From St. John to Sparky, and all of the Bad Calls in Between.




History of Fire Fighting

     Ancient Rome is known to have had a fire department consisting by the 1st cent. of approximately 7,000 paid firefighters. These fire brigades not only responded to and fought fires, but also patrolled the streets with the authority to impose corporal punishment upon those who violated fire-prevention codes. The inventor Ctesibius of Alexandria devised the first known fire pump c.200 B.C. but the idea was lost until the fire pump was reinvented about A.D. 1500. The only equipment available to fight the London fire in 1666 were two-quart hand syringes and a similar, slightly larger syringe; it burned for four days. Elsewhere in Europe and in the American colonies fire fighting equipment was equally rudimentary. The London fire stimulated the development of a two-person operated piston pump on wheels.

     In 1648, Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam (New York City) was the first in the New World to appoint fire inspectors with the authority to impose fines for fire code violations. Boston imported (1679) the first fire engine to reach America. For a long time the ten-person pump devised by the English inventor Richard Newsham in 1725 was the most widely used. The inventor Thomas Lote of New York built (1743) the first fire engine made in America. About 1672 leather hose and couplings for joining lengths together were produced; though leather hose had to be sewn like a fine boot, fabric and rubber-treated hose did not come into general use until 1870. A steam fire engine was built in London in 1829, but the volunteer fire companies of the day were very slow to accept it. When a group of insurance companies in New York had a self-propelled engine built in 1841, the firefighters so hindered its use that the insurance companies gave up the project. Finally, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the public forced a steam engine on the firefighters.

     The aerial ladder wagon appeared in 1870; the hose elevator, about 1871. Gasoline engines were at first used either as pumping engines or as tractors to pull apparatus. In 1910 the two functions were combined, one engine both propelling the truck and driving the pump. Modern equipment is usually diesel powered, and multiple variations of the basic fire engine enable firefighters to respond to many types of emergency situations.




History of the Maltese Cross

Who was St. Florian?




History of Breathing Apparatus

History of Fire Hydrants

History of Fire Hose




The Biggest and Baddest Fires

Dalmatians & Fire Horses

Old Firefighter Movies






The Written Word


I Wish They Could

     I wish they could see the sadness of a business man as his livelihood goes up in flames, or a family returning home, only to find their house and belongings damaged or destroyed.

     I wish they could know what it is like to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen beneath you burns.

     I wish they could comprehend a wife's horror at 3 A.M. as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none.  I start CPR anyway, hoping against hope to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late, but wanting his wife and family to know that everything possible was done.

      I wish they could smell the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling, and the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke -- sensations that I have become too familiar with.

      I wish they could understand how it feels to go to work in the morning after having spent most of the night hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.

     I wish they could read my mind as I respond to a structure fire,   "Is this a false alarm or a working, breathing fire?  How is the building constructed?  What hazards await me?  Is anyone trapped?"  Or to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the patient?  Is it minor or life threatening?   Is the caller really in distress or are they waiting for us with a 2x4 or a gun?"

      I wish they could be in the emergency room as the doctor pronounces dead the beautiful little five year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past twenty-five minutes, who will never go on her first date, or say the words "I love you mommy" ever again.

      I wish they could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine, the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as they fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic.  When they need us, however, their first comment upon our arrival will be, "It took you forever to get here!"

      I wish they could read my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the mangled remains of her automobile.  "What if this were my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend?  What are her parent's reactions going to be as they open the door to find a police officer, hat in hand."

      I wish they could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my family, not having the heart to tell them that I nearly did not come home from this last call.

      I wish they could feel my hurt, as people verbally and sometimes physically abuse us or belittle what I do, or as they express their attitudes of "it will never happen to me."

      I wish they could realize the physical, emotional, and mental drain of missed meals, lost sleep, and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have viewed.

      I wish they could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or preserving someone's property, of being there in times of crisis, or creating order from total chaos.

      I wish they could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging on your arm and asking, "Is my mommy O.K.?"  Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears falling from your own, and not knowing what to say.   Or to have to hold back a long-time friend who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him as they take him away in the ambulance.  Knowing all along he did not have his seat belt on -- sensations that I have become too familiar with.

Unless they have lived this kind of life, they will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, what we are, or what our job really means to us.

- author unknown