Fire Department

Written by Will Baum
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Fire departments across the U.S. are filled with men and women who ignore their fundamental instincts of self-preservation and face death as if it were routine. Entering burning buildings to save lives is something firefighting professionals do without a second thought. They deserve our awed admiration and respect.

When you see danger, your natural impulse is to head in the other direction. Firefighters do just the opposite. They head toward it. Without our fire departments, our towns and cities would soon be reduced to charred embers.

Fire Department History

In fact, that's what used to happen with regularity. In the early life of most American cities, catastrophic fires were the norm. Building was done almost exclusively with wood. Open flames were kept blazing inside homes and businesses for cooking and to provide heat. Wood and flames were obviously not an ideal match.

In massive conflagration after massive conflagration, young cities were burned mile by mile. Before it was New York City, New Amsterdam kept being burned and rebuilt. A cow-kicked lantern set Chicago ablaze in 1871. People died by the hundreds. Fire departments as we know them didn't yet exist. Firefighting was done by woefully under-equipped volunteers.

It wasn't until the dawn of the steam engine in the late 19th century that cities began to turn to professionals to do their firefighting. As technology and training improved along with building codes, a city's chances against catastrophic blazes increased. Today, fire departments employ highly professional forces, with training in everything from emergency medicine to the handling of hazardous materials. Oxygen tanks and gas masks help them battle through impossibly smoky conditions. Still, the essential stuff of firefighting is raw bravery.

Fire Department Merchandise

It's no wonder that fire department merchandise has become so collectible. Firefighters are sources of wonder. Children are naturally fascinated with passing firetrucks. That fascination never really fades. Children play with toy fire trucks; adults have found their own ways to stay connected to the world of firefighting. A huge variety of firefighting-related collectibles is available for every taste and preference.

Some collect hats and T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of their favorite fire departments. Others collect posters of firefighters in the midst of their heroic work. People decorate their homes with all manner of firefighting-themed pillows and blankets. Hollow life-size fire hydrants replace containers throughout their homes. Firefighter ornaments are items created specifically for collectors. Many people honor the fallen firefighters of 9/11. One ornament features an image also favored on posters and calendars. It's the image of firefighters raising the flag in the smoking grey rubble at Ground Zero, looking like modern-day soldiers declaring bitter victory at Iwo Jima.

Today, firefighters aren't just protecting us from burning houses and hills, they are on the front lines of homeland security. We can't pay them tribute enough. No matter what kind of fire department item you are seeking, you'll be able to find it on the Internet. Keep on surfing. You're probably just a click or two away.

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