Brakes, Hook and Ladders, and More
Hand tub pumpers were pulled to fires by running men. The long handles, usually on both sides
of the hand tub, were called brakes...why? These tubs were pulled through he streets until they
reached their destination, but the only way to stop them was to grab on to these wooden
handles and drag your feet. That's how these handles became known as brakes. Men would line
up on these brakes, five on each brake. The pumping was exhausting work, but the rhythm had
to be maintained. The foreman would watch for the men to tire, and he would order one of his
aides to "take five".
The aide would go into the crowd and select five hardy men. He would bring them up to the hand tub and order them to "take a break". This is the origin of both these phrases "take five" and "take a break".
Ladder trucks are often referred to as the hook and ladder...why? In the days of hand pulled
apparatus, the building on fire was usually well involved upon arrival of the firefighters. The
main job of the firefighters was to prevent this fire from destroying the entire block. This was
accomplished by pulling down the walls of the burning structure as quickly as possible.The
ladder trucks all carried hooks that were attached to long ropes. The hooks would be thrown up
to the walls, and with help from the crowd, the walls would be pulled down. This was done
routinely at fires. The hooks were as important as the ladders.
Dalmatians were synonymous with horse drawn fire apparatus...why? Dalmatians were used by wealthy people to adorn their horse drawn buggies. It was striking to see this spotted dog riding atop a coach as a sign of prosperity. Dalmatians in the fire service were used in parades and for showing off a piece of apparatus. A few were rarely used but the great majority of fire dogs were mongrels. They did have a job. In that time period, dogs were used to pull wagons and do a variety of labor related work. Every family had several dogs. The fire dog had a calming influence on the horses and they enjoyed having the dog in the stall with them. Some dogs had their pups right under the horses without ever being stepped on. When the apparatus responded, it was the fire dogs job to fend off any dogs that ran out to nip at the heels of the galloping horses. At the fire the fire dog would stand guard at the rig and God help the stranger who tried to take a tool from the rig.