Chapter 1

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Chapter 1
Overview of the History,
Tradition, and Development of
the American Fire Service
Introduction
• This chapter covers:
– Importance of the mission of the fire service
– Purpose of a mission statement
– Major events that alter the history of the fire
service
– History of firefighting and emergency
response
1.2
The Mission of the Fire Service
• Firefighter tasks are the same all over the world
– Save lives and property from fire and other
emergencies
– Different fire departments have different approaches
• Mission synonymous with purpose for existence
– Legal authority to act in a certain manner
• Mission statement
– Written declaration describing things it intends to do
to protect citizenry or customers
• Every individual responsible for mission
1.3
Roots in the Past
• Factors common to all agencies
– Organizational structure
– Inventory of facilities, apparatus, equipment, methods
– Programs to protect life and property
• Categories of programs
–
–
–
–
–
Fire and emergency operations and fire prevention
Arson investigation
Training
Emergency medical services
Communications and maintenance
1.4
Figure 1-1 Understanding the history of the
fire service is like climbing a ladder.
1.5
Ancient Beliefs
• Turning point in human history: recognition
of value of fire
– Initial challenge: manage fire, prevent it from
destroying its user
• Ancient Greeks believed fire was a gift from
Prometheus
• Phoenix myth: fire powerful destroyer and
giver of life
• Ancient cultures used fire; fire destroyed
their homes and consumed their property
1.6
Recorded History
• Vesta: Roman goddess, protector of
hearth fire
• Hero of Alexandria: created first fire pump
• 22 B.C.: magistrates reported fire
outbreaks at night
– “Familia publica” organized along military lines
• A.D. 6: “Cohortes Vigilum” permanent fire
brigade
– Housed in barracks; toured the city at night
looking for fires
1.7
Recorded History (cont’d.)
• Emperor Augustus created seven cohorts
– Seven military units under command of a tribune
– Groups under a prefect (officer of equestrian
rank)
– Each prefect had 500 men, later expanded to
1000
– Vigiles were a variety of specialists
• Roman leaders attempted to regulate
building
• After fall of Rome, no organized fire
brigades for 1000 years
• Legacy of organized firefighting left by
Rome
1.8
Figure 1-3 An early European hand-operated pump
based on the ancient Roman design.
1.9
Early History and Symbols
of the Fire Service
• Crusades: Order of Saint John of
Hospitaliers
– Dedicated to treatment of battlefield wounds
• Knights of Malta
– Dedicated to saving lives by serving as
stretcher-bearers
• Symbol on uniform and shield determined
friend or foe
– Red cross worn by Order of Saint John
– Maltese cross worn by Knights of Malta
1.10
(A)
(B)
Figure 1-4 Symbols taken from history: (A) red cross and
(B) Maltese cross.
1.11
The Middle Ages
• Fire continued to destroy European cities
• Technological advances around the globe
not widely available in Europe
– Fire brigade created in China, not copied in
Europe
• A.D. 1100 – 1600: English devised fire
regulations
– Laws requiring home owners to have ladders,
buckets, and barrels of water handy
– Arson a serious crime
• Punishment: to be burned alive
1.12
The Middle Ages (cont’d.)
• 1666: Great Fire of London
• Community leaders placed emphasis
on elimination of conflagration
• Next 200 years: creation of almost all
basic fire protection institutions of the
modern age
– Organization of fire departments
– Creation of fire insurance industry
– Rise of technology to prevent and
combat fires
1.13
Early American History
• Early regulations on prohibition of wooden
chimneys, limitations on candle-making
– Early settlements built of wood; emphasis on
prevention
• 1637: fire marks used by insurance
companies
• Fires fought by bucket brigades
• Early 1700s Boston designated fire
wardens
– 1718: fire societies, era of volunteer firefighter
• 1752: Benjamin Franklin started
Philadelphia Contributorship
1.14
Early American History (cont’d.)
