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0500. Fire Department

 Record Group
Identifier: 0500
The origins of the Boston Fire Department date back to 1678 with the establishment of the first engine company and the receipt of the first hand fire engine in North America. The Board of Fire Wards was established on February 1, 1711. Prominent men were chosen as Fire Wards and were responsible for the operation and maintenance of the equipment assigned to their ward. Chapter 52 of the Acts of 1825, "An Act Establishing a Fire Department in the City of Boston and an Ordinance for the preventing and extinguishing of fires and establishing a fire department" went into full operation in April of 1826. With this legislation, the Board of Fire Wards was dissolved. All records and property belonging to the city were transferred to the Chief Engineer in May of 1826. By the reorganization in 1837, the Fire Department changed from a partially volunteer to a paid fire department. On June 16, 1851, the City Council passed an order to erect a system of telegraphic fire alarms and the first regular alarm on the new system was received on April 29, 1852. On January 1, 1859, two new steam engines were put in service replacing two hand engines. On October 24, 1873, the City Council passed an ordinance creating a Board of Fire Commissioners to oversee the department. Section 9 of Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895, an act to amend the City Charter, abolished the Board of Fire Commissioners and placed the Department under the charge of one Fire Commissioner. The Chief Engineer serves as the Executive Officer of the Commissioner and directs the work of the members of the Department.

Found in 25 Collections and/or Records:

Appointment/reinstatement forms

Identifier: 0500.015
Scope and Contents note This series consists of loose leaf binders housing Appointment/Reinstatement forms used for documenting the appointments and/or reinstatements of Boston Fire Department staff. The documents include appointments after certification to become a fire fighter, emergency appointments, provisional appointments, reinstatements of employment following leaves of absence due to injury, illness, maternity and suspensions. Some retirement benefit requests forms are also included. In addition, 2 binders...
Dates: 1979-1994

Boston Fire Department plans and drawings

Identifier: 0500.022
Dates: circa 1973

Department vehicle accident reports

Identifier: 0500.020
Scope and Contents

Includes reports for accidents involving Fire Department vehicles from 1963-1989. Some photographs are included for major accidents.

Dates: 1963-1989

Deputy Commissioner for Administration and Finance records

Identifier: 0500.028
Dates: circa 2008-2014

Field incident reports

Identifier: 0500.025
Dates: 1987-2000

Fire Alarm cards

Identifier: 0500.011
Scope and Contents note

Includes a set of Fire Alarm cards in use from 1960-1981 and a set that was in use in the 1950s as they are marked with updates in 1955. The Fire Department began using a card system for the fire alarm boxes in 1910. New sets were issued in 1910, 1921, 1929, 1960 and 1981. Includes a card for each fire alarm box in the City with information on the order of response and coverage of fire companies to alarms on the fire box. These sets were kept in each fire house in the City.

Dates: circa 1960-1981

Fire Commissioner proceedings

Identifier: 0500.013
Scope and Contents note

This collection consists of chronological bound volumes of the proceedings of the mostly daily meetings of the Board of Fire Commissioners, as well as the proceedings of what later became a single Fire Commissioner. The Board of Fire Commissioners was abolished and replaced by a single Fire Commissioner on July 1, 1895. The minutes record the actions of the Board of Fire Commissioners and the single Fire Commissioner on issues involving personnel, supplies, equipment, etc.

Dates: 1873-1954 with gaps

Fire Commissioner records

Identifier: 0500.016
Scope and Contents This series includes subjects files of the Fire Commissioner with the bulk of the files from the 1990s and early 2000s. Fire Commissioners during this period include, Commissioner Martin Pierce, Commissioner Paul Christian, Acting Commissioner Dennis DiMarzio, and Commissioner Roderick Fraser. This series also includes historical files, reports, photographs, etc. kept in the Commissioner's Office for reference purposes. The subject files when transferred to the Archives were arranged in...
Dates: circa 1940-2015; Majority of material found in , 1990-2006

Fire Commissioner's office correspondence

Identifier: 0500.014
Scope and Contents note This series consists of chronological bound volumes of correspondence and loose letters documenting the day to day business and activities of the office of the Board of Fire Commissioners, and later the Office of the Fire Commissioner. The letters, signed by the Fire Commissioner and other staff including the Clerk and Secretary, are addressed to various organizations and businesses, attorney’s offices, city departments, city council members, members of the state legislature, and private...
Dates: 1893-1911 with gaps

