Firefighter Challenge Coin History
Firefighter History — Honored Through Custom Challenge Coins
Custom challenge coins are an august means of honoring law enforcement officers and other public servants. This includes the brave firefighters who continually risk their lives for the safety of others. But you might be pleasantly surprised at the long, distinguished, and interesting history of firefighting and the firefighter challenge coin.
At the beginning, we said “august,” and that is actually how firefighting began! Namely, it began with Emperor Augustus of Rome, around the first century A.D. Before that, there are reports of actual water pumps used to extinguish fires, specifically in ancient Egypt. But it was in the Roman Empire that firefighting became an organized institution (except maybe when Nero was fiddling).
Firefighting remained rudimentary in scope, though, for a long time afterwards. Yet in the 17th century great fires in the cities of Paris and London made all Western governments re-examine the capacity of firefighters. In 1673, Dutch inventor Jan Van der Heyden developed the first fire hose. And in the United States around that time, the first fire company went into service, in Boston. A year later, Benjamin Franklin established the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia.
It should be noted that George Washington was a volunteer firefighter in Alexandria, Virginia. He even bought a new fire engine and gave it to the town, just another chapter in the kind and heroic narrative of those who fight fires.
However, it wouldn’t be until the Civil War when fire departments became universal across the country, fully funded by local, state, and federal governments. The first female firefighter was Molly Williams in 1818, in New York City.
That’s just the short end of the long hose of protecting the stately history of firefighting. But certainly enough to consider when realizing the importance of firefighters, especially when honored by a custom firefighter challenge coin.