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Today the Dalmatian serves as a fire house mascot, but back in the days of horse drawn fire carts, they provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the engines to help clear a path and guide the horses and the firefighters to the fires quickly. They are still chosen by many fire fighters as pets in honor of their heroism in the past.
Dalatians have been used throughout history for serious work. They have been sentinels on the borders of their homeland of Dalmatia and Croatia during wars. They worked as shepherds, as draft dogs, as hound dogs, as hunting dogs, as retrievers and as preforming dogs. Dalmatians are not only intelligent, but they also have excellent memories. Their speed, endurance and lack of a fear for horses, enabled them to become superb coach dogs for the horses and the engines.
Dalmatians first known as "coach dogs" were first
used in the 17th, 18th and 19th. century in England, Scottland and Wales.
Wealthy aristocrats sought out the unusal looking spotted dog for use with
their coaches. They are very physical and strong and muscular and able to run
long distances. They would run along side the coach or just behind the rear of
the horses. These eye catching canines lent an air of superiority to the
coaches of the wealthy as they traveled through the vilages. The dogs were an
important part of any stable that housed teams of pulling horses. A stable dog
has a calming effect on the horses and makes them feel comfortable in their
stalls. Many of the dogs were said to have litters right in the same stalls as
Horses are gregarious and feel the need for company. The dalmatians served this purpose. They would run along side the horses or under the axle of the coach and keep up with the team for as much as 20 - 30 miles per day. They would also help to clear the way for the team and keep other dogs from interfering with the horses.
Also, horse theft was so common back then that coach and stage coach drivers used the dogs as guards to protect the team and the luggage in the coach.
The dogs were first used in the fire service when most fire companies were volunteer or privately operated. There was some competition for services. Some of the firefighters were actually recruited not only for their strength in fighting fire but for their fighting abilities to protect the company and its equipment. Insurance compaines paid the fire company that put out the fire, so the one that made it to the scene, hooked up to a hydrant and completed the task, got paid. The dogs worked well at this task of protecting not only the horses, but the equipment in the stations and on the fire ground as well.
Early firefighters took tremendous pride in their companies. They would turn out and parade through the city at almost any occasion. Polished brass and brillant paint scemes and the gleaming leather were always maintained. Just as the dalmatians worked with private coaches, they worked fire companies. When dalmatians appeared with the engines, people gawked just as they did with the coaches in England.
The end of the era for Dalmations as a coaching dogs for fire departments became about the advent and introduction of motorized cars and fire engines. However, they are still on duty in many fire stations today acting as companions to the firefighters and as watch dogs protection the equipment!
Just like the Dalmatians, the fate of fire horses also faded with the use of motorized fire apparatus.
In 1923, on a Monday
morning in Chicago on February 6th., Fire alarm box 846 at State and Chicago
Avenue was pulled at 12:40 p.m. With the horses scrubbed and groomed, the old
steamer rolled out of the swinging doors at Fire Engine 11 for the last time.
Buck, Beauty, Dan and Teddy galloped out of the fire station at 10 E. Hubbard
St. with their coach and the fire fighters riding on the engine. They were led
by their Dalmatian escort to a False Alarm. It was their last response.
The alarm was pulled at a box at Chicago Avenue and State Street as part of a planned event to mark the retirement of the horse drawn engines and fire fighting equipment in the City of Chicago. It was the first department in the United States with more than 500,000 residence to serve, to become completely motorized.
While they were gone the new motor apparatus was backed into place, and the motorization of the Chicago Fire Department was an accomplished fact. The drivers took a cheer from the crowd on the return to the firehouse. And then the horses were taken to the House of Correction to be sold.
For generations, thundering hooves carried firefighters
and their equipment to every blaze. It seemed the fire horse would remain a
vital part of the fire department forever.
The era of the fire horse lasted roughly fifty years; From the end of the Civil War until the end of 1915. More time and expense was incurred buying one fire horse than ten firemen.
Fire horses came in three classifications:
Fire horses required much stamina and strength and
natural ability. One expert of the time said it was usually a one-in-a-hundred
selection. Their training took between one and two years. The City of Detroit
actually had a horse college where many of Toledos horses were trained.
Firehorse Fred pulled the New Bern
fire hose wagon from 1908 to 1925. Endemic with so many heroic pets and
animals, Fred was beloved by the firemen and the townspeople. He died in the
harness pulling the crew to a false alarm.
In gratitude, the men of Atlantic Company had Fred's head stuffed, and put in the Fireman's Museum when it was built in 1957. Fred's head is still on exhibit, stuffed and mounted in its own handsome display case. There's nothing much else there some vintage firetrucks, wagons, and old Pepsi bottles.
After 25 years of searching,
Mike Tressler, writer for the Toledo Blade, and Toledo Fire Department
historian, Bill O'Connor, have located the famous painting of Jim the Fire
Horse. "We received an e-mail recently from Mrs. Molly Cowan, Sylvania, OH, who
inherited the portrait from her mother." The painting has been in her family
for many years, originally having belonged to her grandfather, Harry J. Smith.
