Why Do Fire Stations Have Fire Poles?

While spiral staircases and fire poles are historically related to fire stations but not found much today, there was a time when they were commonplace. Around the 1850s, when the alarm would sound, firefighters raced downstairs to hitch up the horses before heading to the fire. The tight confines and steepness of spiral staircases hampered their speed, so they came up with the idea of the fire pole. First put into use in 1878 by David Kenyon in Chicago, the fire pole allowed the firefighters to arrive on scene sooner than others. Around 1880, Boston adopted the pole as well, and it quickly became commonplace across the country. With the transition to fire trucks in 1905, the poles were no longer necessary. With injuries common to descending fire poles, many stations that still utilize a multi-story structure are replacing the poles with fire slides. This allows the firefighters to drop from a higher floor to the ground floor quickly, but much more safely. While many stations are moving toward slides or single-story construction, the now-decorative fire pole will continue to be a common symbol in fire houses across the country.