The Boston Fire Department

The Boston Fire Department |

Mar 13, 2019 at Superb Free History Essays Online

History of the Boston Fire Department

The Boston Fire Department, a government agency, is located in the city of Boston and provides fire services to the residents of the city and its environment as well as to neighboring cities on an emergency basis. Turner Publishing Company (2013) describes the Boston Fire Department as an organization comprising of dedicated professionals who are determined and committed to serving the people of Boston and beyond through the provision of exceptional fire services aimed at protecting lives, public and private properties and the environment from destruction by fire.

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The Boston Fire Department also offers trainings and education on fire prevention and control strategies to members of the community. It also offers emergency medical services to victims of fire within the city or at scenes of fire outside the city. According to Turner Publishing Company (2013), although the organization was founded to serve the people of Boston City, it has extended its services and stretch its hands to offer services to people as well as organizations living outside the city of Boston. Turner Publishing Company (2013) further asserts that the Boston Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in New England. The organization serves more than 636,000 people and covers a service area of approximately 120 square kilometers. It is also considered as one of the busiest municipal fire departments in the United States of America. According to Turner Publishing Company (2013), the Boston Fire Department responded to approximately 72,000 emergency calls in the year 2012. In addition to serving people living within the city of Boston and its close suburbs, the Boston Fire Department also serves more than 30 other communities living within the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area. Averagely, the organization serves a population of approximately 600,000 people. It also serves the Logan International Airport. The headquarters of the Boston Fire Department is located at 115 Southampton Street in Roxbury, Boston. The organization also has a Fire Training Academy located on moon Island in Boston Harbor.


The organization currently has 1467 uniformed workers who offer fire protection services to the people and 68 fire alarm operators. It also employs 76 civilians who perform various duties and responsibilities that are not directly related to fire protection services such as clerical works. The present commissioner of the Boston Fire Department is John Hasson. The uniformed personnel of the organization include one chief of department, two chief of operations, 14 deputy fire chiefs, 59 district fire chiefs, 84 fire captains, 225 fire lieutenants and 1,083 firefighters. The uniformed personnel of the Boston Fire Department are ranked in the following descending order: Fire Commissioner, Chief of Department, Deputy Fire Commissioner, Deputy Chief, District Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Senior Firefighter, Firefighter and Probationary Firefighter.

The Boston Fire Department currently has 2 divisions, 9 battalions and 34 fire stations spread across the city of Boston. Other fire equipments and apparatus owned by the organization include 20 ladders, 2 rescues, 3 Fireboats and 1 Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Apparatus.

The Boston Fire Department came into existence in 1678 (Turner Publishing Company, 2013). However, Brayley (2009) claims that the history of the Boston Fire Department can be traced back to early 1631 just one year after the Boston city was founded, and that the fire hand engine of the organization was acquired in 1653.

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The Boston Fire Department was created to provide fire protection services for Boston City in the state of Massachusetts. Boston is the largest and most populous city in Massachusetts. It is the capital city of Massachusetts. Moroever, the organization also provides emergency medical services to residents of the city of Boston. It also responds to a wide range of emergencies such as hazardous material spills, motor vehicle accidents, electrical hazards and accidents occurring at construction sites.

Important Persons throughout the History of the Boston Fire Department

One of the key persons in the Boston Fire Department was Thomas Atkins who served as the first Fire Chief of the department when it was established in 1678 (Brayley, 2009). Superintendent Henry R. Denary is also a notable person in the department who died on May 9, 1896 while being on duty at a repair shop in Boston. He is remembered for his dedication to reform the fire protection services of the department. William T. Cheswell who served as a Chief of Department in the organization is also a notable person in the history of the Boston Fire Department.

William Cheswell passed away on February 15, 1906 while on duty (Turner Publishing Company, 2013). He is also remembered for his enormous contributions to the organization. James J. Flanagan who also served as a Chief of Department in the organization is also remembered for his reformatory contributions in the organization that aimed at improving the fire protection services of the organization. Turner Publishing Company (2013) describes James Flanagan as one of the most tireless employees that the Boston Fire Department has ever had in its history. Another notable person in the history of the Boston Fire Department is a captain John Hasson who serves as the current Fire Commissioner of the department. John Hasson joined the organization in 1973 after he was discharged from the Marines. He is a graduate of the Boston State College, and has served in various positions within the organization before being elevated to the position of Fire Commissioner on January 6, 2014.

