What was the first fire brigade?
Long ago there were no regular firemen. If a house caught fire, everybody became a firefighter. People formed bucket brigades to fight fires. They stood in a line to make a human chain from the burning house to the river or well. They passed buckets of water along from hand to hand for those up front to pour on the flames.
In 1666 London had a fire that burned down 13,000 buildings, including St Paul's Cathedral. The English then began to develop hand-operated pumps so firefighters could spray water through a hose. Citizens began to band together in volunteer fire companies. These volunteers promised to drop everything and rush to fight fire wherever it broke out.
The city also paid for a bellman to patrol the streets at night to look out for fires and warn the citizens and for the provision of fire-fighting equipment.
Insurance companies also formed their own fire brigades to fight fires in build¬ings which they had insured, but they seldom gave any help when other fires broke out.
In 1835, New York City established its first paid fire patrol. There were four members who were paid $250 a year. The following year there were 40 members, who were known as Fire Police. The first firehouse was organized in 1855 in New York City.
Today, in the United States, there are about one thousand fire departments manned by fully paid professional firemen, and more than fifteen thousand other departments that are part-paid and volunteer. There are more than eighty thousand professional firemen in the United States and over eight hundred thousand volunteer firemen.