Early Beginnings 

Firefighting in America has grown over the years. Dating back to a time as early as 1631. There are over 1.1 million firefighters in America serving in over 27,000 fire departments across the nation. These firefighters are mostly volunteer at around 69% being unpaid professionals and the remaining 31% being paid.

Firefighting in America has changed greatly in the last century. Firefighters respond to a call approximately every 24 seconds throughout the United States. These calls reach over 33 million. Since the early eighties the number of fire related calls have decreased across our nation. This didn’t however leave the fire service with nothing to do, medical calls have increased and are close to 20 million a year.

Getting Organized

Fire getting out of control has been an issue since fire was discovered. Firefighting in America in an organized manner can be traced to Boston in 1631 when a law was passed banning smoking in public places after a substantial fire. In 1647 things began to get more organized when in New Amsterdam the first fire marshals started inspecting homes for safety issues in chimneys. As our country moved into the 18th century things began to get more organized when in 1736,  Ben Franklin founded the first volunteer fire department in America in Philadelphia. This idea quickly spread to other colonies and Firefighting in America was off and running. This was an area dominated by men until in 1818 a Ms. Molly Williams came into the picture and became the first female firefighter in America.

Insurance Companies Get Involved

 It was in these early days of Firefighting in America that the insurance companies began paying fire departments for putting fires out in properties they had insured, this in turn helped fund the departments. Plaques were placed on structures that would identify what insurance company had the building insured. This caused in-fighting among firefighters all trying to get to the fire first so that they could collect the money. In many cases people didn’t have insurance, when the fire companies would arrive and found out, they would remove belongings and let it burn because they knew they wouldn’t get paid.

Firefighting in America has come a very long way since its simple beginnings. From bucket lines, pull carts, steam engines to modern mechanized trucks. Firefighting in America, the American experiment at its best.

Until next time, stay safe!
Captain K