HISTORY OF THE “HAND-IN-HAND” FIRE COMPANY
CHARLESTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
The first recorded mention of an “ENJUN” was in 1734 in the minutes of the Charleston Board of Fire Masters. However, there is no documented evidence that the city actually owned a hand-pumped engine at that time, but it is known that volunteer “fire laddies” flourished during the 1700’s, long before the paid fire department was organized in 1882.
In 1784, reference is made to a “Hand-in-Hand” Fire Company being organized
“to cope with the growing menace of fire.” The hand-in-hand operation consisted of passing buckets filled with water from a static source to a blaze. The “Hand-in-Hand” Fire Company was, at least, an organized attempt to suppress the growing fire problem in the city. In an address in 1953, D. A. Amme, Vice President of the Charleston Board of Fire Masters, said the “Hand-in-Hand” Fire Company “is believed to be the start of the volunteer system” in Charleston.
Previous to 1784, everybody was considered to be a fireman. When an alarm of fire was received, citizens were required by ordinance to maintain buckets for purposes of extinguishing fires throughout the neighborhoods. Firefighting during those early years was truly a community affair.
We do know the Charleston “Hand-in-Hand” Fire Company was the premiere fire company of the day, and its legacy remains one of the most famous fire companies in the city. The pioneers who organized and served as firemen with that company laid the foundation for the expansion of fire protection in the City of Charleston. Those early volunteers helped in scripting the strategies and tactics of firefighting we know today; through trial and error, they refined their tools, apparatus, and methods of extinguishment; and, most importantly, they validated the importance of working as a team. As proof, 234 years later firefighters are still talking about the contributions and influence of that little “Hand-in-Hand” Fire Company.
By Carter Jones
SCSFA Special Projects