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  1. #1
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    Arrow I need help on my history paper: "Tradition in the Fire Service"

    For my final project in United States History we have to write a 10 page paper on any topic we chose. I chose Tradition in the Fire Service. If anyone has anything to offer it would be greatly appreciated. Anything would help from general firefighting traditions to traditions within individual companies. Thanks, FireExplorer13


  2. #2
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    You can talk about traditional style helmets verses modern day helmets

    You can talk about traditions that cause one generation after another to join the fire service

    You can talk about the crossed ladders at a LODD funeral, caskets riding on the firefighters apparatus, bagpipes, 21 gun salute

    You can talk about the Black band for LODD

    You can talk about 5-5-5 (last alarm)

    You can talk about flags at half staff

    You can talk about dalmations

    Buy the book called "Captain he bought Eggs" by Carmine Speranza. Read it...it talks about some traditional stuff.

    You can talk about how they had fire watches and people were alerted via trumets....or bells which led to house sirens...

    good luck
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Thanks for the input. I haven't heard of that book. Would I be able to find it at barnes and noble or amazon.com. So far I've read Report from Engine Co. 82 by Dennis Smith, FFOPS by Leo Stapleton, and The Blackened Shield by Don Whintney. In the Balckened Shield it had a picture with firefighters wearing their helmets backwards. The caption noted that it was not a fashion statement. Does anyone know the reason they might have been doing this?

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    Default Sure, The reason is....

    The reaso they occasionally wore the helmet backwards was to give extra protection from tremendous radiant heat
    given off from the fire. typcally you would see the guys either sitting on a 21/2 or operating a deck gun or "stang"... which means a surround and drown operation, larger fire, lots of radiant heat... the brim helps to deflect the heat some.. (It looks stupid, but it works ) hence the comment)

    Typically, the fire service of old, were made up of fairly poorly educated guys, (from the NYC vollies who were picked as members, more for they're abilities to fight other companies) to the later Irish and other immigrant groups, who were strong and hearty , if not educated, but working class fellows, firefighting in those years was lots of brawn and little brain, you were taught and told what to do... you werent paid to think... "ya put the wet stuff on de red stuff" was really kinda what it was all about... buildings were all natural, wood, stone, bricks, and furnishigs were natural products too, Horse hair furniture stuffing, lamps used whale oil, then refined petrolium products (kerosene)
    ya fed your transportation, and shoveled up after it, which became fertilizer for the garden or plants. most everyone was well atuned to "banking coal" in the firebox which allowed you to sleep a few hours straight without tending the boiler for heat...
    Oil heat made that almost care free....
    Back in those days firefighting had its traditions but they embraced
    "technology" too, the change from manpowered rigs to horse powered rigs and from horse to motor driven wasnt as hard as we like to make it sound...heck, think of the technology of the Gamewell® box the clockwound telegraph that is still over 100 years later found in many municipalities, was a big step up in the 1840's and 50's from someone having to go to the church to ring the bell to alert the townsfolk
    to use a character wheel on a clock wound to break the current on a telegraph circut to sound a pre-determined number via a printer device or bells ( like dennis smith talked about in report frm Eng.Co.82) worked and worked well !! It happens that Bridgeport CT was the first to try a vocal alarm system back in the 1930's where the phone dispatcher after getting a call for help, could instead of setting up the box, and the companies would go to that location hoping to find something, could tell them to go directly to an address, and what sort of problem there was, more like what we do today, with 911 dispatch.

    I think while we (firefighters are somewhat romantic about the past, we try to stay ahead better now then ever before, were before it took someone getting killed to "look at what happened", what caused it what could be changed to prevent that... we also are aware that to put the fire out, you have got to put the wet stuff on he red stuff, plain and simple... If you havent read the firehouse note about deaths in the fire service today are just as bad as in 1977 (why) wth all the advances in technology for us, there have been just as many regressions in areas such as building materials (trusses rather than joists) etc that have pushed us backwards to some extent...
    for years solid bore nozzles were all that was used, and in the 20's and 30's someone made a adjustible spray nozzle saying it would save on water damage, over 40+ years advances and variations and improvements were made increasing volume, lighter materials, and such, and it has even seen us go back to smooth bore nozzles for some applications...
    2 stage pumps have taken a back seat for the most part due to gains in technology in pump manufacture, and design, for the moment single stages seem to be in... but with 5 inch hose the water flows with less need for RPMs.... so the pump pumps with less strain or friction losses etc.
    is food on the stove any differant today then it was 100 years ago? its still food on the stove right? (add to it the possibility of getting zapped on the electric stove, lol ).... well, I am getting long here, I'd better chll for now, The previous poster
    had some great suggestions, if your interested in the traditions oh the bagpipes in the fireservice or 5-5-5-5 over the bells, or anything else I would be glad to offer any help I can, just point in the direction you wish to go with it...and I will try to help you. I have been a career firefighter for 13 years, was an active vollie for the 13 before that, I am a founding memeber, the first pipe sergeant, sec and treasurer of my states' firefighers pipe band as well as started the ball rolling in my career departments historical society... if you wonder why, I mght just have an answer....Jim

