The Dorchester and Milton Fireward Society, and the clerk, Stephen Badlam, issued shares to subscribers for “the relief of those who may be distressed with calamitous Fire.” The method of battling a fire at this time was to have a group of volunteers form in a line between the engine and the nearest source of water, passing fire buckets from hand to hand until they were emptied into the tub of the fire engine. Once enough water had been dumped into the tub of the engine, the volunteers would then squirt the water at the fire by means of a hand pump. After the assembling of the volunteers, the filling of the leather fire buckets and the squirting of the water had taken place, one wonders how many burning buildings were actually saved two centuries ago.
The first fire engine was known as Fountain Engine Number 1 and was owned by the shareholders of both Dorchester and Milton. The fire engine, operated by a hand pump, was manned by volunteers from both towns. Their service, though voluntary, was remunerated by their exemption from military duty and by the refunding of their poll tax by the towns. Thirty-two men from the towns of Dorchester and Milton made a large enough pool of volunteers, and their authority was strictly limited to the scene of a fire, where their mission of firefighting and their obedience to orders had to be observed, with penalties for refusal to obey. Their duties, strictly volunteer, were to attend all fires and to assist in both the fighting of the fire and the direction of assistance at the fire. Their uniforms were haphazard, but each volunteer was provided with a leather helmet emblazoned with “Fireward Society in Dorchester and Milton, Fountain No. 1” in bold letters.
Source: Anthony Sammarco on Facebook