Original steam engines required licensed operator

The engineer, predecessor to the modern-day pump operator

Requirement to be licensed steam boiler operator


An interesting tidbit of information from the early days of the fire service as we look back at horse drawn apparatus.

Steam engines, those with boilers attached to wheels and pulled by horses were the backbone of the early fire service. These large, lumbering units, shiny with gauges and knobs were pulled often by a team of three horses on the cobblestone and dirt streets of early Baltimore.

Operating the steam boiler was tricky business and licensed steamboat operators are required for the safest operation on the fire grounds. These early engineers were also responsible for guiding the charging horses to the scene of a blaze as well as operation of the steam plant.

In October of 1960, during early month fire prevention activities, the old steam engine stored in Engine Company 33 quarter’s was taken to be placed on exhibition in Essex, Maryland for a large gala.

The engine itself was a veteran of the great Baltimore fire of 1904. Heavily damaged by collapsing buildings in the fire of 1904 the unit was rebuilt by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company and sent back to Baltimore.

Still today, well over 100 years later, steam engines can be still found at various exhibitions and old-time shows. These units, meticulously maintained by dedicated personnel, some of the veterans of the fire service of modern times, are a sight to see.


To quote a line from the Baltimore Sun from October 5, 1960,

” The wildly galloping team a proud horses, three abreast, charged into that cold Sunday morning, leaving a cloud of steam quickly vanishing in the damp, brisk air.”

(John Sherwood, Evening Sun)

Revisiting of information from the great Baltimore fire of 1904.

The words can paint a brief picture in your mind to what you may picture an early fire department response may have appeared.

Some information