Fire Service Traditions and History

The National Fireman’s Journal, Nov. 17, 1877

National Fireman's Journal

DOWNLOAD IT AS A PDF HERE >>

Today marks 138 years since the founding of the National Fireman’s Journal with the mission to be “devoted to the interests of the firemen of the country.” Under the name Fire Engineering, our mission has only broadened—we are now devoted to the interests of firefighters worldwide. It is an honor to be allowed to work for the fire service on the only publication which provides a platform for all opinions, positions, and thoughts. Please read the editorial “Our Paper” on page 8—this is still our credo. We do not endorse or support any one ideology or position; we are devoted to allowing all the credible voices of the fire service to have a place at the table and to let the actual practitioners have the final say locally.

RELATED: FIRE ENGINEERING: MISSION UNCHANGED | The Commander’s Intent

I wrote the following in my first Fire Engineering editorial (December 2005); we still believe and practice it today.

“It [the National Fireman’s Journal] was and is a labor of love, an expression of passion for the brotherhood, a tool to spread the wisdom that comes from the experiences of firefighters to and for other firefighters. Those firefighters who wrote “Our Paper” knew that knowledge was not wisdom—that wisdom is found in the application of knowledge. Fire Engineering has answered that need for 128 years by providing this “organ” or tool for firefighters to train other firefighters. Training by its very definition is the passing along of wisdom, the practical application of knowledge. All the facts in the world are useless if you do not have frame of reference to manage them within. That being said, I do not consider myself wise, but all of us know something that no one else anywhere can describe, tell, or instruct as well as we can.

“The true fire instructor/trainer/teacher takes knowledge and makes it practical and useful. This is a gift. The greats are gifted and use their gifts.

“One of the guiding principles written in “Our Paper” was “watch over the interests of the Firemen in all sections of the country, and endeavor to keep them all informed of whatever occurs that is likely to be of interest or advantage to them,” Fire Engineering has and will continue to cover the stories of the day, the tragedies and triumphs that define our occupation. I am asking those of you who live these events to help us to live up to those ideals by inviting us to your training, and we will report on your work and share whatever we can at your events.

”I promise to you to keep faithfully ideals of the founders of our magazine when they wrote, “We shall also discuss, from an independent standpoint, the many weighty topics which are presented for the consideration of Firemen from time to time.” We will disagree as professionals on many things as they arise, but it will always be in the noblest tradition of discourse. Our discourse will be to find the truth as it is within our profession. It is fully acceptable and useful to present different points of view. What works for one city may not work in another, and the truth is in the practice and application of local models.

“In some parts of every profession, the truth—and best practice—is defined by its practical application at the local level.”

We hope we are meeting your expectations. We are now and will always be devoted to the interests of firefighters worldwide.

* * *

A glance through the initial issue of the National Fireman’s Journal, “Devoted to the Interests of the Firemen of the Country.” reveals that similar interests occupy the fire service in the pages of Fire Engineering today.

First, check out “Our Paper,” the Journal’’s editorial credo, on page 8.

See how some fire department departments managed their budgets and personnel in “Reducing Salaries” and “Pay of New York Fireman,” page 4; “Scaling Down Firemen’s Pay,” page 9; and ‘’Costly Removals,” page 13.

Were buildings better built or more fire safe back then? See “Responsibility of Architects and Builders,” page 2, and “Insecure Buildings,” page 8.

Find out who the “fire vamps” were in “Old Volunteers,” page 1, and what might have caused the “Burning of  the City Hall Tower,” page 4.

Is “the best the cheapest”? Look into “Fire Apparatus” and “A Question of Hose,” page 9, to find out.

A couple of fire hazards are described in “Dangerous Quality of Kerosene,” page 7, and “The Incendiary Ash Barrel,” page 11.

Is setting fire to your own home necessarily arson? See “Burning One’s Own House,” page 13, and “Pyromaniacs” and “Escape of the ‘Firebugs,’” page 10.

See “Random Sparks” on page 3 to see what a couple of Kingston (NY) firemen would do for a glass of lager and how the temperance crusade went in Newburgh (NY).

In “Correspondence” on pages 5 to 7, the fire service around the country welcomed the Journal’s founding.  A Chicago (IL) correspondent writes that he hopes to see “some spicy letters in our Journal from those versatile writers ‘John Doaks’ and ‘Veteran.’” He offers some definite opinions about his town and its fire department, signing himself “Volunteer.”

See all of the above–and much more, right HERE (PDF, 8.5MB).

Original ran November 16, 2015.