New York Firefighting and the American Revolution: Saving Colonial Gotham

New York Firefighting and the American Revolution: Saving Colonial Gotham

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Revolutionary-era Manhattan was a chaotic scene of Loyalists, British occupation troops, Patriot spies and thousands of people seeking to live ordinary lives during extraordinary times. In the 1730s, the colonial legislature of New York officially created a fire department, establishing the origins of today’s FDNY. As Washington withdrew from the city and the British rushed in, firefighters were forced to choose between joining the cause for independence or helping to protect British interests. Just days later, a fire broke out on September 21, 1776. By daybreak, it had consumed five hundred buildings and was the most destructive fire in colonial North America. While the British claimed it was set by American revolutionary vandals, controversy surrounding the fire remains today. Author Bruce Twickler uncovers the history of New York firefighting as a new nation was forged.