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    How about talking about the history of the Maltese Cross. Dates back to the crusades when the 'Night's of Saint John' were waging war with the saracins, who were the first to use fire as a weapon of war. The brave 'Night's of Saint John' (Night's of Malta) are concidered the first firefighters, hense we wear their cross.....You can look it up.

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    Default Yes knghts of St john;s

    absolutely, the knights of St. Johns became known when opposing army used "fire bombs on the crusaders laying seige, they used sort of a napalm by todays standards and the Knights of St Johns, made attempts to rescue knights from the fires, many knights were burned to death
    but the knights of St Johns because of they're heroism were recognized by the modified christian cross, which was sorta compressed into what we think of as a maltese cross, which was a badge of courage, good will, and caring for others.... hence adopted by the fire service.....

    Consider also St. Florian the patron Saint of Firefighters, a Roman Centarian who chose to become a christian because he didnt believe that the romans burn and pillage campaign was just After, he was captured by he Romans as a trator he was burned at the stake....

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    Forum Member Co11FireGal's Avatar
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    FireExplorer13,

    I have been working on a paper for English with a similar topic. I have a few sources that may be helpful. Also, I am working on a website that I plan to use for my presentation. It will hopefully be a compilation of my research efforts. If you still want info, e-mail me.

    ~Courtney:~)
    Last edited by Co11FireGal; 05-14-2002 at 01:18 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bfpd36's Avatar
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    Traditions, they are all around us in the fire service, many we still do and don't even realize it! I only wish I could find out more of them.

    One that I learned from a "crusty old jake", is why we still send a unit in on false alarms. He told me that they use the excuse that it may be the arsonist calling the alarm in as false so the fire gets a better hold. But years ago, a truck was sent in to rewind the box that was pulled.

    Look in the Fire Buff's thread for a discussion on why firehouses have red and green lights on the stations.

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    Traditions?

    How about the reason for brass eagles on new yorker lids is because they were originally used for breaking windows?

    Firemen used to push their hose wagons and pumps into the bays once they unhooked the horses, so a lot of places still have the tradition of "pushing" their new apparatus into the bays for the first time (usually running, but it looks cool).

    Or going way back, how the first fire service got started in ancient Rome with the "vigiles", sort of a combination fire-watch and police force. Or how the first "modern" city fire brigade was started in London, England following the Great Fire of 1666. That's not really tradition I guess, but fire service history.
    I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.

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    Default OOPS (Saint Florian)

    apologies, as Capt gonzo pointed out to me, I didnt finish the St. Florian story...

    >the Romans tryed to burn St. Florian at the stake for being a trator to his Emperor, but no matter, cause they were unable to kindle a fire under him, so they tied him to a mill stone and tossed him in the river. The "fire resistive" fire wood is the reason he became the patron of firefighters....

    (otherwise he might have been the patron saint of mafia victims, For sleeping wif de fishes) lol

  11. #11
    Forum Member StayBack500FT's Avatar
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    Alert systems.

    Start with the old fire bells or church bells. In our town they used to blast all of the train whistles at the local depot. Then we moved to roof sirens and Plectrons...now we have paging and sirens.
    May we never forget our fallen, worldwide.

    I.A.C.O.J. Safety/Traffic Control Officer

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    As I seem to recall reading this several years ago you might want to check it out. the SanFrancisco California fire department at the time was still using all wood ground ladders that were custom built by 2 craftsmen in their shop. I think they are still doing it. Good luck with your project!

  13. #13
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    Default Tradition/History

    Just a little input--- in the London Fire Service a fire call is (or certainly was 20yrs ago) called a "Shout"--simply because in the very early days of the Brigade firemen would shout "Oy-Oy-Oy" repeatedly, One to clear the way, Two to get assistance to help push the large wheeled escapes which were dotted around the Inner London area. I have furthered the tradition by naming the bar in my house "The Last Shout" , One I don't go on them any more, Two in a pub if its your "Shout" you are buying !!
    "If you thought it was hard getting into the job--wait until you have to hang the "fire gear"up and walk away!"
    Harry Lauder 1981.Me on the left!

