Citizen Ben

In 18th Century America, most houses were built of wood and heated by open hearths and fireplaces. The danger of fire raging throughout a town or city was constant. Fire was a real and present enemy, a bit like it is for those of us living in mountain communities. We’ve all seen the fire ban signs alongside the roads. We all understand the danger, and therefore strive to be careful. Thankfully, we have volunteer fire departments that efficiently and consistently fight this enemy.

Benjamin Franklin, who incorporated the first organized volunteer fire brigade – The Union Fire Company – was motivated by seeing this enemy first-hand.  Growing up in Boston, Ben witnessed several fires, one that destroyed the homes of 110 families.  As an adult, he lived in Philadelphia and owned The Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper in which he frequently wrote about the need for organized fire protection in the city. After a major fire in 1736, he organized the brigade with thirty volunteers, a man named Isaac Paschall being the first to sign on. The company members themselves paid for leather buckets, wall hooks and ladders, and carried these items by hand to each fire.

Although firefighting has evolved over the years, the founding principles of that first brigade remain the same: “Pride – Honor – Dedication”. To Ben, Isaac, and all our local, present-day volunteers – we can never thank you enough.


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