The first Scramble Squares® puzzle in the category of ‘occupations,’ Firefighters is a spectacular 4-alarm tribute to the importance and courage of this heroic occupation.
When crusaders from Malta known as the Knights of St. John fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land in the early 12th Century, they and other European crusaders were saturated by naptha hurled at them in pottery vessels by the Saracens, who then threw a flaming torch at them, burning hundreds of them to death. Many of the Maltese knights risked their own lives trying to save their comrades from fiery deaths, and the Knights of Saint James became the first firefighters in recorded history. The heroic efforts of the Knights of Saint James were recognized by fellow crusaders with a cross like the one used by firemen as their symbol today. This identifying symbol of firefighting is called the “Maltese Cross.” The earliest form of organized fire protection in North America consisted of citizen bucket brigades. As shiploads of immigrants came to America looking for a fresh start in a new land, cities began to grow rapidly, and the flammability of these cities increased dramatically as forests were cleared and wooden homes and other buildings were constructed. The communities that sprang up around the harbors at Boston, New York, Philadelphia and, later, Chicago encountered social problems with housing, sanitation and water supply, and Boston, New York and Philadelphia developed the earliest approaches to fire prevention and firefighting for the country.
Boston’s city fathers took the first steps in fire prevention when Governor John Winthrop outlawed wooden chimneys and thatched roofs in 1631. In 1648, Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York by the English) appointed four men to act as fire wardens, beginning the first organized firefighting in America. The wardens inspected all chimneys. If they found a wooden chimney or found a chimney that was clogged or dirty, the fire wardens would levy a fine. The proceeds from fines were used to purchase and maintain fire ladders, hooks and buckets. The wardens could also levy a fine if a house caught fire due to the negligence of the homeowner. The Dutch Burghers who governed New Amsterdam later appointed eight prominent citizens to the “Rattle Watch.” These men volunteered to patrol the streets at night carrying large wooden rattles, which they spun to sound an alarm when a fire was detected. The first firefighting apparatus that was effectively utilized in the United States was a hand pumper, built in England and shipped by boat to New York during the early 1700’s. The 3’ long, 18” wide wooden box had long parallel handles and required many volunteers to pump up and down rapidly to draw water from the machine’s tub that had to be kept filled with water by a bucket brigade. Although the effectiveness of the hand pumper was limited by the volunteers’ pumping endurance, these pumpers far exceeded the capabilities of bucket brigades alone. American manufacturers copied and refined such machines into the 1800s. Most notable among America’s most famous fire fighters was Benjamin Franklin. In 1736, Franklin founded the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, which became the standard for volunteer fire company organization. Ben Franklin also organized the “Philadelphia Contributorship” in 1740 to insure houses from loss by fire. The company identified their insured with “fire marks” that were attached to the front of each insured’s property.
Communications and fireground command remained relatively unchanged for many years. In December, 1913, the FDNY experimented with a two-way wireless telegraph system between the Manhattan Fire Dispatcher’s Office and the fireboat James Duane, but the idea was abandoned due to the lack of the 24-hour manpower needed to keep the system available. In September 1939, the FDNY set up a radio laboratory in a workshop at Engine Company 39 and Ladder 16 in Manhattan. The department conducted thorough research into the commercial radio gear available at the time, but found none that could perform as needed at the scene of a fire until they found the “Walkie-Talkie,” which operated on dry-cell batteries that provided ultra-high frequency operational life of between 60 and 100 hours. In the 1970’s, a series of large-area wildland fires burned through Southern California. The fires raced across jurisdictional boundaries and involved state and federal forests. After the fires, a number of the involved agencies worked together to develop a plan to better manage these emergencies. Their plan evolved to the incident command system now widely used within the fire service to manage fires and other emergencies today.