On a visit to Boston, Benjamin Franklin noted that the inhabitants of
his native city were far better prepared to fight fires than the natives
of his adopted city, Philadelphia. Upon returning home, he consulted the
Junto, a benevolent group dedicated to civic and self-improvement, and
asked for their suggestions on better ways to combat fires.
Franklin also sought to raise public awareness about the city's dire
need to improve fire-fighting techniques. In a Pennsylvania Gazette
article of 1733 Franklin noted how fires were being fought in
Philadelphia. "Soon after it [a fire] is seen and cry'd out, the Place
is crowded by active Men of different Ages, Professions and Titles who,
as of one Mind and Rank, apply themselves with all Vigilance and
Resolution, according to their Abilities, to the hard Work of conquering
the increasing fire."
Goodwill and amateur firefighters were not enough, though. Franklin
suggested a "Club or Society of active Men belonging to each Fire
Engine; whose Business is to attend all Fires with it whenever they
He further urged that chimney sweeps should be licensed by the city and
be held responsible for their work. He noted that via practice and
regular meetings, the firefighters' skills improved.
Under Franklin's goading, a group of thirty men came together to form
the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. Their equipment included
"leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and
transporting goods), which were to be brought to every fire. The blaze
battlers met monthly to talk about fire prevention and fire-fighting
methods. Homeowner's were mandated to have leather fire-fighting buckets
in their houses.
Thanks to the matchless leadership of Benjamin Franklin, the dire fear
of fires expired in Philadelphia which became one of safest city's in
the world in terms of fire damage.