1630(1631), March 16 – First recorded fire in Boston. The wooden chimney of Thomas Sharp caught fire and burned the house to the ground.
1630(1631) – First fire prevention ordinance banned thatched roofs and wooden chimneys.
1653, January 14 – Extensive conflagration destroyed many buildings, with 3 children dying.
1653, March 1 – Contract made with Joseph Jynks for a water engine to be brought to fire. The engine failed in its first major fire.
1653, March 14 – Each property owner shall have a ladder and a swab pole. The town to provide 6 long ladders, 4 strong iron hooks and fire buckets.
1676, November 27 – A large fire at 5AM destroyed about 45 buildings near Richmond, Hanover and Clark Sts., including the North Meeting House and warehouses.
1678, January 27 – The first paid (call) municipal fire department organized. Thomas Atkins is the first fire chief, aided by twelve assistants. The first fire engine purchased and a building provided to house fire engine. The engine, imported from England, was lodged in a shed on town land on Queen (now Court) St., near the (then) prison. The First Fire Engine drawing Town Records naming Thomas Atkins the first chief.
1678 – Building laws required slate or tyle roofs and brick walls.
1678 (1679), August 8 – ‘Fire Engine’ in service at a fire that destroyed 150 buildings and several vessels, near the Town Dock on Ann Street.
1682, December 18 – The Alms-House on Park Street was burnt, and was later rebuilt on the same site in 1686.
1683, November 7 – A Special General Court of Massachusetts passed a law specifying use of brick or stone for the construction of any structure in the town of Boston. This was passed due to the volume of fires which had destroyed many wood structures over the years.
1690 – Many buildings burnt on Hanover Street, near Salem Street.
1691, June 19 – Many buildings burnt in North Square and on Ann Street.
1702, March 11 – A great fire occurred in Dock Square, the fire engine could do little to stop its progress. The fire was stopped by blowing-up three warehouses.
1707 – Two new fire engines are imported.
1711, October 2 – The ‘first’ Great Boston Fire occurred near (present-day) State and Washington Streets. The fire reportedly started at the rear of the ‘Ship Tavern’ at 239 Washington Street. The fire destroyed many buildings, including the Town House, the first Meeting House and left 110 families homeless. Four sailors climbed the steeple of the church to save the bell. The stairs burnt away, the roof fell in, and all the sailors were crushed to death.
1712, January 1 – Mr. James Pearson appointed overseer of the water engines and in February, 1712, the first Board of Fire Wards was established. John Ballentine, Timothy Clark, John Greenough, Thomas Lee, William Lander, Edward Winslow, Edward Martin, Stephen Minot, Samuel Greenwood and John Pollard were appointed Fire Wards.
1715 – Boston had 6 engines in service.
1718 – First Mutual Fire Society formed for the salvage of member’s goods from fires.
1733 – Seven hand engines in service, distributed at places like: Court Street; the Dock; the North Watch House; the Town House.
1747, December 9 – Large fire destroyed many buildings, including the Town House at the west end of State Street. An ‘Old-English’ newsletter story of the fire: Newspaper Story
1759, November 14 – A large fire burnt over 20 buildings on Water Street and Milk Street.
1760, March 20 – The ‘second’ Great Fire of Boston destroyed 349 buildings, both dwellings and businesses; 220 families homeless. It burnt along Washington Street, extended to Long Wharf and Fort Hill, burning one large ship and 8/9 smaller ships, and the Quaker Meeting House on Congress Street.
1760, March 24 – Thomas Pownall, the governor of the province of ‘Massachusetts Bay in New England’ issued a proclamation regarding the fire of March 20, 1760. Proclamation
1760, May 1 – The York Fire Club was founded. Fire Club Rules and Orders.
1761, January 13 – A large fire started north of Faneuil Hall, burnt eastward comsuming all buildings, including Faneuil Hall itself, which had been a gift to the town of Boston from merchant Peter Faneuil on September 10, 1742. The Hall was rebuilt in 1762 and is famous in Boston history as the ‘Cradle of Liberty.’
1763, October – The Anti-Stamp Fire Society was founded. (printed in 1765)
Fire Society Rules and Orders.
1765, May 8 – The Sun Fire Society was founded.
1767 – May 25, The Friendship-Society (Fire) was founded.
1772, September 1 – The Union Fire-Club was founded. Rules & Orders and Members List.
1772, November 25 – The Union (Fire) Society was founded.
1773, March 5 – The Relief Fire Society was founded. First page of the Rules and Orders of the Society.
1774, May 7 – A fire caused by artillery burnt thirty buildings, some of which contained food donated to the inhabitants of Boston, which was under seige by British garrisons.
1776, November – The Anti-Stamp Fire Society Rules and Orders are updated, with a list of members. Updated Rules and Orders.
1783, December 2 – The Assistant Fire Society was founded.
