06/16/10 169 W - + 12 - 14 Firefighting Lore - Fire Marks

Q: Did firefighters in the United States really refuse to fight fires at homes or business that lacked the proper fire mark?
A: Negative. That is a myth.

As researched by Robert M. Shea in an article that we blogged about before, modern literature on (and thus contemporary understanding of) American fire marks includes misconceptions including (a.) arriving volunteer fire companies would not fight fires unless a fire mark was present, (b.) the companies received a reward from the insurance company whose fire mark was present, and (c.) the creation of paid municipal fire departments diminished the use of fire marks. 

What then were fire marks used for? The answers vary, says the author. From simply identifying the insuring company, to deterring arsonists, and perhaps even motivating firefighters. Nonetheless, American insurance companies issued fire marks for over 150 years. They're found in fire museums across the land. The above article is posted on the web site of the Fire Mark Circle of the Americas.

There are, however, subscription fire departments that will not fight a fire at your house if you have not subscribed, except perhaps if life is at stake. When I was in Illinois there were areas where no organized fire protection existed. These were typically served (at a reasonable cost I might add) by either subscription departments or by subscriptions to neighboring departments who would respond out of area if you had a contract. As cold as it may seem these departments depended on the revenue, and offering to accept payment at the time of the fire was akin to buying insurance after an accident and asking the company to pre-date the policy. If they didn’t take that stance they would have zero chance of getting any takers.
[RWECC] - 06/18/10 - 19:28

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