How the great fires altered the fire service

How the great fires altered the fire service

How the great fires altered the fire service


Benjamin Franklin created America’s volunteer fire program, though he had also been a philosopher that influenced as well as shaped our country’s moral character.

Franklin, the founders of this republic, and major citizens of that era thought in civic virtue. Civic virtue being a great that holds citizens separately accountable for shaping and maintaining a government and community life which works for the widespread good of all persons.

In concept, it manuals one to pursue civic minded activities and thereby direct a worthwhile life. A good example of the precepts of civic virtue are actually the principles on the Scout Oath.


There’ll always be some that exist existence on the fringe of modern society and flaunt its guidelines. This results in a natural division between individuals who obey the rules and all those that don’t. In the many years after our independence was received, civic virtue grew to become our nation’s guiding concept in big part since it was the philosophy of this founding fathers.

Of all of the county’s founders, George Washington is short as probably the highest model of civic virtue. The males that fought the war for freedom from England held Washington wearing high regard as being a leader. After earning the battle, these citizen soldiers had been in turn held in excellent esteem by the general public.


Those males and others like them have been the kind of people to function as volunteer firefighters. Running a recently founded country needed leadership, along with those that filled that need comprise a team I refer to as local community elites.

Community elites included top citizens, government officials, businessmen, clerics, and also in the post revolution yrs the club membership of volunteer fire businesses. By the first 1800s, nonetheless, probably the oldest elites among the best volunteer firemen would’ve arrived at the stage in which their age suggested giving up the duties of theirs.

As an outcome, the club membership demographics of volunteer fire businesses started to change. The latest and much young members, while still connected to the outdated perfect of civic virtue, nevertheless started using fire companies as being an outlet for social pursuits.

For many departments this meant developing libraries, but nearly almost all convened musters, held parades, as well as sported fancy uniforms. All of this particular passion fueled friendly competition between businesses. But within the short span of a few years, volunteer businesses turned into something much distinct from what the public expected as well as required.

Within several urbanized fire departments, civic virtue had provided way initiallky to mingling, then contests, implemented by battling and often violence. For some extent, this particular pattern of behavior taken place in Pittsburgh. Some fire companies therefore started exhibiting something comparable to the rugged individualism for what America was observed.


Set at the confluence in which 2 rivers merged to create one bigger river within the far southwest nook of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh as well as its 2 neighboring towns Birmingham and Allegheny comprised a basic, but raising industrial manufacturing facility.

A triangular shaped portion of land with waterways on 2 sides of the paper, its networking of roadways had been made up of 2 co joined grids every working parallel to a river as well as parted by Grant’s Hill.

In the 1840s, there was ten volunteer fire companies with all the municipalities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. On April ten, 1845, for different reasons, but thanks mostly to negligence, 5 of Pittsburgh’s 6 hand pumpers had been in something less than full operational status.

That solitary fact would prove catastrophic.

Additionally, it didn’t help that the under sized municipal water structure lacked the residual strain to feed supply lines or maybe hoses in the hydrants and this reservoirs were minimal because of the dry conditions. Nevertheless, even if the strain was offered the companies lacked adequate lengths of hose to work hand lines or maybe supply lines.

In the evening of that dried out, windy April working day, the story has it which a female tending a backyard fire to heat up water for cleaning clothes became distracted and a good fire resulted.


The tiny downtown area was densely constructed of wood frame as well as brick buildings as well as provided adequate gas for a serious fire. The herbal topographic contours of this river valleys complemented the east west street grid making it effortless for that westerly wind to operate the flames down directly into the center of the city thus producing a good fire.

In the facial skin of that wind driven flame front, the volunteers might do no more than create decided stands at strategic places to preserve a couple of vital structures.

Ultimately, the fire ran its study course burning up just about all available fuel and therefore declining on a totally exposed bluff previously mentioned the Monongahela River on the fire’s southern flank. The fire peaked in 3 hours and burned itself through in another 3.

The fire covered a region one mile long and one third mile wide, aproximatelly twenty city blocks, or perhaps roughly fifty five to sixty acres. It consumed more than 1,000 buildings, remaining a believed 6,000 homeless, as well as claimed a few lives.

It does not stand out as one the greatest great fires of ours. And also today it’s normally lost to history with number of of the city’s present residents much mindful that an excellent fire had actually occurred.


There’s nothing unique or perhaps particularly important about the Pittsburgh fire which is not shared by various other cities which experienced great fires. The causes and circumstances which add to such fires are actually near universal, not only among American towns, but with international places also.

When the elites or civic leaders of the public and private sector disregard the reality of heavily constructed, highly combustible towns, huge populations, diverse occupancy classes, poor water supply, way too few fire hydrants, improperly maintained fire equipment, along with no structured fire defense system you’ve a formula for disaster.


These elements show up in nearly all accounts of excellent urban fires. History proves Americans ignored the chances by appearing the other until catastrophe struck them. Until the fire insurance sector itself almost collapsed under the pounds of successive excellent fires during the 2nd one half of 19th century, not significant was carried out to mitigate the hazards.