Throughout the world, many of our towns and cities are protected by firefighters like yourself; they provide fire protection and other emergency services to the local citizen. Although many view the fire department as a necessity, not all municipalities can afford to pay for this service. The vast majority of the world only use volunteer firefighters. For example, statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that 71% of firefighters in the United States are on a complete or partial volunteer basis. In the country of Chile, the firefighting forces are completely on a volunteer basis.
The first known, documented organized group of volunteer firefighters date back to 6 A.D. in Rome. In the United States from its early beginnings as a colony, Jamestown formed social clubs that trained and fought fires together based on volunteerism. The first official volunteer local fire department however, was created by Benjamin Franklin in 1736, protecting the citizens of Philadelphia. Many of his early volunteers included famous names such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin himself. A few years prior to this date, Benjamin Franklin often wrote about the need for a fire brigade. A significant fire in Philadelphia finally justified the need to form this group. Prior to 1850, every local fire department in the United States was on a volunteer basis.
Since those early days, the local fire department has evolved with training and advancements in technology. Volunteer firefighters moved from using buckets and steam engines to machine-powered pumps. Bells that once rung and warned of fires in the cities now have become pagers, and complicated radios. One thing in the history of firefighting has remained constant; firefighters, like yourself, put their lives on the line every day to save those in need.