Physical training, recreation and maintaining a cohesive unit. This China Daily article has some interesting photos of the Shanghai.
I have found it difficult to find decent information on city fire departments in China. Compared to the vast information available in the Western world China’s fire service personnel are still underserved on the web. Their training, dedication and skills should be shared with the rest of the world. Internet growth in China is running along the lines or 10,000 new users per day so personal web pages published by firefighters should follow.
Back to Shanghai, I was very surprised there was not much official information available but I did run across a website that provides a brief description of Shanghai Fire
From Tales of Old Shanghai.
The crowding of the Settlements with cheaply constructed Chinese houses during the period of the rebellion added to the danger of fire. In order to cope with this menace fire wells were sunk in the main thoroughfares to serve as reservoirs for water. Before the introduction of a system of waterworks, these fire wells, the creeks, and the river were the only available sources upon which the one fire engine could draw. This engine was imported from the United States in 1863 by the Courcil, and formed the nucleus of a voluntary fire brigade service >organized in 1866. Captain J. P. Roberts was elected first Chief Engineer, and Mr. C. J. Ashley, foreman of the Mih-ho-oong (destroy fire dragon) Hook and Ladder Company. The French joined heartily in the enterprise and the three Settlements worked in complete harmony.
The Brigade was not at first under the control of the Municipal Council, and, as it was largely supported by the Insurance Companies, was not a great drain on municipal resources.
Fire alarms were in the beginmng given by the ringing of the church bell and the firing of three guns from the senior man-of-war in port, and the ringing of the bells of the steamers in harbour. Owing to the fact that the church bell could not be heard distinctly, a tower was erected at the Hongkew Police Station, and one of the church bells not in use was lent by the trustees as a fire alarm.
In 1880 a large bell weighing 5,150 pounds was purchased from the Meneely Founders of West Troy, N.Y. The bell had been cast in 1865 and was obtained at the low cost of $1,500 gold. It was hung in the 100-feet high tower erected at the Central Fire Station on Shantung Road and the one in use there was transferred to the tower at the Hongkew Police Station. Some time after bells ceased to be used for fire alarms, the large bell purchased in 1880 was moved to Jessfleld Park and mounted on a stone pedestal in front of a small Chinese pavilion where it may now be seen.
The second and third articles of the constitution of the voluntary Shanghai Fire Department read as follows:
“Article 11 – The Shanghai Fire Department is instituted for the better preservation of all property exposed to conflagration and its motto shall be ‘We Fight the Flames.’
“Article 111 – That the American, English and French Settlements be known respectively as Fire Districts Nos. 1, 2, and 3, and the operations of the S. F. D. shall be within the foreign settlements of Shanghai, and these limits shall not be passed except in cases of urgent necessity, and by order of the Chief Engineer.”
The Fire Brigade played an important part in the life of the Settlements. The young men took up the service with considerable eagerness and enjoyed the excitement and the social life connected with it. Some of them lived at the fire stations, so as to be on hand when alarms were given, and no matter what social functions they might be attending, at the sound of the fire bell, they rushed off so as to be at their stations as quickly as possible. There was keen competition among the different units as to which would reach the scene of the fire first.
As we shall see later, owing to the extension of the Settlement area and to great increase in the number of fires, it became necessary to abandon the voluntary system, and to introduce in its place a paid fire brigade,with a trained Chief Officer at its head, appointed by the Municipal Council…”