Sunday, June 6

Privatize the Fire Department

Come to think of it...the US fire service BEGAN with private fire companies paid by the insurance companies. That didn't work out so well...

However the United States did not have government-run fire departments until around the time of the American Civil War. Prior to this time, private fire brigades compete with one another to be the first to respond to a fire because insurance companies paid brigades to save buildings.

There were no full-time paid firefighters in America until 1850. Even after the formation of paid fire companies in the United States, there were disagreements and often fights over territory. New York City companies were famous for sending runners out to fires with a large barrel to cover the hydrant closest to the fire in advance of the engines.[citation needed] Often fights would break out between the runners and even the responding fire companies for the right to fight the fire and receive the insurance money that would be paid to the company that fought it.

In New York City....

In the same way that the multiple police forces created disorder, the multiple volunteer fire companies, which existed because of no singular public fire department, also caused more problems than they solved. With the streets crammed with buildings, fire spread easily. Because of their prevalence, insurance companies paid the first fire company that arrived, causing even more mayhem since the first person from a fire company at the scene sometimes placed a barrel over the hydrant in order to prevent others from using the hydrant, as shown in the film during a fire. That act resulted in the gang name “plug uglies” because the barrel they used was an “ugly” “plug” over the hydrant. By doing that they left the fire to rage on while waiting for the rest of their fire company to show up.

In total, thirty to forty fire companies existed, comprised mostly of men who wanted to be heroes, but like the two police forces depicted in the film, the many fire companies ended up fighting with each other while the fire destroyed the city. In the process of fighting the fires and each other, some volunteer firefighters looted the houses or shops being burnt, prompting many to join the fire companies so their own homes would not be looted if it ever caught fire. The same way the police forces grew corrupt due to corrupt politicians and government officials, the fire companies revolved around political and gang-related issues and linked themselves with gangs since the insurance money and looting financed the gangs.