Cause for Alarm & Book Giveaway


Today I’m giving away a copy of Prairie Summer Brides, which includes my story, The Dog Days of Summer Bride.  P&P giveaway guidelines apply.

Fire is very much on my mind this month for two reasons; One, California has been plagued with massive wildfires this summer.  None were close to me, but the air quality has been poor and there were days when we couldn’t see the sun because of smoke-filled skies.

The second reason that fire is on my mind is due to a firefire in the fictional town of Two-Time, Texas (book three of my Match Made it Texas series) and I’ve been writing and rewriting the scene all week.

During the 19th century, fire was one of the biggest environment threats facing the nation.  Something as simple as a dropped candle or overturned lamp could wipe out an entire town or city in a flash.

When a fire broke out in those early days, a bell (usually the church bell) rang, and volunteer firemen dropped what they were doing and raced to join the bucket brigade.  Volunteers were a mixed bunch and included immigrants and native-born, merchants and laborers.

Being a volunteer fire-fighter was considered an honor and united men in a brotherhood of masculinity andtucson skill.  It provided men from all walks of life with an elevated social status.

Surprisingly, women started serving as volunteer firefighters as early as 1818. The first known woman to do so was a black slave named Molly Williams.

The main challenges firefighters faced in those early days were poorly constructed wood buildings and lack of equipment and training. The appearance of fire insurance companies in the mid-1800s created yet another challenge.

old fire mark plaque
Fire mark plaque showing business is insured.

Some fire brigades were either owned or paid for by insurance companies. Homes and businesses with paid fire insurance were issued a fire mark plaque. These fire marks were made out of metal and placed outside doors. The payment to insurers would help support fire-fighting brigades.  The fire brigade that arrived at a burning building first would get the insurance money.

Competition between brigades was so severe, that fistfights often occurred while a building burned to the ground.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the New York city companies sent runners ahead to cover fire hydrants with barrels to prevent other brigades from using them.

Old firefighting bucket. Rounded bottoms prevented buckets from being stolen and used for other purposes.

Firefighting has come a long way since the first volunteer fire department in America was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1736. Fire equipment back then was basically leather buckets for dousing flames with water and linen bags for collecting valuables from inside of burning houses.

I was surprised to learn that today, more than two-hundred and eighty years later, sixty-nine percent of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers. Unfortunately,  their numbers are dwindling.  It’s getting harder to recruit new members. People no longer live in the heart of town like they once did, so distance is a problem.  Also fewer people are willing to take time away from work and family to run into burning buildings without pay. (Can’t say I blame them, there.)

Despite these challenges, modern volunteer firefighters are well-trained and save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. Best of all, fistfights are now a thing of the past.  Firefighting sure isn’t what it used to be and we can all thank God for that.

Are the firemen in your town volunteers or professionals?


                              Left at the Altar

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.




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35 thoughts on “Cause for Alarm & Book Giveaway”

  1. Hi Margaret! Our firefighters here are professional volunteers….in other words they are trained firefighters. I think only the fire chief is a paid position. I’ve lived in this small coastal town 7 years & the city before this one was for 10 years and the same thing….professional volunteers. In fact, our neighbor who lived up the street from us was a volunteer firefighter.

    Maybe only the bigger cities have paid firefighters. I know our volunteers are very dedicated to their jobs and take it very seriously 🙂 Whenever there’s a fire, they come running with sirens blazing!

    Thank you for the book giveaway chance! I think the most interesting fact here is that women even started volunteering!

    • Hi Trixi, sounds like your town is well-covered in case of fire.

      I, too, was surprised to find women volunteering in the early 1800s. Fighting fires is a tough job even for a man.

  2. The firefighters in our town are paid firefighters but we also have volunteer firefighters who have a blue light they put on the roof of their cars letting everyone know they are a volunteer firefighter.

