A group of Jewish organizations commemorated 150 years since the founding of New York City’s fire department Monday with a formal ceremony at the FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn.
The sesquicentennial anniversary year had been marked with ceremonies throughout 2015, but this was the first time an event took place at their 9 MetroTech address in Brooklyn, fire officials told the representatives of Misaskim, Hatzolah and Shomrim.
Fire officials turned out in force for the occasion, with Commissioner Daniel Nigro and nearly four dozen top brass attending the midday conference.
Harav Dovid Goldwasser, Rav of Beis Medrash Bnei Yitzchok in Flatbush, thanked New York’s Bravest on behalf of the city’s Jewish community for putting their lives on the line for them.
Mr. Yanky Meyer, the founder of Misaskim, who organized the event, told Hamodia that FDNY’s education and fire prevention program in the Orthodox community has saved Jewish lives.
“Take biur chametz on Erev Pesach — they brought the burn rate down to zero,” Meyer said. “The past couple of years we, baruch Hashem, had nothing.”
The city’s fire department, the largest in the country and second largest in the world, after Tokyo’s, was founded in 1865.
Peter Stuyvesant, the city’s first governor when it was called New Amsterdam and ruled by the Dutch, set up a small fire brigade to prevent blazes. Fines were issued to residents who failed to sweep their chimneys, the prime cause of fires, and four wardens patrolled the streets armed with buckets and ladders, according to the 1892 book, The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York.
The city purchased the first fire wagons in the 18th century. But it wasn’t until 1865 that the state, at the behest of the insurance industry, abolished the volunteer force, replacing it with a regular agency with a hierarchy and 552 paid professionals. They also expanded it to Brooklyn and Queens.
Members of EMS, which joined the fire department in the 1990s, also joined the meeting.
Several of the speakers noted the fire last year in Flatbush which consumed seven members of the Sassoon family.
That tragedy, Nigro said, “was one of the worst days in the history of the fire department.”