Truck 13 working at a fire at the B. Green and Co. Wholesale Grocers on Pratt and Poppleton Streets, December 13, 1933. From the collection of Box 414 Association. Photo provided by Charles Meile.
The Maryland General Assembly formally established the Town of Baltimore in 1729 with the first municipally established fire ordinance written into law in 1747. Urban growth in to the 1800’s led local businesses and political leaders to form volunteer fire companies to guard against loss. Competitive resentment between these companies led local fire chiefs to organize the Baltimore Association of Firemen to improve the fire service’s public image. In 1858, when that initiative failed to bring order, city politicians disbanded the volunteers and introduced the 153-member professional Baltimore City Fire Department. Similar to other rapidly growing cities across the country, urban density with the spread of factories, port facilities, warehouses and apartment buildings, created the potential for danger.
In 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire burned for more than a full day and destroyed 70 blocks and 1,526 buildings in the downtown area. That incident led to systematic urban renewal programs and uniform national standards in firefighting equipment and protocols.