Motorizing The Fire Department — The Horse Must Go

New York City was seeing a lot of progress around this time. Just law week we saw advances in street cleaning but now we see an even more significant advance: motorized fire trucks.

Fire Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo said the new fire trucks would cut casualties in half.

That thrilling sight — three plunging horses drawing engine or hook and ladder — one of the few thrilling sights to be seen in our prosaic city streets, is soon to become a thing of the past. Within the next five or six years there will not be a fire horse in Greater New York. The gasoline motor will do the work of these old favorites. Speed, safety, efficiency, and economy will be the result.


For years the Fire Department has been struggling to cut down the time required in getting to fires. Any year in which the time is decreased three seconds is looked upon as a banner year. Few people outside of the department realize how valuable seconds are. The average life saved at a fire is in a rescue made on a margin of seconds. Rescues are made only at the beginning of a fire.

The best time made by horse-drawn apparatus is a mile in five minutes, and the greater the distance to be traveled the greater the reduction of speed. The motor-driven apparatus wil travel at a minimum rate of twenty miles an hour, with a maximum for clear stretches of road of thirty miles an hour, distance being no factor whatever. The speed increase will be about 65 per cent.

The motor apparatus is also not as apt to cause street accidents. Though traveling at a higher rate of speed, it is much easier to control and stop than a truck or engine drawn by three galloping horses. It takes 150 feet to stop any horse-drawn apparatus. If there is a grade or the pavement is slippery it may take 300 feet, or even more. The motor-driven apparatus, though going at a rate of twenty miles an hour, can stop in its own length.

With the introduction of motor apparatus, the firemen used as drivers will be free to operate with the company at a fire. This will give an extra fireman who at present is kept watching his horses in the street. This will mean a 15 per cent. increase in the numerical strength of each company.

It never occurred to me that someone had to watch the horses.

MOTORIZING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT — THE HORSE MUST GO: Engine, Hose Cart, Hook and Ladder and All Are to be Self-Propelled, and Fire-Fighting Will be Revolutionized. (PDF)

From February 19, 1911

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