The Firemen’s Charitable & Benevolent Association
Fire! In colonial New Orleans, this call for aid was a frequent reminder of a frightening reality. In 1788, when Louisiana was still under Spanish rule, nine hundred houses were burned to the ground in a historic fire. In 1794, an equally disastrous fire virtually destroyed the rebuilt city. Finally, city leaders passed the Bucket Ordinance in 1807. Every citizen was required to keep at least two fire buckets at home and at ready; at the same time, a loosely organized fire brigade was mandated.
These early attempts at fire protection proved inadequate and terrible fires continued to consume the city. It wasn’t until 1829 that the first reliable fire company was organized, Volunteer Company No. 1. Its first trial came soon after. Five thousand bales of cotton blazed at the Hart’s Cotton Press on St. Charles Street in 1830. The brave volunteers aimed a stream of water from their hand pump engine as a group of dedicated citizens rushed to aid the volunteer company. Soon afterwards, dedicated volunteers formed Mississippi Co. No. 2.
By 1834, six bands of volunteers had organized and they formed the Firemen’s Charitable & Benevolent Association. The lasting importance of this effort probably never occurred to the thirty founders who banded together to provide relief for needy members and the families of their deceased members.