Firefighters - history

Fire brigade in Vestec

1912 - The foundations of the volunteer fire brigade are laid in Vestec. At its birth stood again Mr. J.E.Dobiáš, who was also the mayor at that time. The corps, which expanded from the original 12 active members to 22, also had 15 contributing and 2 honorary members. The first commander was Mr. V.Pašek, then followed Mr. Ant.Hladík. The treasury was managed by Mr. Jar.Havlicek. It should not be forgotten that there was also a Samaritan platoon, commanded by Mr. F.Škorpa (also Mr. E.Rozum and Josef Muller).

The appointees graduated from the Samaritan school and masterfully applied the acquired knowledge and skills in practical life. They have shown themselves as true Samaritans e.g. in accidents on the Era (state) road or even in fatal electrocutions. It should be emphasized that they acted professionally and selflessly. Many pages have been written about fire brigades and independent firefighting. The enormous humane mission and immense merits directly encourage this. So let us look a little into the past. People have always wanted to tame the elements. Efforts to control the ravages of fire have been around since time immemorial. As early as the 14th century, Bohemian towns created strict rules that included both protective measures and instructions on what to do in the event of a fire. It is certainly worth mentioning the legal work of the Prague chancellor P.K.Koldin from 1697, from which I will quote part of the chapter: "It is commanded that all people, regardless of age and sex, must take part in fire fighting and try to quickly eliminate the fire". Those who were present and refused to help extinguish the fire were punished mercilessly. The thief who stole something in the fire was to be hanged immediately without mercy, and the arsonist was to be burned. In any case, Maria Theresa introduced a real system into firefighting by issuing the "Order for Fire Fighting" in 1753. This was actually the first time that the state took an interest in this neglected department of administration.

Maria Theresa introduced a number of important reforms to the state administration, her son Joseph II. In 1785 he issued a fire code for Bohemia, which remained in force until 1873. The collapse of the feudal order in the revolutionary year 1848 opened a new path in the development of fire protection.In 1853 the first professional fire brigade was established in Prague. And the first volunteer fire brigade? It was born in 1864 in Velvare. Direct recommendations for the establishment of volunteer fire brigades in municipalities were contained in the new "Fire Police and Fire Fighting Regulations" of 1867. The issued order stipulated that wagon sprinklers, ladders, hooks and tubs should be purchased for fire brigades. In the smaller settlements, at least, there were to be small, portable sprinklers. In each larger house there was to be one ladder, six water baskets and one lantern. Similar rules applied to entrepreneurs How did they fare in Vestec? The Vestec Fire Board had been striving for many years to purchase a motorized sprinkler and had secured large grants from the Land Administration's in-kind fund for this purpose. In the end, it is said that this action ended in failure "because of the complete lack of understanding of the citizens" (to quote the chronicler). The Vestec fire brigade also had a sickness fund, which around 1927 showed a fund of CZK 2120. In 1926, 6 members of the corps and 4 juniors took part in an all-firefighters' congress in Brno, which included a trip to Macocha. In 1924 and 1928, 9 members trained at the All-Slavic firefighters' congresses in Prague. The fact that our firefighters were mainly involved in fires does not need to be emphasized. Further in the article will follow a list of fires where our fire brigade intervened.

We might not have thought that volunteer fire departments had to do most of their own fundraising. The authorities of the time envisaged that the greatest burden would be borne by the members of the forming fire brigades themselves. And so, willy-nilly, they had to save crown to crown, penny to penny. For example, by organising cultural events. Libraries and theatre groups were also used to raise money for the necessary firefighting equipment. At the same time, they helped to strengthen the national consciousness and self-education of the population. Vestec also had a theatre choir - very popular. Under the leadership of Mr. Engelbert Rozum, who was a kind of dramaturge and the very soul of the whole ensemble, the "actors" and the appreciative audience experienced many good times. The proceeds of the plays were given to the education committee, which determined how to dispose of the money (firefighting equipment, books, support for the poor, eventual joint trips).

And now the promised Vestec fires. The chronicler has divided the Vestec fires into those that preceded the founding of the Vestec Volunteer Fire Department and those that occurred after 1912. The first one he mentions is the residential house No. 19 at the Skřivan family in Šátalka (1898), then the previously mentioned stacks and threshing machine of Mr. Krippl (1903), the house of the Ješátková family (1904), the new residential house No. 49, then at the Švarc family (1910), the stacks of grain at the Skřivan family No. 28 (1911). Taken together, the records show that mainly stacks, barns, and farm buildings were burnt, and I note that there were not a few of them. That the blame for the fire was not always borne solely by lightning, prolonged drought or other circumstances is evidenced by a record from 1926 that a fire was allegedly started in houses No.10 and No.14.

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Blanka Pašková, chronicler