Significant Events in the History of the Boston Fire Department

One of the most significant historical events of the Boston Fire Department was the acquisition of its first leather fire hose, which it imported from England in 1799. The fire hose helped in extinguishing fires more easily. Secondly, the Boston Fire Department underwent its first reorganization in mid 1837. The reorganization aimed at improving the fire protection services, which the organization provided to the people. Additional organization reorganizations were implemented between 1858 and 1859 when the organization acquired new fire equipments and apparatus.

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Another significant event in the history of the Boston Fire Department was the occurrence of the Great Boston Fire of 1872, which took place on November 9, 1872 and lasted for 12 hours before it was finally put off by the organization with support of volunteers and other fire departments in the U.S. The Great Boston Fire of 1872, which was the largest urban fire in the history of Boston city, occurred just one year after the Great Chicago Fire (Hensler, 2011). To date, the fire is still ranked as one of the most costly fire outbreaks in the history of the United States. The Great Boston Fire of 1872 acted as a learning ground from which the Boston Fire Department learned numerous lessons with regards to fire protection and emergency services as well as its own organizational weaknesses. Although it is claimed that response to the incidence by the Boston Fire Department was delayed by only 12 minutes, the destruction to properties and loss of lives caused by the fire was enormous. The Boston Fire Department also received assistance from other fire departments in other states within the New England region.

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In 1910, the Boston Fire Department purchased its first motorized fire apparatus. The organization further acquired horse drawn engines between 1914 and 1923 (Smith, 2008; Hensler, 2011). Another significant fire event in the history of the organization was the Trumbull Street Fire, which occurred in the night of October 1, 1964 when an abandoned factory building caught fire resulting into the death of five firefighters of the organizations. The Boston Fire Department also lost nine firefighters during the Vendome Hotel Fire when the hotel building collapsed unexpectedly during the rescue time. Eight other firefighters of the department were also seriously injured during the incidence. The Vendome Hotel Fire is considered as the worst tragedy that has ever happened in the history of the Boston Fire Department. It is also ranked as one of the most deadly fires in the history of the United States firefighting (Smith, 2008).

The Boston Fire Department was also involved in the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare, which it conducted in collaboration with the Boston Police, and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, the bomb scare received with lots of criticisms for causing unnecessary panic, fear and disorder among the people of Boston. Many Boston’s citizens rioted against the bomb scare.

Between January 9 and 11, 2009, the Boston Fire Department suffered a great loss after some of its uniformed personnel died while some were serious injured by the organization’s apparatus. For example, Lieutenant Kevin Kelly died and three other firefighters were seriously injured on January 9, 2009 when a fire apparatus they were riding on malfunctioned. A similar apparatus malfunction was experienced in the department two days later. Although no deaths were reported, five uniformed personnel were seriously injured in the incidence (Hensler, 2011). As a consequence, numerous questions were raised about the health and safety of workers within the organization, especially the uniformed personnel who get exposed to hazardous work environments. The U.S. Firefighters Union responded to the incidence by calling upon the Massachusetts State Police Vehicle Inspection Unit to examine all fire equipments and apparatus at the organization.

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The organization also offered emergencies medical services to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, which occurred in June 2013. Last but not least, the most recent significant event in the history of the Boston Fire Department was the Beacon Street Fire Beacon Street Fire, which took place on the afternoon of March 26, 2014, and resulted to the death of two firefighters of the department and injured eight more others.

Future of the Boston Fire Department

The death of uniformed personnel while on duty and within its facilities has been a major challenge to the Boston Fire Department throughout its history. The organization has also been faced with other challenges such as lack of adequate fire equipment and apparatus. I believe that the Boston Fire Department has a promising future full of opportunities of expansion, growth and development. However, the organization is likely to be faced with more challenges as the population of the Boston city grows and enlarges. Therefore, the organization should develop and implement appropriate growth strategies that would enable it to deal with the challenges it faces in the future more effectively. Through its Fire Training Academy, the organization should ensure that it trains and produces the best fire fighter graduates that are able to provide excellent fire protection services. Moreover, the organization should acquire the most modern fire equipments and apparatus that would enable it to offer exceptional fire protection services.

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