Jim's portrait has lovingly hung in Mrs. Cowan's home and some day may
eventually find itself at home in the museum in the special stall reserved for
Jim, the most handsome, strongest, best trained, and most responsive, dependable horse on the department, was Toledo's most distinguished specimen of equine intelligence and fidelity; and, needless to say, he was the unending pride of Engine House #3. Such an ideal firehorse he was, that he was in the process of having his portrait painted by the artist, H.C.N Crandall, for exposition on the wall at the Museum of Art.
It was the exemplary 'Jim' who always responded first to 'alarms' and ran with unerring accuracy, in his lead position of the three horse hitched on the large steamer at headquarters. It was after such an alert response to the ninth alarm of the day, that his driver, Charles Harrison, clasping the heavy harness about Jim's massive neck, observed the horse was standing unflinchingly at his post of duty upon three legs, and that his left hind leg hung helplessly from his body. Hurried examination proved the valuable animal's leg was broken and he was taken from his central place in the engine trio forever.
Toledo's finest veterinary surgeons were called, but it was declared that the horse could not be saved and he was killed by a new modern method of injecting positive poison in the jugular vein.
When and how Jim's leg was broken is a mystery. He had responded to eight calls during the day and was willing to respond to the ninth.
The horse was only seven and a half years old, and had only served the fire department for two years, but in that short time had proved himself to be the finest and most accurately trained. He also had the honor of being the most perfect specimen of equine beauty and symmetry of the city's lot of exceptional horses. He was a very large dapple gray, beautifully marked, and was valued by many to be worth as much as $400.00
Detroit Fire Dept. horses dash into history
The Detroit Fire Department
acquired the first motorized fire engine in the world, a Packard. Objections by
firefighters and Detroiters over the replacement of their beloved horses
continued for years. The horse, it was argued, was much more reliable.
Motorized vehicles started with difficulty and broke down frequently.
The firemen joked about the ridiculous purchase, nicknaming it the "Hustle Buggy."
Over the years, some 500 horses served the Detroit Fire Department, with an average working life of four or five years. Pounding hard city pavement at high speeds took a heavy toll on the animals. Always, after dousing a blaze, the firefighters cared first for their hard-working horses.
Inevitably, the reign of the horse ended as engineering improved on automobiles.
On April 10, 1922, more than 50,000 people gathered to witness the historic last run by Detroit Fire Department horses. The last five -- Peter, Jim, Tom, Babe and Rusty -- dashed down Woodward Avenue on a symbolic final emergency as a fake alarm sounded at the National Bank Building. Nostalgic spectators lined Woodward from Grand Circus Park to Cadillac Square, cheering while the fire department's band played Auld Lang Syne. Many in the crowd, according to The Detroit News, cried as the horses passed.These last five hooved firefighters retired to an "Equine Elysium" in Rouge Park.
It was the economy and
efficency that dictated the change. In Chicago it began in 1917 under the
direction of John F. Cullerton, the fire departments business manager. Horses
sold for approximately 265.00 and cost an additional 3,621.00 on an average per
year to feed and care for. Motorized vehicles cost about 1,000.00 per year to
maintain. The savings in fire losses alone were estimated at about one million
annually. This was a direct result of the speed and efficiency in
But, just as in Detroit, progress was relentless throughout the United States. In April of 1921, the Chicago Fire Department still had 350 horse drawn fire apparatus. Committees were sent to other cities to see how the motorized engines and equipment were working. When they returned, they were ecstatic. The manager, Cullerton, rattled off figures to demonstrate how the gas guzzling engines would serve the city better than the horse drawn carts.
Not everyone supported this change. One of the drivers, Willaim Moir from Engine Company 105 wept as his horses were retired from service in 1922. "I never abused you, but I made you get over the ground," he told them as they were led away. "I feel like I've lost my best friends." Moir was twice decorated for saving lives in the line of duty. He joined the department because of his love of horses. He announced that he would quit the day his two "black beauties" were sent out to the pasture.
Still, tales of smart horses abounded. Babe at Engine Company # 106 was said to have stolen tobacco from firemens pockets and oats from the feed box by learning to pick the lock with his teeth. One of the horses actually led a lost driver not only to the fire, but also to the closets hydrant, this with the help of the Dalmatian.
But on that historic day in February 6th., 1923, Chicago's Mayor Bill Thompson joined other dignitaries, the Chicago Fire Department's band, Fire Chiefs, firemen and their families, as well as thousands of spectators to watch the horses respond to their last fire bell. Buck, Beauty, Dan and Teddy answered their false alarm as if it were the real thing. They never returned to the station...
Buck and Beauty were sold to a country pastor. The fates of Teddy and Dan were not documented. However, seven months later, an ex-fire horse named Ted was hit by a speeding auto while pulling a milk wagon. The accident took place at 47th Street and Michigan Avenue. None of the drivers were hurt, just Ted.
Thrown to the ground with his leg and hip broken, Ted lay still as peolpe gathered and a police patrol car sped to the scene. As the police unit approached with its bell clanging, Ted, conditioned to respond to the bell, pulled himself off the ground. He rose to three legs, plunged ahead a few feet and collapsed.
A vetrinarian, with tears in his eyes, ended Ted's misery with a bullet.
That was his last alarm...
More info here:
The California State Firefighters Aassociation Steamer Team
Info obtained from the NET and a newspaper article written by Jim Bowman
This public service information was brought to you by:
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The San Diego Paramedics
Fire Dogs and Horses
Mitch Mendler E.M.T. Firefghter / Paramedic