The first fire hydrant is believed to have been invented in 1801. It is generally credited to the Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia water works department at the time, a man named Frederick Graff. Graff was born in 1775 and at the time of the fire hydrant’s invention, he hadn’t reached the age of 30. He also didn’t have an initial interest in hydraulics or engineering either. He was actually employed as a carpenter initially, but then started working for the city at the age of 20. The initial fire hydrant was very different than what we think of today – the first one had a hose and faucet outlet with a barrel design to the valve on top.
Graff spent most of his career making sure that water pipes were laid and easily accessible throughout Philadelphia. Many pipes were made out of wood, but Graff devised an iron pipe system and a system of fire plugs stopping valves that made water access simple and easy. He sold his design to nearly 40 cities around the world.
There are a number of additional firefighting inventions that have been developed over the years as well. Here is a look at some of the best that have come up.
1. The Breathing Apparatus
Firefighting goes into a number of difficult environments. Many of them are filled with smoke and it is unsafe for someone to breathe. Instead of being quickly overcome or having to fight the fire from the outside in, the modern breathing apparatus allows firefighters to get the oxygen they need as they enter a home to save lives or fight a wild fire.
2. Tangle Prevention
One of the most difficult aspects of being a firefighter is that you never know what conditions you’ll encounter. Sometimes there can be loose cables and when those get tangled up with your breathing apparatus, that can be bad news. A recent invention by Pete Broomfield helps to prevent cables from getting tangled up on the SCBA cylinders so that the firefighter can continue to do his job.
3. Fire Resistant Clothing
Thanks to the work of NASA and some of the leading research companies in material development, fire resistant clothing was developed in the mid-1960’s in the quest to discover fabrics that could help take astronauts into space. This material was developed into the official standards for personal protective equipment and now they are worn by firefighters all around the world because it can keep them safe in some of the hottest of situations.
4. Stove Protections
One of the most common places for a fire to happen in the home is in the kitchen. An invention by Peter Thorpe in 2011 allows for a stove to automatically turn itself off when the sound of a smoke alarm goes off. This prevents gas from leaking into a home, which is a huge danger, and it can eliminate the heat that comes from an oven fire that happens when grease or oil is present. Since 3 out 4 kitchen fires are caused by unattended items that are cooking, this invention could save a lot of lives.
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