• Fire companies extinguished only the fires
of insured buildings
– Volunteer firefighters extinguished any fire
• Fire used as a weapon of war
• 1800 – 1850: better protection, more
powerful hand pumpers, development of fire
helmet
• Arson became common in mid-1800s
• 1853: first full-time, paid firefighting service
– Steam-powered fire engine replaced hand-pumps
1.15
The Civil War
• Establishment of paramilitary
organizational practices
• Firefighters became soldiers in the Civil
War
– Most of the country’s experienced firefighters
were lost to the war
• Military veterans replaced lost firefighters
– Introduced military rank structure
– Command and control similar to infantry tactics
– Coloration and design of uniforms
• 1873: National Association of Fire
Engineers
1.16
The Industrial Revolution
• 1870s through 1900: U.S. moved from
farming to industry
• National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
– Designed and installed automatic sprinklers
– Standard number 1
• Basic research in fire engineering started
in:
–
–
–
–
Alarm systems
Fire hydraulics
Aerial apparatus
Steam-powered fire pump
1.17
The Beginning
of the Twentieth Century
• International Association of Fire Fighters
(IAFF)
• National Board of Fire Underwriters
(NBFU)
– Evaluated level of fire defense in different cities
• Emphasis on fire prevention
• 1920s: firefighter education reform
– Fire Chief Ralph Scott
– Firefighting Bulleting Number 155, series 44,
Federal Board of Vocational Education, 1931
1.18
Technology, Transition,
and Times of Change
• Different technology in service
simultaneously
• Pre-World War I stations had both horsedrawn and motorized fire apparatus
– Several pieces of equipment had to be
assembled to fight a fire
• Internal combustion combined three
apparatus into one
• Advances in ability to reach fire, but not in
capacity to fight fire once on the scene
1.19
Figure 1-16 Triple combination engine companies can carry water
and hoses and other equipment as well as pump the water.
(Owned and photographed by William Killen)
1.20
The Effects of World War II
• War accelerated need to deal with fire
– Fire still a weapon of war
• Research resulted in:
–
–
–
–
Indirect attack method
Improved foams for use in fire service
Improved personal protective clothing
Improved fire nozzle technology
• Fire service became more paramilitary
• Other innovations: improved
communications (radio), diesel engines
1.21
Modernization of the
Fire Service
• Modernization is a process
• Information half-life: how long it takes for
50% of information to become obsolete
– 1700s about 100 years
– Half-life has decreased with every generation
over last 100 years
• Technological obsolescence: any given
technology is only useful for a period of
time
– Steamers replaced hand-pumpers
– Diesel replaced gasoline
1.22
The Fire Service of Today
• Acceleration of change related to duties of
firefighter and agency staffing
– Hazardous materials response
– Search and rescue
– Terrorism incidents
• 1947: National Conference on America’s
fire problem (Harry Truman)
• Texas City Disaster: first catastrophic
hazardous materials event in America
1.23
The Fire Service of
Today (cont’d.)
• 1960s Johnson Foundation
“Wingspread Conference”
• 1970s National Commission on Fire
Protection and Control “America
Burning”
– United States Fire Administration created
– Incident command system (ICS) created
1.24
The Fire Service of
Today (cont’d.)
• Twenty-first century:
– 30,635 fire departments and 1,140,900
firefighters
– Fire department in the U.S. responds to
one fire every 20 seconds
– U.S. has fourth highest death rate
among industrial nations: one person
dies every two hours in a fire
1.25
Figure 1-17 The fire service has expanded into many
areas, including hazardous materials response.
1.26
The Fire Service of
Today (cont’d.)
• The fire service also plays a
large role in EMS
Figure 22-2 Firefighters are often called on to
assist EMS crews with patient care.
1.27
Lessons Learned
• Firefighter’s career is like climbing a
ladder
• We must give due credit to the past
• Future contains difficult challenges
and opportunities
• Firefighters must develop skills that
did not exist previously
• Motto of the Roman fire brigade
“Semper Vigilans”
– “Always Vigilant”
1.28
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