The early American fire pumpers were man-powered machines;
they were pulled to the fire by men or horses and, upon arriving
at the fire scene, would be hand-pumped by men. The water for
fire fighting was drawn by the pump and directed toward the fire,
provided a water source was available.
- The Life of a Fireman: The
New Era - "Steam and Muscle" [Detail]
- Steam-powered pumpers on
left and right;
- man-powered pumper in center.
- In the mid-19th century, the steam pumper was developed.
The steam pumper coupled to a team of horses was a vast improvement
over the earlier man-powered units. The boiler produced steam
which operated a suction-type engine that pumped water from any
available water source. There were certain inherent problems
with steam powered pumpers though. The boiler would need to be
kept ready so the fire department could quickly respond to an
emergency. Then, like in Santa Barbara, California, sparks from
the pumpers boiler could set fire to the fire house itself.
- York Fire Department - York,
- Gloucester, Massachusetts.
- By the early 20th century, further innovations in fire
pumpers replaced horses with gasoline engines. The internal
combustion engine soon made the steam pumper obsolete.
- Steam-powered pumper with gas engine.