Fire Department Traditions:
When we hear the word tradition it brings to mind many things. Arguably, probably every one of us is touched by at least one tradition. Many are family oriented, such as how we celebrate a Holiday, the annual family reunion cookout, or how we are taught to treat others – these are all examples of traditions. In the fire service we have many traditions as well. From the first moment a new cadet (rookie or "probie") is taken into the South Killingly Fire Department “family” they are introduced to fire service traditions.
The term "First Water" actually dates back to the 1800's when
fire departments actually competed with one another. When two departments were in the same area, the town would often only pay the first fire department on scene, while the second received nothing.
In other areas it was a matter of pride. The first department to put water on the fire would claim "First Water" and, in a way, get credit for fighting that fire. Some departments even hired young
kids who would race to a fire on foot and throw a single bucket of water on the flames. This usually did very little or nothing to fight the fire, but it would earn that department the right to claim
The phrase is still used in some areas today. When a department is called out to a fire they will often refer to three events: Dispatch time, On scene time, and time of First Water, the moment when the first fire stream actually begins fighting the fire.
There are some things from the past that many old-timers recall fondly but for one reason or another (many due to safety) have been discontinued. These include: