Firefighters and Fires in Providence

Firefighters and Fires in Providence:
A Pictorial History of the Providence Fire Department 1754–2001

Patrick T. Conley and Paul R. Campbell

This book, one of the few of its kind, traces the history of firefighting in a major American city from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. In 50,000 words and 200 carefully selected photos authors Patrick T. Conley and Paul R. Campbell trace the history of the Providence Fire Department for twenty-three decades. Chapter One, “The Volunteer Era,” recounts the story of hand pumpers and bucket brigades from the acquisition of the first engine in 1754 to the establishment of America’s second-oldest professional force in 1854. In Chapter Two, “The Age of the Steamers, 1854–1899,” they describe the introduction of horse-drawn steam engines, telegraphic alarms, aerial ladders, chemical wagons, and a high-pressure water system. Chapter Three, which they term “The Era of Innovation, 1900–1951,” deals with the motorization of apparatus, platooning, advances in communications, the establishment of formal fire prevention programs, the building of modern stations, and the creation of a rescue squad. In Chapter Four, “The Modern Era, 1951–1984,” technological advances, unionization, improvements in education and training, and fire prevention efforts are the dominant themes.

Conley and Campbell, authors of the highly-acclaimed Providence: A Pictorial History, have written this book against the backgrop of the city’s economic, political, social, and ethnic development. They have consulted every official record starting with the manuscript minutes of department meetings, dating from 1805, through the 1984 annual report. They have cited fire laws — from the 1647 arson law to the 1983 residency requirement — and they have gleaned information on major fires from local newspapers dating back to 1762. For the modern era they have consulted with me and others presently involved in the fire service to portray accurately the present condition of the department.

Here is a book for firefighters, fire buffs, urban historians, and all those general readers who like a colorful, nostalgic tale well told. In this work the proud heritage of the Providence Fire Department will be preserved forever.

CHIEF MICHAEL F. MOISE

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