This week’s Station Life photos are all about the fire pole at Station 1.
Fire Station 1 is the only station in the City of Brentwood to have a “fire pole”. The history of fire poles dates back to the days when fire apparatus were pulled by horses. The horses were well trained members of the department who were known to move into position to be harnessed when they heard the fire bells ring. Unfortunately, the horses tended to feel a little too much like members of the crew and would try to follow the firefighters to their living quarters on the second floor by climbing the stairs after a call! Initially this problem was solved by installing circular stairs, but while these kept the horses in the bay they also slowed the firefighter’s responses. Some fire stations installed chutes or slides to allow the firefighters to get downstairs quickly, but the fire pole eventually won out as the favored method.
The fire pole at Station 1 has a gate around it to help keep visiting children or weary firefighters from taking an unplanned detour back to the ground floor. Our pole is also equipped with flaps that open and close automatically when a firefighter’s weight is added. These flaps help keep the living quarters separate from the apparatus bay without sacrificing any speed when responding.
“Sliding the pole” is a learned skill and can be dangerous if not done properly. Firefighters use their feet and legs to control their speed while descending the pole and their hands are merely guides. A rubber mat at the bottom helps cushion the impact if an over exuberant rookie tries to beat everyone to the truck.
The days of horses in the station are long gone, and the tradition of including a fire pole in the station is slowly fading away as well. More and more fire stations are being built as single story buildings, so the need to quickly change levels is disappearing. Fortunately, the tradition of fire poles lives on at Brentwood Fire Station 1.