Mid to Late 1800s
Living in the information age, it might be hard to imagine that without television or the internet, the only way to get instant information about an event was to go to the scene and watch it unfold. During the 1800's fire calls were considered entertainment, and great crowds would gather to watch the firemen fight fires. At a fire scene crowds would expect certain things from the firemen. They expected to see feats of strength and great acts of heroism from the firefighters. They expected to thrill to the competition between the fire departments present, as they each tried to put "first water" on the blaze. They also expected to see some fighting between competing fire companies as well. It was common for spectators to adopt a particular fire company to "root" for during fires. Firefighters of the 1800's were truly the action heroes of their time. But, sometimes there were problems with the firemen as well. In New York City, the firemen's fighting and antics would sometimes get out of hand and the firemen attracted many "hangers on" who were even more outrageous. This, coupled with the introduction of the steam pumper, which required far fewer firemen to operate, led to New York City instating a paid fire department in 1865. However, the majority of New York State (75%) continues to be protected from fire by volunteers, even to this day.
Innovation of the Era!