When you hear the word firefighting, what does one think about? Burning builds, grass fires, car fires, all the modern day stuff, right? Has one ever sat back and thought about how firefighting started? Going back even 100 years, one will see such a big difference. Firefighting is a bit of a family tradition, in some stations. For example, station 11, the Bentleyville Volunteer Fire Department, has been passed down for three or four generations with the Sicchitano family. They eat sleep breath firefighting. Also Firefighting is not just mom and dad passing it to their children. For example station 47, The Fallowfield Volunteer Fire Department, and station 33, The Charleroi Volunteer Fire Department, have two special firefighters Ryan Waggoner (47) and Hayden Roberts (33); not only are they firefighters, yet they are also cousins. Keeping firefighting in the family is an important tradition. Being the next Fire Chief is a big deal, also. Yet being a firefighter in general is a huge deal, especially since they are volunteers. Now, let’s take a few steps back in time and see how they fought fires in the 1800’s compared to how they do it today. A typical house fire burns at 600°F and some fires can reach temperatures as high as 1200°F. Early firefighters were not equipped to handle this kind of heat and buildings often burned to the ground, because the fire was only fought from outside the building. Those early firefighters who braved the heat, smoke, and flames earned the nickname “smoke eaters” and often had impressive scars to prove their toughness. Even as volunteer fire companies began to form in the 18th century, there was no standard uniform and many firefighters wore stovepipe hats, capes, or overcoats with armbands. In 1832, James Braidwood took control of the London Fire Establishment and ordered his men to wear a standard uniform, consisting of black tunics, leather helmets, and knee high leather boots. By 1850, firefighters in New York also saw the need for a more standard uniform and took to wearing red shirts, blue pants, a leather belt, and high leather boots. The clothes were usually made of wool, since the material had the ability to protect against heat and cold and was known for mild water and flame resistance. Firefighters were often responsible for providing their own uniforms, especially the gloves; usually standard working gloves, and knee high leather boots, or “three quarter boots.” As the development of rubber progressed, some firefighters also wore rubber slickers over their coats and pants and exchanged their leather boots for rubber. However, the majority of the materials used would still melt or burn once they came directly into contact with the fire, leaving the firefighter with little to no protection. In modern day, firefighting the bunker gear is made of nomex and is a lot safer for firefighters to wear. (Gottschalk) The lights, the sirens and the cascade of water, attributes of the modern day fire truck, have a tendency to hide the real role of this type of vehicles that save lives. For both kids and grownups, the fuss created by a fire truck in action is thrilling beyond belief, outclassing its emergency services counterparts, the ambulances and the police cars. Today a common sight, the fire truck had to start somewhere. As was to be expected, motorized fire-fighting vehicles didn't come to be until the truck itself was invented. Yet, some of its today features have been around for some time now. The very early fire engines were in fact water pumps on wheels. They were intended to come to the aid of those days' real firefighters, the so called "bucket brigades". This was back in the 1700s, when British built pumps began being used to put out fires in Europe and the US as well. The first propulsion means for these pumps, whether they were hand or steamed powered, consisted of human beings pulling the pump. Being carried around by people, the apparatus had little room for personnel, they...
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Gottschalk, Jack. Firefighting. First American Edition. New York: DK Publishing, Inc, 2002.
Willis, Clint. Firefighters: Stories of surival from the front lines of firefighting. 1st edition. New
York: Thunder 's Mouth Press, 2002. 92-93. Print.
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