2008/02/22

Collecting For The Local Engine

Japan's first fire department was created in 1629, during the Edo period under Tokugawa Iemitsu, to protect Edo Castle and the homes of Daimyo and Samurai. Now days, Japan has modern municipal fire departments with all the latest equipment. Our house is between two stations which are about 6 and 7 kilometers from us. We also have a local volunteer contingent which operates a mini-pumper truck. Out here there is no city water, so cisterns have been placed around the neighborhood. I would guess they hold a few thousand gallons of water each. In the event of a fire, a pumper truck would drop a hose into the nearest cistern and use that water to knock down the flames (you'd be surprised how little water is needed to do that if applied properly).

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Our pumper truck

Once a year, the volunteers come around to each home and collect a donation to support our local contingent, the "station" (a single space garage) and the engine. It's fun to see them riding the truck around the neighborhood, lights flashing, knowing that they aren't on the way to a fire. The engine is small (we've got narrow roads after all) but it is located less than half a kilometer from the house. Of course, being a volunteer unit, it can take time for them to respond, but I'm glad that they are there just the same to try to help save lives and property until the big stuff arrives from town.

They also drive around the neighborhood from time to time ringing the bell to remind people to be careful and hand out pamphlets and stickers on fire safety in the home.

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Two of our local volunteer firefighters

A couple of things have struck me as odd. The fire cisterns throughout Japan are marked with a circular red sign with white lettering which says in Japanese AND English "Fire Cistern". If you look at the large version of the picture above you can see that the caps say "Volunteer Firefighter" in English. How the use of English for these purposes came about I do not know. I speculate it was instituted after WWII during the American occupation, which is when the municipal fire department model was adopted.

Anyway, thanks volunteers. You can always count on our support.

3 comments:

Martin J Frid said...

I had a friend in primary school, whose father was a fire fighter, who got killed on duty. They do take risks and we are all much obliged. Makes me wonder about my whereabouts...

Back home I made sure to have a small fire extinguisher on each floor of my house. Wow... Thanks for the reminder.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Our local volunteer fire department (garage?) is less than a hundred meters from our house. The members are all neighbors, and they keep pestering me to join. Tempted though I am, I have to keep reminding them that Ibaraki is one of many prefectures that has an ordnance barring non-citizens from participating in fire, police, or rescue activities.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - one of my great grandfathers was a fire chief in the 1890s. My son-in-law is also one and is in the rescue unit, is a retired chief. My hat's off them.

Moody - too bad about that law. I'd love to see you in uniform riding one of those trucks.