Fire Department annual reports and publications

Identifier: 0500.005
Scope and Contents Includes copies of annual reports for 1879, 1885-1890, 1945, 1969, 1971, 1982 and 2002; programs for Fire Department annual ball for 1973 and 2004; Constitution of the Charitable Association of the Boston Fire Department, 1835; Report of the Joint Special Committee appointed to inquire into the causes of recent fires in Boston, 1893; Boston Fire Prevention Code (Chapter 3 of the Ordinances of 1959), 1959 and 1979; and Rules and Regulations of the Fire Department, 1947, 1965 and 1997; and...
Dates: 1835-2004

Fire Department microfilm

Identifier: 0500.023
Dates: circa 1920-1987

Fire Department photographs

Identifier: 0500.004
Scope and Contents

Small collection of 10 photographs donated to City Archives. Includes image of horse-drawn fire apparatus, undated; Fire Engine on Cambridge Street, undated; Engine 47 Fire Boat, 1948; Fire Department Banner on Washington Street, 1956; Fire on Brattle Street, 1959; 4 photographs of damage to North Station MTA, 1959; and Gil Jones and Fire Prevention Detail, 1961.

Dates: circa 1900-1961

Fire records

Identifier: 0500.007
Scope and Contents note This series consists of oversized chronological log books of fire alarms received and responded to by the Boston Fire Department from 1880-1967. The location and existence of earlier volumes is unknown at this time. These log books may have been in use as early as 1852 when the fire alarm telegraph system was officially accepted by the City. It is believed that the department no longer recorded fire alarms in this format after 1967. The information recorded in the logs over time include the...
Dates: 1880 May-1967 December

General Orders

Identifier: 0500.001
Scope and Contents

General Orders sent out to all station houses by the Fire Commissioner concerning administrative and personnel issues.

Dates: 1887-1970 with gaps

House journals

Identifier: 0500.003
Scope and Contents Station House journals of Engine 3, 1956-1972; Engine 12, 1898; Engine 13, 1962; Engine 16, 1969; Engine 28/Ladder 10, 1901-2002 with gaps; Engine 32/Ladder 9, 1913-2006 with gaps; Engine 41/Ladder 14, 1941-1968 with gaps; Engine 50, 1961-2000 with gaps; Ladder 23, 1906-1973 with gaps; Fire patrol, 1891-1955 with gaps, Maintenance Division, 1939; and Fire Investigation Unit, 1959-2011 with gaps. House journals record calls received and response, members present and other functions of...
Dates: 1891-2011 with gaps

Lists of call men

Identifier: 0500.008
Scope and Contents note

Registers recording names of firemen, engine company, date admitted and discharged. Beginning in 1837, compensation was given to firemen who served for six consecutive months with the same engine company.

Dates: 1837-1858

Mayor's approvals

Identifier: 0500.012
Scope and Contents note This series consists of chronological bound volumes of letters (letters were later replaced by standardized forms) written by the City of Boston Fire Commissioner to the Mayor requesting approval for myriad personnel and financial matters. Approval requests regarding personnel matters include those for new hires, retirements, salary/wage increases, reinstatements, pension enrollments for widows, and pension allotments for those who were injured on the job. Some requests for vacation time for...
Dates: 1901-1994 with gaps

Medical Examiner records

Identifier: 0500.021
Scope and Contents

Includes logs of the Fire Department medical examiner documenting sickness and injuries of Fire Department personnel, 1894-1928 with gaps.

Dates: 1894-1928


Identifier: 0500.009
Scope and Contents

Payroll lists for the Fire Department from 1876-1884, 1886-1889, 1902-1907, 1916-1924, 1927-1930, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1956-1969 and 1972.

Dates: 1876-1972 with gaps

Pension records

Identifier: 0500.018
Dates: 1960s

Photographs of Cocoanut Grove Fire, Boston, Mass., November 28, 1942

Identifier: 0500.027
Dates: 1942 December 1-11

Record of horses bought and sold

 Item — Volume 1
Identifier: 0500.017
Scope and Contents

Logbook of horses bought by the Fire Department from 1883-1911 with disposition and horses sold, died, destroyed or exchanged from 1900-1910.

Dates: 1883-1918

Scrapbook of fires

 Item — Volume 1
Identifier: 0500.006
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook and log of fires in Boston and other towns, 1841-1847.

Dates: 1841-1847

Special Orders

Identifier: 0500.002
Scope and Contents

Special Orders sent out to all station houses by the Fire Commissioner.

Dates: 1920-1968 with gaps

Standard operating procedures

Identifier: 0500.029
Dates: circa 2000s