Firefighting began to be a focus only with the rise of very large cities such as Rome. Earlier cities, such as those in Mesopotamia or the Indus, likely developed ad hoc firefighting departments and respondent to events. As with other institutions, however, the history of firefighting is complicated and influenced by major technical and social change that occurred in different centuries.
Early fighting developed in the early urban societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus. Very likely, however, these were not dedicated fire departments but rather as volunteer or paid individuals who would be responsible in assembling a crew and extinguishing a fire in the city. Few archaeological remains have attested to such firefighters, but laws, such as those from Hammurabi’s law code, indicate they existed. There was a law that stated that a firefighter who stole from a burning house that he was responsible for would be punished by death by being thrown into the fire. The law makes it clear though that it is a volunteer that the law applies to. This does not mean there were no paid firefighters but it could mean volunteers may have volunteered because fires gave opportunity for theft.
Categories: Institutional History