IAFF 319

History of firefighting on the east coast

Hello and welcome!

My name is Taylor and I live in little old quaint Lancaster, PA. I’m currently studying the history of firefighting on the East Coast. I never thought I would have a class focusing on this, much less that anyone had written a book about on the subject, but here I am focusing on this particular topic.

My parents were actually quite proud when they asked me what I wanted to be as an adult and I said a firefighter. However, they were a little shocked when I also told them I wanted to go to college for it. It took a little while to convince them that it was reality that a major state university actually had a bachelor degree in firefighting.

My parents thought that I just wanted to be a local firefighter, and I’d slide down poles, drive trucks, and spray down burning buildings with big hoses. I actually want to be a serious professional that travels, auditing and training departments. I want to be one of the experts who gets to be in charge of organizing multiple teams against forest fires.

So, I’m learning all things firefighting on a college campus for a few years, including a history class that has a textbook specifically about the history of firefighting on the East Coast.

East Coast Firefighting History

Firefighting on the East Coast of the United States has a very interesting history. It can be traced all the way back to the 17th century to Boston, Massachusetts. In the year 1631 there was a ban on smoking in public places in Boston due to the potential fire hazard that smoking can cause. A few years later in 1647 there was the first firefighting system introduce in New Amsterdam.

Cincinnati had the privilege of testing the first steam powered fire engine. The beginning of firefighting saw that it was more or less a social gathering in each community. Each community made up their own firefighting organization. The early firemen wore a top hat style of helmet. The firefighters received money at that time from the insurance company who helped with payouts for fighting fires. A home would often have a mark located on its front entrance showing that it had fire insurance.

Unfortunately, this caused a problem for other homeowners who did not have this mark or fire insurance because the firefighters new that there would be no money for them. Prior to 1850 there were only volunteer fire departments and the first paid department was in Cincinnati, Ohio.