The fire service, as we know it today, traces its origins back to the early Roman Empire. Created under the rule of Augustus Caesar, the Corps of Vigiles was created in 6 B.C. This Corps of Vigiles, translated as the “watch service”, was first created to combat a growing fire problem in Rome during that time period. Although there were no insurance companies, victims of fire were compensated for their losses by donations from the community. In some cases the donations received by victims outweighed what their property was worth before being destroyed by fire. This created a situation where the first arson-for-profit scenarios in a civilized society arose. The Corps was comprised of over 7,000 men who were chosen from the Familia Publica, or Band of Slaves.
The roots of the formal and structured American Fire Service can be traced back to 1648 when Fire Wards were appointed in the city of New Amsterdam, now known as New York City. The first fire company was the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded by Benjamin Franklin. Citizens during this time period were strongly encouraged to participate in both fire prevention and fire suppression activities. In fact, citizens were required to own 2 leather buckets and respond to fires within the community when notified by the sounding of church bells. Persons not responding were subject to a fine of up to ten dollars. Warning systems evolved to where the first municipal telegraph system was placed in service in the City of Boston in the 1850’s.
This system is basically the same system we have in place today with the red boxes on buildings and utility poles. When the “hook” is pulled, it transmits a telegraph signal to a collection point.
Locally, the Maynard Fire Department was first organized in 1890 after a special town meeting was held. By March of that year a Hose Company comprised of 15 men was organized. The first “Hose and Ladder Wagons” were delivered in May and August of 1890, and a new fire station was occupied by January of 1891 on Nason Street. In 1903 Tony Collins was appointed as the permanent driver of the hose wagon that was then being pulled by a single horse, with the ladder wagon being pulled by a pair of horses.
Maynard’s first motorized fire engine was delivered in 1914 and the first motorized ladder in 1924. On October 4, 1955, the current fire station was dedicated as a combination Fire and Police Station. In 1968 George Whalen was appointed as the first permanent fire chief for the Town of Maynard.
The Maynard Fire Department has certainly evolved from the early days when all we did was respond to fires. Today’s mission still involves fire suppression, but also fire prevention, emergency medical response, technical rescue, confined space, hazardous materials response, vehicle rescue and building inspection services. In addition to the emergencies your Maynard Fire Department personnel respond to, firefighters are also responsible for preparing for emergency response. This involves vehicle maintenance, equipment up-keep, pre-fire planning and training. In fact, our current personnel typically spend thousands of hours annually in training classes both on-site and at sessions presented off-site.