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    BRINGING THEM ALL HOME

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    Default conflicting information

    trumpeter75, on this website, http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist/helmet.html, it says the eagle on the helmets have no significance or use. do you no if the eagles were specifically made to break glass, or if they were just used for this purpose after they came about?

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    It seems the eagle was born as a reproduction of a sculpture at the grave site of a firefighter. The sculptor added the eagle to the firefighters helmet for no known reason but firefighters who had seen it had Cairns reproduce it.

    The Sculture is still at a place called Trinity Churchyard, I don't know the state or town.
    Last edited by E229Lt; 05-15-2002 at 05:37 PM.

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    Default A Few More For You...

    1) The Dalmation is considered to be the "fire dog" because it is one of the few breeds of dogs able to run in between horses without getting scared. When horses were used to pull hose wagons a Dalmation would run with the horses "encouraging" them by chasing after them.

    2) Why do firemen wear red suspenders? This goes back to the first organized volunteer fire brigade. (Formed by Ben Franklin). As a type of uniform the men of Franklin's brigade wore flannel shirts with red suspenders. It was also common for these men to grow long beards, as they believed it would help them breath better in smoke.

    3) The trumpets which denote rank for a lieutenant, captain, etc. are symbolic of the speaking trumpets originally used by officers to give orders on a scene.

    4) The red lights on the sides of fire houses date back to when many of the firefighters were also sailors. The same light setup is used at the entrace to ports.

    Please feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken or confused about any of the above.

    .Turk II

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    Fire explorer 13,
    I don't know if you are a senior or not, however, one word of advice that I want to give you about writing papers, especially if you go to college. Always pick a more detailed topic. Just like many of the brothers/sisters have posted some direct topics. It makes research and fitting info within your paper. I recently just finished a research paper on Nerve Agents and Terrorism. It started at NBC Terrorism, but I had to limit my paper to no more then 8 pages. But I wrote a very effective and good paper that was 7 and 1/2 pages. Under reseach and education on AOL, there are sites that you can use to look up books and articles on topics using keywords. Try it you may find good info if you have time. Traditions is a good interesting topic, but varies depending on where you live, and it may be hard to have good coherence from paragraph to paragraph.
    Good luck, and I'm not giving you a lesson, just some fellow student advice that I've learned while going back to college. You seem very intelligent, and compared to some of the other junior members on the forums spelling your a step ahead. Go get em, kid!!

    Also, here in NY, red lights on a building signify a fire house, green lights signify a police station. I also was told, but never verified here in NY if the station doesn't have staff inside, the light should be off to let people know there is no one there.

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    Default turks post....

    1) The Dalmation is considered to be the "fire dog" because it is one of the few breeds of dogs able to run in between horses without getting scared. When horses were used to pull hose wagons a Dalmation would run with the horses "encouraging" them by chasing after them.
    I believe the dalmations also tended to run ahead barking and thus clearing the street or at least giving the horses confidence to run full gallop, as well as keep them calm once unhitched and walked off the scene ( when that was possible)

    2) Why do firemen wear red suspenders? <"to hold up they're pants?..lol">
    This goes back to the first organized volunteer fire brigade. (Formed by Ben Franklin). As a type of uniform the men of Franklin's brigade wore flannel shirts with red suspenders. It was also common for these men to grow long beards.
    > lets not forget the "cookieduster" which after the civil war/into victorian age when Beards went out of fashion, large mustaches "protected a jake from inhaling smoke (this tradition is diehard to this day with many of us)

    3) The trumpets which denote rank for a lieutenant, captain, etc. are symbolic of the speaking trumpets originally used by officers to give orders on a scene.

    4) The red lights on the sides of fire houses date back to when many of the firefighters were also sailors. The same light setup is used at the entrace to ports. our turn of the century houses had yellow lamps and the police had white globes with police written across, possibly due to the (other red lamp usages)

    Please feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken or confused about any of the above.
    .Turk II
    (not corrections , additions

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    I have to admit that as far as the eagle on hemlets go, I don't have any substantiated evidence one way or the other. I've always been told that the eagles were used back in the 1800's and earlier to break out window glass (and to hold those really huge leather fronts they used to wear).

    Which brings up another seeming tradition of the fire service: word of mouth. Seems like whatever you're talking about, you'll get different opinions and explanations wherever you turn.
    I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.

    --Kurt Vonnegut

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