Monday, June 2, 2014

The Trials of Early Firefighting

Firefighting has never been an easy job.  It still isn't.  The men attracted to the profession, whether volunteer or professional, are an independent lot as a rule, and have been known to shade the rules a smidgen here and there.  In my research I found a few examples of some of their actions.

Arkansas Gazette, April 10, 1858:     "We were at the fire on Saturday night, and though pleased with the zeal exhibited by the fire department we regretted their want of discipline; ... Such persons as have no authority to order or direct things should keep their counsel to themselves; or at any rate not interfere with those whose duty and province it is to give orders, and take a superintending charge on such occasion."

Corpus Christie, Texas, 1874:     "The Pioneer Fire company and the lone Star Hook and Ladder joined forces to become the Corpus Christie Fire Department.  When the volunteer firemen were called out on a fire, the nearest saloon commonly passed out a few rounds to the men who fought the fire.  This was instrumental in ensuring an adequate turnout of volunteer firemen."
Charleston, West Virginia, 1875:     "Bylaws of the Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 expressly forbid firemen throwing water on each other."

Little Rock, Arkansas, October 1884:     "Minutes of the Defiance Hook & Ladder Co.:  No meeting because of superior attractions of a circus."

Little Rock, Arkansas, February 16, 1886:     "Minutes of the Defiance Hook & Ladder Co.:  Upon motion of Mr. Zeisler, Mr. Curtain was excused from payment of the fines charged against him for non-attendance at meeting on account of his inability to be out at night."

Montclair, New jersey, 1894:     "The fire department published a list of revised rules for their members, one of which prohibited the intentional collisions of fire apparatus while responding to an alarm."

Things are no doubt a little more organized and orderly today, but they are still good people who do a wonderful job looking out for all of us.  Both my husband and my son have been employed as firemen and I respect all those who provide this service.

And I love to see the stories of the evolution of their profession.


  1. I wonder why Mr Curtain wasn't able to be out at night.

    1. That thought certainly crossed my mind when I came across the entry. And if he couldn't get out at night for fire department meetings, could he get out at night to fight a fire? Questions, always questions. - Karen

  2. Love reading the rules and regulations of jobs...and those from the past always raise my eyebrows. :))
    My hat is off to all of our firefighters. I am so thankful for the jobs that they do for us and for our community.

    1. I agree, Jackie. Good to see you back. - Karen