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Paynesville Area


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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Fire departments date to 1736

By Jennifer Gully

Fires have existed since the beginning of time, so it has always been important to have a team of people to put them out.

Old fire truck When there were no organizations to control fires, people would fight fires with bucket brigades. This meant people always kept a leather bucket with water in it all the time so they would be prepared to fight a fire. In addition, neighbors helped put out fires by having leather buckets outside of their homes ready to put out fires.

The Paynesville Fire Department purchased this used Jeep in 1960 and mounted a 100-gallon tank and pump to fight fires.

After bucket brigades, fires were put out by private societies or clubs for a certain price. Then the first volunteer fire department was organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1736 in Philadelphia. Each volunteer had to furnish six leather buckets and a linen salvage bag. Attire of a fireman included a cape, red shirt, leather belt, hat, and suspenders. Firemen used hose carts to put out fires.

In Paynesville, the fire department moved from North Town, a town no longer in existence located north of Paynesville, to New Paynesville in 1906. This is because New Paynesville stole the hose cart from North Town. Hose carts were first pulled by men and later were changed to be horse drawn.

Water from nearby ponds or streams and wells supplied the hose carts with water.

The first steam engine was built in 1829, but they were not in popular use until the 1850s. Cincinnati was the first city to use a steam engine to fight fires.

In approximately 1915 larger cities began to replace horse-drawn equipment with motorized vehicles. This was useful because firefighters could get to the fires quicker.

The first fire truck bought for the Paynesville Fire Department was a 1926 REO Speed Wagon. The truck was equipped with a 500 gallon per minute pump. This truck is at the museum and is available to see on the tour.

In 1852, the first city in the U.S. to have a paid fire department was Cincinnati. In Paynesville, during the 1920s, firefighters were paid one dollar for the first hour of work and 50 cents for every hour after that.

Modern fire technology includes pull fire alarms that alert fire departments when there is a fire and radio system between fire departments. However, water is still the most common agent to put out fires because it cools and smothers the fire.

Today a lot of fires are stopped by prevention, which includes smoke detectors, sprinklers, and using fire resistant material.

In addition to the fire truck, the museum has a hose cart, fire extinguishers, apparel for firefighters, and additional pictures and information on the fire department.