Fire trucks today are an iconic symbol of the brave men and women who risk their lives to protect others. Their ladders, sirens and bright red color are a fixture in our society. But the fire truck has evolved over the last 100 plus years and there is no doubt that it will continue to as technologies grow and innovations continue.
This is the evolution of our fire truck.
From 1831 to 1898 the Bowling Green Fire Department fought fires with hand-pulled hose carts. These carts were used across the country and were transported by manpower. To deploy, the ropes on the front of the cart would be unwound, and 10 or more men would run out in front to pull the hose cart to the fire scene. Two men would hold onto the tongue to steer and/or attempt to brake the cart. At the scene, the hose was unwound from the cart, laid out and connected to a hand pumper to move water from a cistern or pond to the source of the fire.
In 1898, the Bowling Green Fire Department brought a new employee on board that revolutionized the game of firefighting – the horse. As paid firefighters and fire departments became more common around the country, horses were introduced and used to pull the fire pumps. This new change greatly improved response times and allowed firefighters to do their job much more efficiently. During this time, the main fire station was located behind current day City Hall on East 10th Street.
While horses were a big improvement to the Fire Department, they weren’t around for long. In the early 1920’s the BGFD saw its first engine powered fire truck. These open cab trucks with no roof were the first of their kind and remained a constant through the 1960’s. “Pumper 2” is a 1931 truck that has been remodeled and is now displayed at Headquarters.
The 1960’s brought with it roofs and doors for the driver and passengers but still lacked doors for the rear jump seats. From this point until the 90’s, small changes continued such as the trucks getting bigger, more pumping capabilities, larger water tanks, hydraulic aerial ladders, hydraulic rescue tools, sirens, rotating lights, air conditioning and more.
Around the year 2000, trucks were again revolutionized with computer technology to make them safer and more user friendly through advanced software, communication, visibility, and warning systems. Fire trucks in general have also become more specific to the need of the department. Today, the BGFD has 9 front-line fire trucks: 3 engines (pumpers), 3 rescue pumpers, 2 aerial platforms (w/95’ and 100’ aerials), and 1 quint (w/75’ aerial).
Over the years the fire department has expanded into much more than fighting fires; it has progressed into an agency tasked with mediating virtually any type of emergency situation. Due to this change, the BGFD fleet today also includes: 1 command vehicle, 3 Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting apparatus, 1 brush truck, 1 Hazardous Materials truck, 1 HazMat Decontamination trailer, 1 trench rescue trailer, 1 loss control trailer, 1 arson investigation trailer, and 1 rescue boat and raft w/trailer.
As times change, so will our equipment and our abilities. The Bowling Green Fire Department will always strive to be one of the best departments in the country with top of the line equipment and firefighters.