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Then And Now: Fighting Wildfires

September 4, 2020

If you’ve heard a lot about forest fires recently, you aren’t alone. A combination of climate change and human activities have sparked raging fires in various parts of the world. Even though fires today might not be the same as decades ago, firefighting sure has changed, and that’s a good thing. New technology, tools, and tracking methods mean that we can better control the spread. But how did firefighting used to be?

Fire Extinguisher Photographed by User:Bullenwächter – Hamburg Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0,

1.  Fire-extinguishing pumps were probably one of the first tools made to help deal with a fire. How long ago was that? Oh, about five hundred years ago, in 1540.


Fire Hose Artist Rendition By Jan van der Heyden – , Public Domain,

2.  Jan Van der Heyden, an engineer who also happened to be a painter, and his brother Nicolaes, also an engineer, worked to build something we still use today. The brothers improved upon the standard fire hose in 1673, using leather for the hose and wires for the ‘suction’ effect.


Trish Steel / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

3.  If you love fire trucks, you might be interested in this. The first fire truck was a wheeled cart, created by British inventor Richard Newsham in 1721. The modern fire truck did not come along until 1905 in Massachusetts, United States.


Benjamin Franklin
By Charles Washington Wright – , Public Domain

4.  A volunteer fire brigade created by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1736 is probably the earliest version of firefighters. The Union Fire Company (also fondly called the Bucket Brigade) inspired many such brigades worldwide. Fun fact: the members paid for the equipment themselves! They splurged on a fire bell, which was installed in a central location to notify residents of fires.


By Ben Schumin – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5

5.  As fires grew bigger in cities with dense populations so did the need for a continuous water supply. Enter the fire hydrant, created by Frederick Graff in 1801, a model that continues to be used today.

Today, firefighters use drones, robots, and aluminized suits that can withstand high temperatures. But people still play a significant role in both dealing with fires and preparing for disasters. Even with fire-tracking technology, residents in wildfire-prone regions should be prepared to leave their homes with short notice.

If you had ten minutes to pack and leave in case of a wildfire, what five items would you take with you? Share with us by emailing editor@xyzanews.com!

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