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The spirit of the American Firefighter began in the mid-1700's.  As communities grew, a single flame could destroy them in a matter of minutes, and there was nothing the residents could do.  Our first fire suppression tool was a community bucket, made of leather and often decorated to show status.  

When there was a fire and the community was alerted, community volunteers would help fight the fire by throwing water on it.  Although the fire was likely to consume the entire property, a lot of effort was made to retrieve as much property as possible.  This process was informal and chaotic but displayed the priorities of the early era of the fire service.  As firefighting equipment evolved from buckets to engines, the need for special training and tools emerged. Enter the creation of volunteer fire companies.

Ben Franklin as a firefighter
The patent for a firefighter's helmet
The leather bucket used to fight fire

Benjamin Franklin was the founder of the first volunteer fire company in the United States; a group of thirty men came together to form the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. Their equipment included leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting goods), which were to be brought to every fire. The blaze battlers met monthly to talk about fire prevention and firefighting methods. Homeowners were mandated to have leather firefighting buckets in their houses.  He later became the first to offer fire insurance, which would assure his customers' fire protection services.


Today, times are much different.  Although most fire departments in the U.S. are operated by volunteers (60%), the expectations placed upon them are entirely different as modern equipment is purchased and training is on-going.  The fire service has evolved into a professional organization requiring quality staff who are highly committed to their duties. The firefighter has become the Swiss Army knife of the community, responding to not only fires but medicals, terrorism, explosions, entrapment's, mass casualty incidents, wildfires, and much more.  The days of the fraternal social culture cannot continue.  

In Minnesota, over 22,200 firefighters are working out of approximately 775 fire departments across the state.  Of those, only 1,800 secure a career in the field.  Minnesota has the second-highest rate of volunteers in our country and proud of the progressive fire services we provide.  We are well trained and admired by our communities.  There is a risk, however, that Minnesota fire departments dissolve as fewer and fewer people step up to become firefighters.   

Now is the time for YOU to make history and join your local fire department, so the story continues.  IF we lack volunteers, the fire department doors will close.


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