150 Years of the Czech Firefighters stamp

March 5th, 2014

Ceska posta issued a stamp to commemorate 150 years of the Czech firefighters. The stamp features a vintage fire engine and a firefighter putting out house fire.

The struggle of man against fire is a story which covers the whole of human history. More specifically, it is the effort to control fire. That is on account of the fact that fire has had great significance in the development of society and has become one of the elements of civilization. The early days of firefighting date back to the 10th century BC., when the builder Vitrius living under Caesar and Augustus describes that 200 years before the learned Ktesibius of Alexandria made the fire pump. These firefighting devices were basically used in Egypt, Rome and the Roman occupied territories – basically with various improvements until the 18th century.

Large fires in medieval towns led the rulers and leaders of cities to publish guidelines on how to prevent fires and extinguish them. Here the guilds played a great role – they have were assigned the task of coming up with the means and method of assisting in extinguishing fires (for example, the Statut of the City of Prague called "About Fires", from the 14th century). Similarly, this was also the case in the following centuries on feudal estates. Fire instructions were essentially the same, only more detailed. The efforts of Marie Therese to create a strong, centralized state governance, was also echoed in fire protection when in 1751 Fire extinguishing rules were issued.

An important change was brought about by the invention of the steam engine, which greatly influenced the development of firefighting equipment – steam fire engines were more powerful and allowed water to be transported over long distances. But they were expensive and required professional service, which resulted in large cities and factories setting up groups of professional staff which were in charge of extinguishing fires.

The revolutionary year of 1848 and in particular the fall of Bach's absolutism brought about a certain loosening up in Austria, including the right of association and the right of assembly among other things. In smaller towns, which had no money to outfit paid fire departments, the formation of volunteer fire departments gradually occurred.

The first Czech fire brigade in Bohemia was founded in 1864 in Velvary. Of great importance for the further development of voluntary firemen in the Czech Republic was the aid of the members of the Prague congregation of paid firefighters who were allowed to conduct training outside Prague fire brigades. At that time physical training fire units arose in many places, which later split into Sokol and volunteer firefighters.