1783, December 4 – The Friendly Fire Society was founded.
1785, February 5 – The Amicable Fire Society was formed in Boston.
1787, April 20 – A large fire destroyed the Hollis Street Meeting House (church) and 80-100 other buildings on Boston Neck (near present-day Washington & Kneeland Sts.). Story and map of Fire (off-site)
1787, October – The New Relief Fire Society was founded.
1792, March 21 – The Franklin Fire Society was founded. First Page of Rules
1792, November 25 – The Union Fire Society was founded.
1792 – The Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society was founded.
1793 – The Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society was organized.
1794, June 25 – The Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society was incorporated.
Constitution, Government in 1794 & Subscribers of the Society.
1794, July 30 – Large fire destroyed 7 rope walks and 90 other buildings. Ten fire engines in service. Boston City Council Report of the fire.
1795 – Massachusetts Fire Insurance Company was incorporated.
1796 – Twenty four Fire Societies exist, with about 30 persons in each. Each member was required to have 2 leather buckets, 2 strong bags, a bed key and to respond quickly to fires.
List of the Firewards in the Town.
1797, November 19 – The Alert Fire Society was formed.
Constitution and Rules, from 1815.
1799 – First leather fire hose imported from England.
1801 – December 21, The New Century Fire Society was founded.
Constitution and Rules, from 1801.
1802 – January 1, A proclamation was issued to the citizens of Boston by order of the Fire-Wards of Boston, Andrew Cunningham, Secretary, referencing the late conflagration which threatened the town. Proclamation
1803 – January 15, The museum at the corner of Tremont & Bromfield Streets is destroyed by fire. Flames were reported to have seen seen from as far away as Portsmouth, NH, a distance of sixty miles. Newspaper story
1803 – January, The Attentive Fire Society was founded.
Constitution and Rules, from 1803.
1807 – January 12, The Vigilant Fire Society was formed in Boston.
Constitution and Rules, from 1817
1807 – January 16, Bowen & Doyles’ museum on Tremont Street was destroyed, with a number of young men being crushed to death by a falling brick wall.
1810 – April 9, The Attentive Fire Society was formed in Boston.
1810 – May 31, Certificate of membership in the Mass. Charitable Fire Society for Mr. William Wyman.
1811 – January, The Philanthropic Fire Society was formed in Boston.
Constitution and Rules
1811 – January, The Conservative Society – A Fire Club, was formed in Boston.
Constitution and Rules, from 1811.
1811 – May, The Argus Fire Society was founded.
Constitution and Rules
1815 – March, The Alert Relief Fire Society was formed. It is a union of the New Relief Fire Society (October 1787) and the Alert Fire Society (November 19, 1797).
The story of this fire is included in the book “The Exchange Artist”, “A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse”, by Jane Kamensky, 2008, Penguin Books, New York. A ‘Preview’ is available at Google Books: Preview
1820 – The first Ladder Company (Ladder 1) was organized on Friend Street at Warren Square, Downtown.
1822 – February 22, The City Fire Society was founded. Rules & Regulations
1822 – May 1, The City of Boston was incorporated.
1823 – December 4, Mr. Otis Munroe was appointed as an ‘Engine Man’ to Engine 7. Later, Captain Munroe became the first president of the Boston Veteran Firemen’s Association. Certificate
1824 – July 7, An accidental fire occurred in a carpenter’s shop on Charles Street, between Beacon and Chestnut Streets. With the wind at fifty miles-per-hour, a large fire quickly involved many buildings. This was Boston’s most up-scale residential area and Boston Common quickly became a haven for saved possessions. The fire consumed sixteen buildings in all. Drawing
1825 – April 17, A fire started in a wood building on Doane Street and later burnt six stores/houses on State Street and the entire east side of Kilby Street. In total, about sixty buildings were destroyed.
1825 – June 30, Notice was made of the passage (on June 18) of a Bill in the General Court of Massachusetts, entitled: “An Act establishing a Fire Department in the City of Boston.” Text of the Act.
1825 – November 10, Fire destroyed a building on Court Street, and later destroyed nine brick buildings on both sides of Court Street up to Washington Street.
1825 – Destructive fire (11/10/1825) caused the abolishment of the Board of Fire Wards and established a Chief Engineer.
Narrative of the Reorganization
1826 – January 7, List of the Firewards in the Town and other matters.
1826 – February 18, Samuel D. Harris, Chief Engineer
List of the Members of the Fire Department
1826 – April 17, The By-Laws of the Company attached the Congress Engine Company 2 were adopted. By-Laws of Congress Engine Co. 2.
1829 – BFD Engineers in 1829
1829 – Thomas C. Amory, Chief Engineer
1832 – List of BFD Engineers.
1832 – February 14, Serious fire destroyed the upper portion of the New England Museum at 76 Court Street, Downtown.
1832 – November 21, Serious fire partially destroyed the Old State House on State Street. (See engraving in photos above.)
