The world’s first practical steam fire engine

Saturday 1st January 1853

The world’s first practical steam fire engine, named Uncle Joe Ross after the city councilman who championed it, began service in Cincinnati, US. Invented by Abel Shawk and Alexander Latta it took nine months to build at a cost of $10,000. This steam engine had the capacity of the six largest double-engine hand pumpers. “Uncle Joe Ross” fought fires by supplying three hand companies with water while simultaneously throwing a powerful spray of water onto the fire. In 1854, Cincinnati residents raised enough funds to allow the Fire Department to purchase a second steam fire engine. This engine was known as “Citizen’s Gift.” The steam fire engine forever changed firefighting in Cincinnati. Pleased with the engine, local government leaders decided to form a professional fire department rather than relying on volunteers. Less than 10 years later, the Cincinnati Fire Department became one of the country’s first fully motorised fire departments. In 1969, the Cincinnati Fire Department used its first diesel apparatus.

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