    Thank you for a chance to win a copy of Prairie Summer Brides.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  3. When I was a little girl and we lived in a small town in New York, my step-father was a volunteer fireman (later fire chief) and I remember even when the family would be out somewhere and a call would come through he had to go. I remember many times sitting in the car watching them put out the fires.

    • Hi Janine, what a neat memory. My husband’s grandfather worked for the New York city fire department. I have an old photograph of him sitting in front of the fire house with a dalmatian.

  4. My town has volunteers. Not in my town but in two other towns, my brother in law is a volunteer and so was my stepfather.

  5. I now live in a city where they are paid. However, I come from a small town where the men volunteer their time. My dad was a volunteer and now my brother volunteers. It is wonderful that people step up to do what is needed.

  6. Interesting article! I’m glad we have a better chance of stopping a fire these days than way back when. My brother was a volunteer firefighter in our town and went on to be one in the military.

    • Hi Susan, yes, they do have better ways of stopping fires today. I notice that they’ve changed tactics in fighting brush fires around me. Instead of waiting until the fire spreads before bringing out the fire bombers, they’re bringing them out right away.

  7. I have no idea if the firefighters here are volunteer. I live in a small town that has to share everything with another town. We don’t even use the towns zip code for mail, but have to use a neighboring town’s. I’m guess that they are probably volunteer, but I could be wrong.

    • Hi Rebekah, I don’t think you’re alone in that regard. Most people I’ve talked to don’t know if their firefighters are volunteer or not. Until I did the research, I never even thought about it.

  8. That’s really interesting – I had no idea! Luckily, it has come a long way but there’s always room for improvement and hopefully for the safety of all.

  9. Love this history lesson, Margaret! My town still has a few volunteers but they are being edged out by professionals as the area grows.

  10. There are paid and volunteer firefighters in my town.
    I spent 23 years as a volunteer on a rural fire department.

  11. Wow, I guess I never thought about the fierce competition or why the firefighters might be rushing to the fire. The firefighters in my town are professionals, but with city cutback the fire station on our corner has closed. Not a good sign in this drought and summer of fires in CA.

  12. I grew up around a firehouse… my dad and all of the others were volunteers. There were no paid firefighters in our area. I remember going and seeing a few fires… watching them in action. They did a lot to help… I heard stories of them saving people, but sadly one fire took two lives right around the corner of the house where I grew up. It still makes me sad when I remember what happened to a little girl I knew and her aunt.

  13. I live in the country and we have a volunteer company in our township and the township next to it. (We live between the two.) They’re all volunteers but extremely dedicated and responsive. Quite a while ago we had an electrical short that was sending sparks and could have quickly caught something nearby on fire. Both companies were here nearly instantly. Great people. All of them have the blue lights for their cars. They are especially notable because I live no where near a big city, but boy are they dedicated.

    I’m so glad you posted this article because besides the historical information, thinking about these wonderful volunteers is uplifting, particularly in the political climate we’re living in now. Thank you for the lift and the reminder of something to be grateful for.

    • Hi Eliza, thank you for your comments. I found thinking about these dedicated men and women uplifting, too. We don’t give our firemen and policemen enough credit, do we? But where would we be without them?

  14. I live in a small community and we have volunteers in our fire department. They do go through training though in order to be more effective and be safe.

  15. My brother in laws were volunteer, of course nowadays, they do receive training and a bit of retirement. They earned it though, their hearts were in it 200%! My nephew became a paid fireman in a large town, after watching his dad and uncle. I’m proud of all of them!

  16. Margaret, Sorry I missed the giveaway, but enjoyed the post. The town I grew up in had a volunteer fire department. I remember hearing the siren going off and men all over town running to respond. There was a code with the sirens indicating if the fire was mutual aid, in town, out in the country, or just an accident response. We live in the country and all our stations are manned by volunteers. With people scattered all over for jobs it is hard to get a full contingent except in the middle of the night. I am a Red Cross disaster volunteer and there are always more firefighters at the fires in the late afternoon and at night.

    LEFT AT THE ALTAR sounds like it will be another delightful tale.

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