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CFD History




The Chicago Fire Department as one of the very first paid big city fire departments organized in the United States has a very long and interesting history going back to the first half of the 19th century. The first volunteer company called the "Washington Volunteers" was organized in Chicago as early as 1832. Later in 1858 started the history of the paid Chicago Fire Department, the most amazing fire department in the world, not just for it's numerous traditions kept during the period of almost a century (and sometimes even longer), but also for it's contributions to the international firefighting in general. Some of the most essential tools and equipment used by fire departments all around the globe every day like the sliding pole, Snorkel articulating platform or the Snorkel Squad apparatus concept, were invented and first used by the Chicago Fire Department. Although well known for the invention of the Snorkel fire apparatus in 1958, the CFD also pioneered the use of the aerial fire fighting apparatus during the 19th century. The first aerial device for fighting fires in upper floors of the tall buildings was put into service with the Chicago Fire Department as early as in the year of 1870, almost a decade before the first Greenleaf water tower was put into service in New York. Called the "Knocke Pattent Hose Elevator" it was one of the very first examples of this type fire apparatus found anywhere in the world. Another similar "water towers" used by the CFD were the "Skinner Patent Hose Elevator" put into service just one year after the "Knocke" and later the Petrie-Ashworth Water Tower constructed entirely in the Chicago Fire Department repair shops.



To learn more about the history of the CFD go to:




The Chicago Fire Department equipment and manpower throughout the years 1866 - 1900

As you can see here the Department during the years 1890 - 1900 was already an extremely large force with around 100 steam fire engines, 30 hook & ladder trucks, numerous fireboats and more than 1000 uniformed firefighters ready to answer the call.


Note: The data in this table are due to the lack of available information somewhat incomplete and provisional, but will be updated in the future.



Chicago Fire Statistics for the years 

1863 - 1921