Concession fire brigade

Shanghai Star. 2001-12-13

SHANGHAI'S International Settlement was rather better administered than foreign concessions those in other Chinese cities, according to a new history.

Even in the organization of the fire brigade, a carefully structured administrative system may be discerned, says "A History of the Shanghai International Settlement".

Even before 1863, Shanghai had a fire brigade made up of volunteers in the French Concession.

In 1863, to prevent theft when a fire broke out, the police station suggested that the Conseil d'Administration Municipale de la Concession Francaise de Changhai form an official fire brigade.

The Conseil accepted the suggestion and spent 3,000 francs buying the latest pumps, which arrived at Shanghai in March 1869.

On May 17 the same year, the fire department of the French Concession was formally established, with 29 volunteers acting as fire-fighters.

The department was named "Le Torrent", meaning cascade.

Meanwhile, after the British and American concessions merged to form the International Settlement, a fire brigade was established under the aegis of the Shanghai Municipal Council.

By 1879, the SMC had dug 61 wells especially for extinguishing fires.

In 1883, the Shanghai Waterworks Company set up hydrants along the main streets of the International Settlement, although initially the water pressure was not stable. The next year, the SMC asked its police to check the pressure of these hydrants every two hours and report the results to the council.

Funds for purchasing extinguishing equipment came mainly from donations from insurance companies, guilds and individuals.

In 1919, the SMC decided to replace all the old fire engines with new ones that had motor pumps. With the new equipment, the fire department was considered the most modern in East Asia.

By 1930, there were 543 hydrants in the International Settlement. In 1934, over 575 houses in the International Concession were equipped with fire protection facilities. Zou Huilin



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