Did you know that in 1736, Benjamin Franklin
started the first fire department ever? It was
located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was
called the Union Fire Company.
Ben Franklin lived in Boston until he was
eighteen years old. While he lived in Boston,
the city had major fires in 1653 and 1676. After
the fire in 1676, Boston purchased a London
pumper. The city then hired Thomas Atkins and
twelve other men to fight fires. These were the
first paid firefighters in the United States. At
the age of six, Benjamin Franklin witnessed
another major fire in 1711. One hundred ten
families lost their homes.
In 1682, the city of Philadelphia was founded by
William Penn. When determining where to locate
the city Penn gave careful thought to the
dangers of fire.
In 1718, Philadelphia bought its first engine.
It was named The Shag Rag but it was not put
into service until 1730 when Philadelphia had a
fire that destroyed much of the commercial
district along the river.
In 1733, Ben Franklin often wrote about the
dangers of fire and the need for organized fire
protection in his newspaper The Pennsylvania
Gazette. Ben Franklin was familiar with Boston’s
Mutual Fire Societies which were also known as
“Fire Clubs.” But the “Fire Clubs” existed for
the protection of its members, not for everyone
in the community.
After a huge fire in Philadelphia in 1736,
Franklin created a fire brigade called The Union
Fire Company with 30 volunteers. The first
full-fledged volunteer firefighter in America
was Isaac Paschall. The idea of volunteer fire
brigades gained popularity. These citizens were
able to afford to purchase equipment and pay
fines for missing meetings and fires.
Americans who served as volunteer firefighters
were: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock,
Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John
Barry, Aaron Burr, Benedict Arnold, James
Buchanan and Millard Fillmore also served as
Now that you have read
the story of Ben Franklin and the fire
department, take the quiz below.