I'm curious about the history of firefighting in New Orleans and how the equipment changed over the centuries. Is there a museum or place where such things are displayed?
When the city was first established, its first line of defense against a fire was to ring church bells and have citizens work together to extinguish the blaze, according to the New Orleans Fire Department's website (www.nola.gov/nofd). On Good Friday 1788, a conflagration broke out on Chartres Street and, because the Catholic Church had stipulated that church bells never toll on Good Friday, the fire spread, damaging four-fifths of the community.
As New Orleans developed, there was a need for a more organized way to fight fires. The Firemen's Charitable Association, the first volunteer firefighting group, began in 1829 and operated for 62 years. The official New Orleans Fire Department was organized in 1891, and the first fire the unit encountered was in 1892 at A.W. Schwartz' General Store at Canal and Bourbon streets, where firefighters and volunteers worked together to douse the flames. The city's wooden houses, defective water supply and lack of open alleys posed problems for early firefighters.
You can learn more about firefighting in New Orleans, from its early days to the present, at the New Orleans Fire Department Museum and Education Center (1135 Washington Ave., 504-899-4756; www.cityofno.com) in the Lower Garden District. The first floor houses firefighting memorabilia and artifacts, including uniforms from the first year and an engine from 1927. The second floor has an education center that focuses on teaching fire safety. There also is a Louisiana Fire Museum (205 Lafayette St., Gretna, 504-368-8236) in the David Crockett Fire Company No. 1's firehouse, which dates to 1859. At that museum, you'll find artifacts from around the state, including an 1876 steam pumper engine that firefighters pulled to the site of a fire.