen.

The Fire Service

There was no fire service of any sort before the Great Fire of London in 1666; it was put out by Charles II’s army who created firebreaks by blowing up buildings. The Great Fire led to the 1700 Parish Pump Act that forced churches to buy manual pumps which they then stored and made available for anyone in the parish to use.

In London from 1682 one could buy fire insurance: policy holders attached a metal plate to their building ensuring that if there were a fire their insurance company would fight to extinguish it.

It was an ill-organised system, with many competing companies; news of a fire would spread quickly and all the various companies would rush their firefighters, who were mainly boat/dock workers, to the scene and most would then leave once they worked out whose fire it was. If the building wasn’t insured the fire wasn’t tackled at all except if it threatened to spread to an insured building. Many modern insurance companies such as Royal Sun Alliance, then known as Sun, started business as fire insurers.

In 1833 the top ten or so insurers joined forces and formed the London Fire Engine Establishment. It ran all of the fire companies and so would send the nearest to the fire. This became a public service after the 1861 Tooley Street Fire in the docks which lasted for two weeks and resulted in the death of James Braidwood, the first Chief Officer of the London Fire Engine Establishment.
While the Great Fire of London of 1666 only killed a handful of people, there was an earlier Great Fire in 1212 that killed over 3,000.

Pliny the Younger’s request to form a fire brigade of 150 men was denied by the Emperor Trajan.

Fire Fighting Equipment

The first breathing apparatus used by firefighters was a pipe attached to some bellows; the firefighter could only go as far as the pipe was long and they were totally dependent on their colleague pumping the bellows. They also attached a rope between the two fire-fighters and had a code: one tug for ‘more air’, two tugs for ‘less air’ and three tugs for ‘help me out’.

The first fire extinguishers were invented by a German physician called Fuches. They were glass balls, filled with a saline solution, that were to be thrown at the fire. The first automatic fire extinguisher was patented in England in 1723 by the chemist Ambrose Godfrey; it consisted of a cask of fire-extinguishing fluid and gunpowder – the gunpowder exploded, scattering the fluid.

Dalmatians used to be part of a firefighting team.

GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)

If crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?

Nobody knows who invented the fire hydrant. The patent records were destroyed in a fire.

Fire brigades put polyethylene oxide in the water – it reduces the friction so that the water jets go twice as far.

Cow’s hooves are used to make the foam in fire extinguishers.