New Orleans (La.) Fire Department
Monthly Fire Reports

City Archives
New Orleans Public Library


Date range:  1900-1976 (1924-1926 missing)
Size of collection:  25 v.
Terms of Access:  Available to researchers on 27 rolls of 35 mm microfilm
Acquisition:  Transfer to the City Archives from New Orleans Fire Department


Historical Note

Prior to 1891, New Orleans had a volunteer fire department -- the Firemen's Charitable Association -- which contracted with the Commission Council for its services on a 5-year basis. On September 29, 1891, when the Firemen’s Charitable Association's contract was about to expire, the Council took the opportunity to organize a municipal, paid fire department by approving ordinance 5614 C.S., "creating a paid fire department for the city of New Orleans, providing for the organization of a Board of Fire Commissioners, regulating their duties and defining their powers." (The Firemen’s Charitable Association continues today to operate Greenwood and Cypress Grove cemeteries.)

The Board, elected by the Council, consisted of 10 members, one from each municipal district, two at large (one from above Canal Street and one from below Canal Street), and the Commissioner of Police and Public Buildings (ex-officio). The Mayor also served as ex-officio president of the Board. The ordinance divided the City into five fire districts and empowered the board to “locate houses for engines, chemicals and trucks, organize companies and battalions to work the apparatus for the extinguishment of fires, and establish the grades and distinctions among the uniform force of the department. Former officers and members of the FCA were retained in their positions “as far as practicable” and insomuch as they conformed with the terms of employment and the qualifications set up in the ordinance.

The formal transfer of fire services from the Firemen’s Charitable Association to the New Orleans Fire Department took place on December 15, 1891.

In 1894, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 83, creating a municipal fire department for New Orleans in conformity with the existing municipal ordinance.

The original five fire districts were as follows:
First District: Second and Third Municipal Districts
Second District: First and Fourth Municipal Districts
Third District: Sixth Municipal District
Fourth District: Fifth Municipal District
Fifth District: Seventh Municipal District

The boundaries of these districts changed over time, as did their number (there were nine districts by 1973). Additional information on the geographic boundaries of the fire districts during the time covered by the Fire Reports is available in the City Archives.

Scope

The records are manuscript monthly reports submitted by the Assistant Engineer of each fire district and bound into large ledgers arranged by month and, thereunder, by district. The volume including the years 1924-1926 was missing at the time of transfer to the City Archives.

While fire reports prior to 1900 are not available in the City Archives, the archives does hold published annual reports of the New Orleans Fire Department for 1892, 1895 and1896. These annual reports include details about individual fires (and responses to fire alarms) similar to those recorded in the manuscript fire reports.

Arrangement

The format of the ledger pages changed remarkably little during the 76 years covered by the reports. The reports give:

date of fire
time
station number
owner of property
occupant of property
occupied as (e.g. residence, shoe store, barroom)
location
number of stories
style of building (e.g., frame, brick, double)
cause of fire
amount of loss (subdivided into stock, building, furniture)
amount of insurance (subdivided into stock, building, furniture)
remarks
The remarks typically include information on which units responded to the alarm – “Chem. 4,” “Engine 7,” or the official in charge -- e.g., “Assist. O’Neill in charge”; also included sometimes are additional relevant comments such as “poor water supply,” “tub of oil found on premises,” “loss confined to a lot of horse hay; no damage to building,” and notation of fatalities. After ca. 1930, remarks are usually limited to a description of which equipment responded to the call.
size of hose (2 ½”, ¾”, P.E.) – column added in 1920

From 1900 to 1940, each monthly report includes (on the reverse of the page) a tally of the number of alarms (whether bell or still – telephone is included in later years), the total estimated loss and insurance, the number of actual fires, and the total number of “unnecessary” responses). In some years, these accumulated totals are more detailed, including a tally of the causes of fires and the type of use of the building. Beginning in 1941, the monthly tallies no longer appear.

Inventory

Vol. 1 -- 1900-1903
Vol. 2 -- 1904-1907
Vol. 3 -- 1908-1911
Vol. 4 -- 1912-1914
Vol. 5 -- 1915-1917
Vol. 6 -- 1918-1920
Vol. 7 -- 1921-1923
Vol. 8 -- 1924-1926 MISSING
Vol. 9 -- 1927-1929
Vol. 10 -- 1930-1932
Vol. 11 -- 1933-1935
Vol. 13 -- 1936-1939
Vol. 14 -- 1940-1946
Vol. 15 -- 1947-1950
Vol. 16 -- 1951-1953
Vol. 17 -- 1954-1956
Vol. 18 -- 1957-1959
Vol. 19 -- 1960-1962
Vol. 20 -- 1963-1965
Vol. 21 -- 1966-1968
Vol. 22 -- 1969-1971
Vol. 23 -- 1972-1973
Vol. 24 -- 1974-1975
Vol. 25 -- 1976


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5/13/2004