Reading History: Fire Fighting in Reading

Local History and Genealogy

Reading History: Fire Fighting in Reading

Hancock No. 2 Personnel

If there is a fire we call 911 and the Fire Department rushes to our aid. In the early history of our town, the villagers fought the fires. According to our Local History Book, History of the Reading Fire Department, 1673 – 1974,  the idea of a fire protection plan is first mentioned in 1673. Back then it meant every “inhabitant shall have sufficient ladder to his chimney” or “be fined 10 shillings.” This was later expanded to include the owning of two leather buckets. In the event of a fire, a bucket brigade was formed. The buckets were filled in a brook or well and a line of men passed them to the fire. The empty buckets were then passed down a line of women and boys to be refilled. You can imagine this was not an easy or always successful method, so it must have been quite an event when the town purchased its first fire engine 140 years later. It was a “bucket tub” engine meaning “it was necessary to pour water into the engine and then pump it onto the fire through a nozzle directly attached to the engine.”

Fire fighting techniques have come a long way since those early days of “the tub,” but some things never change, including the the bravery of the men and the women we call firefighters.

These images are part of the Reading Public Library’s collection of historic photos. For more details about these images, in addition to other historical images from the Town of Reading, visit our online digital collections at the NOBLE Digital Heritage project.