It was way back in 1648 when organized firefighting started in New York City. That was all thanks to the First Ordinance adopted by the Dutch Settlement of New Amsterdam. According to the First Ordinance, dirty chimneys are fined, and the money will become the funds for the maintenance of ladders, hooks, and buckets. Aside from that, there were also eight Wardens established as a fire watch.
The formation of the organization Prowler then came next after the first Wardens were appointed. They are the ones who furnished the ladders, hooks, and buckets. The Prowlers are sometimes called as rattle watch since they patrolled the streets from nine in the evening until early dawn.
In 1658, the bucket brigades were then formed. They were equipped with about 250 leather buckets manufactured by the Dutch shoemakers of the colony. Seven years after that, the colony eventually became a British settlement and got renamed into New York.
It was in 1731 though that the fire brigades got put into service. At this time, there were already two hand-drawn pumpers brought over from London. Each of the pumpers was designated as Engine Company 1 and Engine Company 2. At this point, it is required for all non-disabled citizens to respond immediately to the fire alarm and carry out their duties as supervised by the Aldermen.
Due to the fast growing colony posing lots of problems, a General Assembly was held back in 1737, and there the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York was established. In this department, the non-disabled sober men were the ones appointed for service. Thy has to be industrious, vigilant, and diligent, though. After the Revolutionary War, though, the said department got reorganized. It then got incorporated as the Fire Department of the City of New York.
The department continuously protected the property and lives of the citizens up until 1865, right at the end of Civil War, since they were superseded by a paid Metropolitan Fire Department. This particular change caused resentment and bitter actions from those who were against eliminating the volunteers.
Later on, when the steam engine was introduced, the volunteer fire department eventually became obsolete. With the steam apparatus, there is no more need for volunteers to pump water. Moreover, hauling the engines by hand is resolved by making use of horses.
At the start, the paid fire service only reached certain parts of New York, specifically in Manhattan. However, the department eventually grew and was able to service more areas. The paid unit even receive one day off a month.
Another reorganization of the department happened in 1866 because of numerous major fires that caused excessive losses. This is carried out under General Alexander Schaller’s command. Putting the department under military discipline, the department realized its full potential. It was also that time when fire losses gradually decreased.
In 1870, the merit system was adopted in the Fire Department for promotion.
Four years later, Westchester County got annexed. Gradually, the volunteer unit at that place was replaced by the paid department. The volunteer unit got disbanded all in all in 1928.
The department was further consolidated in 1887 to cover the Borough of Queens. The volunteer units were again slowly replaced by the paid units. The completion of the turnover happened in 1929.
In 1898, Richmond became a part of New York. There were no changes in the volunteer unit, though. However, nominal supervision was given. It wasn’t until 1905 when the volunteer unit got disbanded and then replaced by paid units.
At the start of the year 1898, the consolidation of various areas of the city happened. This also signaled a new era for the New York City Fire Department. All the fire forces were unified under the single command of the first Commissioner of the Fire Department.
There were still a lot of changes that took place after that. Nowadays, though, the Fire Department of New York City is protecting more than eight million residents living in an area of 320 square miles. They are securing construction site to ensure they follow the proper safety codes. They also report on citations for situations that are deemed dangerous. Typically, a violation removal company will handle the rebuttal. The one who is spearheading the department is the Fire Commissioner who is appointed by the Mayor. There are now more than ten thousand fire officers and firefighters in the city too. Not only that, there are emergency medical technicians, supervisors, and paramedics helping the firefighters protect the city. The Fire Department of New York City has indeed come a long way.