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The Training and Life of a New York Fireman in 1896

By Rufus Rockwell Wilson

The coming International Firemen’s Tournament, to beheld in London, will be attended by representatives of nearly all of our leading cities, and promises to emphasize the fact that American firemen are in many respects the best in the world. One who has been present at a fire in any of our centres of population must have admired the dash, skill, and precision with which the firemen began and waged their battle with the flames, and must doubtless have wondered, how this skill and confidence were acquired; but an inquiry would have revealed a fact unfamiliar to the general public, that in all the chief cities there have been maintained for years past well – equipped training – schools, where men are regularly and carefully drilled in the art of handling fires and saving lives. The training-school in New York is at 157 East Sixty-seventh Street, the headquarters of the department, a handsome seven-story brick building, erected in 1887 at a cost of half a million dollars. To Captain H. W. McAdams, instructor, come all applicants for admission to the department, and during the past sixteen years, he has drilled more than 40,000 men in the essentials of his calling.

At a Union Square Fire.

At a Union Square Fire.

The men are first trained in the use of the scaling-ladder. Each man takes a ladder, and these are secured to the window ledges of the training-school building until a continuous chain is built to the roof. In the hands of well-trained men the scaling-ladder is a most effective appliance for life-saving, and special attention is given to it in theNew York training-school. When properly trained in its use the “standing-on-sill” drill, as it is called, is taken up by the pupils. In this exercise, two men at a time stand on window sills and handle the ladders in building a chain to the roof. The “swinging-from-window-to-window” drill is the next step in the making of a fireman. This is a device resorted to when a building is on fire and the occupants of the top floor cannot be reached from the ground. In such an emergency the firemen can get to them only by going to the top of the adjoining building, if that has escaped the flames, and swinging over to the burning structure.

Ladder Drill

Ladder Drill

After this, the men are taught to send a lifeline, or, as it is sometimes called, a roof-line, to their comrades on the roof by means of a gun. This life-line is a cord and serves as a connection between the men on the roof and those below. When it has been caught and made fast, it is used to draw a heavy life-rope to the roof, after which a life-belt is given to each man, to be used in sliding down the life-rope. This belt has a large hook attached to it called the snap. One end of the life-rope is fastened to the roof of the building, and when ready to descend the fireman twists the rope twice around the snap in his belt. If he is to take another person down with him, three or four turns are necessary, according to the weight of the second person. The friction of the rope around the snap eases the descent so that a man has only about five pounds pressure to hold on his hand in powering himself down the building. No other means of regulating the descent has as yet been devised. As a concluding exercise, the men are taught how to jump in case of necessity, and how to hold the Bonner drop-net. The object of this net is to save life by breaking the fall of persons jumping from upper windows. To teach the men exactly how to hold the net, dummies are thrown from the roof. These are elongated bags filled with sand, weighing from 75 to150 pounds.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

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