Drawing on extensively researched original source materials, A Demon Called Fire chronicles the 250-year history of a single, small-city fire department, while also capturing the changing America throughout the industrial revolution and the transition of volunteer citizens’ groups into professional fire services. A true contribution to New Hampshirite and American history, this beautifully illustrated historical almanac brings to life both the technological changes in firefighting and the social changes that went along with them; from the growth of private fire insurance and legal requirements for each household to own leather fire buckets, to the growing dangers of arson, nuclear accidents, and terrorism that departments must increasingly train to recognize and deal with.
A retired Deputy Chief of the Keene Fire Department with over 30 years of service, Goldsmith has compiled the only complete history of the Keene Fire Department in existence, using articles chronicled in the Keene Sentinel (one of the longest-running newspapers in the country), the City of Keene Annual Reports, and excerpts from the Keene Fire Department Scrapbook. He uses additional information, images, and articles derived from his own knowledge of the department and personal writings. The changing prose style over the centuries in the newspapers and other source materials Goldsmith references makes for highly entertaining reading. Likewise, the book’s photographs of firefighting antiques—from badges to buckets, and engines to uniforms—will delight firefighters, historians, and collectors alike.
Technology changes, but the firefighter’s vow to protect the public stays the same. A Demon Called Fire preserves the concerns of the people in the community of Keene in their own words, whether dealing with the comical (a 103-year-old’s birthday candles tripping a fire alarm), the bizarre (a derailed trainload of pigs), the sentimental (a retired fire engine horse sold to the milkman still “answering the call” when the alarm bell rings), or, more commonly, the tragedies and the heroism always on display in the face of the ever-present “demon,” fire.