The History of Firefighting

Firefighting is a profession we often let blend into the background of our society despite its necessity. People have been putting out fires since fire was discovered, but what caused fire to shift from a personal burden to one of the community? As comical as it is to say considering he did just about everything, it was Benjamin Franklin that pushed for organized firefighting.

On a trip to Boston, Franklin observed they were much more competent when it came to putting out fires than the citizens back home in Philadelphia. When he returned home from his trip, he contacted Junto, a group that focused on civic improvement, for advice on how to better fight fires in their city.

He also used his paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, to raise awareness about the need for a community effort to improve firefighting techniques.

He pushed for chimney sweeps to be licensed by the city and held responsible if something goes wrong on their watch. He then brought together thirty men, who formed the Union Fire Company. They brought leather buckets along with strong bags to each fire. Citizens were also required to have leather buckets in their houses. This union met every month to discuss ways to improve their firefighting.

In addition to the Union, some men in Philadelphia chose to start their own fire fighting company.

Thanks to Ben Franklin’s efforts, Philadelphia became the safest city in the United States in regards to fire damage.

The website of Chris Mayo says that fire-related injuries can cause significant damage quickly. Without an organized union committed to putting out fires, we would be on our own in situations regular citizens are not trained to or have the equipment to handle. Due to the persistent dangers of fires, firefighters continue to be as important as they were when Benjamin Franklin founded them in Philadelphia.