1834 – List of BFD Engineers.
1835 – List of BFD Engineers.
1836 – John Hammond, Chief Engineer
List of BFD Engineers.
1837 – Present fire department organized.
1837 – June 11, The Broad Street Riot (present-day Atlantic Avenue at South Station) occurred near the quarters of Engine No. 20 on East Street near South Station. Engine 20 had just returned from a large fire in Roxbury when members scuffled with a a passing funeral procession. News spread fast and other fire companies arrived, as well as more procession supporters. Nearly one thousand people were involved in the fighting. It continued to 7PM, until many arrests were made, and before the militia arrived at the scene.
January 24, 1839 A fire broke out at Turner & Haskill’s foundry on Haverhill Street. The fire consumed about twenty buildings. The night was extremely cold and many fireman were severely frost-bitten.
1844 – June 25, A large fire started in a planing mill on Groton Street and destroyed many buildings in the South End. The area bordered by Washington St., Dover St.(now-East Berkeley), Suffolk (now-Shawmut Ave.) and Groton St. was largely gutted.
1845 – September 14, The Suffolk Lead Works on Gold Street, South Boston was destroyed by fire. Five building in the Works are lost along with six houses destroyed and many others damaged.
1848 – Fire Dept. Organization
1849 – November 5, A conflagration took place on Causeway Street within an area containing railway storehouses and a mahogany warehouse.
1850 – July 30, A Complimentary Dinner took place between Hancock Engine Co. 10 of Boston and Portland, Maine, Engine Co. 5 at the National House, Charlestown. See the Bill of Fare for the Dinner. Bill of Fare
1851 – July 8, Chief Engineer Barnicoat announced the nomination of officers for several fire companies. Newspaper story
1851 – 14th Annual Report of the Fire Department
William Barnicoat, Chief Engineer
BFD Rules and Regulations, and Fire Ordinances 1851/1852.
1852 – February 12, Hoseman John Smith, Hydrant Co. 2, suffered a Line Of Duty Death (LODD) at a fire in the rear of 24 Kingston Street, Downtown. Newspaper story
1852 – First municipal Fire Alarm System in the world was installed.
1852 – February 6, The Chief Engineer reports to the City Council. Newspaper story
1852 – March 31, Fire destroyed the Tremont Temple, located at 88 Tremont Street, near School Street, Downtown. Newspaper Story
Hoseman George Estey, Franklin Engine Company 7, Charlestown Fire Department, died on August 13, 1853 from injuries received at this fire. LODD Info
1852 – April 29, First ‘Alarm of Fire’ is transmitted over alarm circuits.
1852 – July 12, A large building fire started in a stable on Purchase St., Downtown. Many buildings were destroyed. This is reported to be the largest fire in Boston in many years. Newspaper Story
1852 – Directory/Almanac
1853 – 16th Annual Report of the Chief Engineer.
William Barnicoat, Chief Enginer
1854 – April 27, Chief Engineer William Barnicoat announced his retirement.
1854 – June 29, Newspaper story on the Hunneman Fire Engine Manufactory.
1854 – 17th Annual Report of the Fire Department
Elisha Smith, Jr., Chief Engineer
1854 – City Auditor Report
1855 – April 29, A waterfront conflagration occured at Battery Wharf, North End. Newspaper Story
1856 – 19th Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
George W. Bird, Chief Engineer
1856 – April 12, Large building fire destroyed the ‘Gerrish Market’ at Portland, Friend & Sudbury Sts., Downtown. Newspaper Story
1856 – July 3, Large fire destroyed Gray’s Wharf, off Commercial Street, North End. Newspaper story
1856 – July 29, Large fire destroyed the Jefferson Block on North Street, near Clark Street, North End. Ladderman Charles Warren of Hook & Ladder 3 was crushed by falling walls, resulting in a Line-Of-Duty (LODD) death. Newspaper story
1856 – September 17, The First Annual Parade of the Boston Fire Department occured, finishing with the dedication of a statue to Benjamin Franklin.
Parade Announcement and Order of Procession.
1856 – November 26, Newspaper story on the funeral of former Chief Engineer Elisha Smith. Newspaper Story
1857 – 20th Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
George W. Bird, Chief Engineer
1857 – Reports of the Special Committee on the Steam Fire Engine ‘Miles Greenwood’. Reports
1858 – May 2, Building fire destroyed a building on Federal Street, Downtown, resulting in four deaths, including 2 firemen: Francis Cutting and Frank Tuttle of Tremont Engine Co. 12. Both are the first firemen to be buried at the ‘Fireman’s Lot’ at Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain. Story of the fire (off-site)
1859 – Steamers replace hand engines. Permanent engineers, drivers, and firemen appointed. Horses are needed to pull the heavy steam fire engines. The ‘modern’ era of the Boston Fire Department begins.