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Firefighters, Fighting Fires, and Smoke Air Cleaners
Dating as far back as the Roman emperor Augustus, the first fire fighters, also known as fire-fighting vigils or watchman, inspired the first set of regulations to check for and prevent fires in 24 BC. The most common piece of equipment used to fight fire seven in the ancient Roman era was the bucket of water and hand to hand delivery. Another commonly used firefighting tool was the ax. This was used to remove fuel, prevent the spread of fire and to create openings that allowed smoke and heat to escape.
In Europe, fire brigades were formed by insurance companies after the great fire in London 1666. The government didn't get involved until as late as 1865. Modern standard weren't formed until 1830, the first of which developed in Scotland.
The first fire engine was developed in the 17th century, manual and force pumps arrived in 1518 and 1657, and the first fire hose was invented by Jan Ver der Hyden in 1672. The first fire engine "Sucking Worm Engine" was invented by Jon Lofting in 1690. A patent was issued that lasted 14 years.
After a major fire broke out in Boston, 1631, fire regulations were established in America. In 1648, fire wardens were appointed to the city of New York, marking the beginning of the first public fire department in North America.
Some of these first American firefighters, also known as the "Rattle Watch," would walk the street sat night carrying large wooden rattles. If a fire was spotted, the men spun the rattles then directed the responding citizens to form a bucket brigade. In 1678, the first fire engine company went into service, and after, in 1736, Benjamin Franklin established the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia.
George Washington was a volunteer firefighter in 1774 and was a member of the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Company. The U.S. did not have government run fire departments until around the time of the American Civil War.
As firefighting evolved so did the equipment used. The first fire helmet was invented by Jacobus Tuck in1730; it was later reinvented by Henry T. Gratacap in 1836, this helmet was most similar to the one used today. The design was a reinforced dome shaped leather helmet with a front shield and brim rolling to a back of the neck long tail. The firefighters head was fully protected against falling debris and water.
Firefighter clothing was made from wool and consisted of pants, a wool or cotton shirt, a long trench and leather boots. As rubber development progressed, so did the uniform. Rubber slickers were made to be worn over wool coats and rubber boots replaced the leather ones.
The first self-contained breathing apparatus was developed in 1863 by James Braidwood which featured two linked canvas bags that were lined with rubber. The air tight sac was worn on the firefighter's back and secured with shoulder straps and a waist belt. Two rubber hoses connected to a mouth piece to allow the wearer to inhale fresh air. Different size sacs were filled with air by a set of bellows and sealed with corks to be used as needed. Firefighter also wore goggles, a leather hood, a nose clamp, and carried a whistle.
Today, firefighters are fully protected with a coat and pants. In the 1980's advanced fire resistant materials like Nomex and Kevlar were used to make the outer shell of the coats and pants. Both the coat and pants have three layers of material and a temperature rating with webbing integrated for added protection. The coats contain multiple pockets for tools and knee pads. The helmet used today is much like the one developed by Gratacap but has better interior suspension, a chin strap, and a fire resistant flap for ears and neck. Leather boots, gloves, and hood complete the turnout gear.
The following are tips on fire prevention and safety as suggested by the U.S. Fire Administration
- Install smoke alarms
- Every home should have at least one smoke alarm. Test it monthly to be sure the batteries are working and it operating properly.
- Prevent electrical fires by not overloading circuits
- Never overload circuits or extension cords. Don't place cords or wires under rugs or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off appliances that spark, sputter or emit a smell.
- Use appliances wisely
- Always follow manufacturer safety guidelines when using an appliance. Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Alternate heaters
- Make sure your portable heater has the space it requires and keep combustibles at least 3 ft. away. Keep fire in the fireplace. Use a fire screen and clean the chimney once a year. Invest in affordable home fire safety sprinklers
- Protect your property and give yourself time to get out of the house should a smoke alarm go off. An affordable sprinkler system can help.
- Have an escape plan
- Practice an escape plan from room to room, so that everyone in the house knows how to get out should afire occur.
- Children and the elderly
- Teach your children that fire is a tool not a toy and ensure they don't play with matches or lighters. Seniors are especially vulnerable as they can't respond quickly so if you have an elderly person living with you monitor them closely and be prepared to help them out of the house if needed.
The U.S. Fire Administration says that "every year, 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials." The National Fire Protection Association offers the following statistics. In 2010 there was an estimated 90,800 smoke related fires in the United States, 1 out of 4 fatalities are not the smoker, and 45% of fatal home smoking material fire victims were 65 or older.
The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes has worked hard to prevent injuries and save lives from devastating cigarette ignited fires. A fire safe cigarette has a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended.
The most common fire-safe technology used by cigarette manufacturers is to wrap cigarettes with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that act as "speed bumps" to slow down a burning cigarette. If a fire-safe cigarette is left unattended, the burning tobacco will reach one of these speed bumps and self-extinguish.
Whether you're a smoker or non-smoker or you overcook something and the kitchen gets filled with smoke, a smoke air cleaner is a must-have. Protect yourself from the harmful effects of smoke the same way firefighters do. Do your best to prevent a home fire by installing a smoke alarm in your home. An air cleaner will do it's best to eliminate odors and smoke.