In 1736, Benjamin Franklin started the first fire department ever. It was located in Philadelphia and it was called the Union Fire Company.
In 1682, the city of Philadelphia was founded by William Penn. When determining where to locate the city Penn gave careful thought to the dangers of fire.
In 1718, Philadelphia bought its first engine. It was named The Shag Rag but it was not put into service until 1730 when Philadelphia had a fire that destroyed much of the commercial district along the river.
In 1733, Ben Franklin often wrote about the dangers of fire and the need for organized fire protection in his newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette. Ben Franklin was familiar with Boston’s Mutual Fire Societies which were also known as “Fire Clubs.” But the “Fire Clubs” existed for the protection of its members, not for everyone in the community.
After a huge fire in Philadelphia in 1736, Franklin created a fire brigade called The Union Fire Company with 30 volunteers. The first full-fledged volunteer firefighter in America was Isaac Paschall. The idea of volunteer fire brigades gained popularity. These citizens were able to afford to purchase equipment and pay fines for missing meetings and fires.
Some famous Americans who served as volunteer firefighters were: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Barry, Aaron Burr, Benedict Arnold, James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore also served as volunteer firemen.