The First Professional Fire Department

Before the FDNY and Chicago Fire Department (portrayed on the NBC Drama “Chicago Fire”) even existed, Cincinnati had become the first city in the United States to establish a “professional” fire department (1853). Previously, fires were fought by volunteers or private companies. At the time, it was common practice for firefighting companies to charge individuals for their service. The first company to show up on the scene would be paid to put out the fire. While this sounds like a fair concept, it led to firefighting companies sabotaging each other’s equipment and preventing one another from getting into position to put out the fire. To combat this chaos, the city of Cincinnati implemented a plan to employ full-time, paid firefighters.

The fire department utilized a horse drawn steam engine. The horse drawn steam engine could spray more water on a fire than a hundred people using hand pumpers. The creation of a municipal fire department and use of steam engines to put out fires paved the way for fire fighting across the country.

 

Cincinnati Fire Department

Photo via: ohiohistorycentral.org
Reference: Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati