- Warsaw Fire Guard
Warsaw Fire Guard ( _pl. Warszawska Straż Ogniowa) was a
fire fightingunit in the city of Warsaw. Formed as Warsaw's first permanent fire service in 1834, it remained an independent and city-owned venture until its nationalization by the Nazi German authorities during the occupation of Poland following the Polish Defensive War of 1939.
The Warsaw Fire Brigade was created on
December 23, 1834, by the Administrative Council of the Kingdom of Poland. It was to be modelled after a similar fire-fighting unit created in Saint Petersburgonly a year earlier. On February 6of the following year Lt. Colonel Jan Robosz became the first Fire Chief of Fire Guard in Warsaw. The organization of the unit ended on January 1, 1836, and it began its duty. Initially named Fire Guard in Warsaw (Straż Ogniowa w Warszawie), in 1841 it was renamed to Warsaw Fire Guard (Warszawska Straż Ogniowa). The Guard was entitled with all maintenance duties in the city, including putting down fires and fire prevention, but also cleaning the chimneys and the streets. It was divided onto four departments, each of them taking care of a different borough of Warsaw. In 1851 additional department was created for the borough of Mirów. In 1864 the Guards received the first steam engine operated mobile pump, manufactured by a London-based "F. Shand, Mason and Co." firm. The following year two additional vehicles arrived, thus making the Warsaw Fire Guard one of the best-equipped such units in continental Europe. The Guards also assisted in a number of experiments, among them in the tests of a carbonic acid fire extinguisherin 1869.
Although the Guards remained largely independent even after the failed
January Uprisingagainst Russia, the tragic death of Col. Urban Majewskiin 1872 marked the end of much of its independence. His successor as the commander of the Guards, Col. Ivan Anienkov, was a Russian and, in accordance with Russian policy of Russificationof Poland, until World War Iall commanders of the Guards were also Russians. In 1887 the Guards form a "Fire Brigade Band"; with time it became one of the notable parts of the folklore of the fire-fighting units in Poland. Even as of 2006most of the fire fighting units have their own orchestras. In 1878, president of Warsaw Sokrat Starynkiewiczordered a new building for the Guards' headquarters, the first such building constructed in Poland specifically for the needs of the firefighters. Throughout its existence, the Guard usually followed the technical development and introduction of new equipment. In 1906 the guards were equipped with asbestosprotective garment, as the first fire fighting unit in the Russian Empire. In 1911 the first mobile ladder made by the Magiruscompany arrived and in 1914 the Guards leased the first automobile, a van manufactured in the Büssingcompany.
After the outbreak of
World War Ithe Guards continued their service. However, in July of 1915 the Russians ordered the evacuation of Warsaw and most of the Guards, along with their equipment. Some of them served in Russian cities, most notably Minsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg. However, many of them escape from the Russians and return to the Central Powers-occupied city. Among them is Józef Tuliszkowski, who on September 4was named the commander of the guards. In 1916 the first automobile built exclusively for the firefighters was purchased from the Hans Lloydcompany. The same year the citizens of Warsaw sponsored a banner for the Guards, to mark the 80th anniversary of their creation.
After the end of
World War IPoland regained her independence and the pre-war commander of I and IV departments Capt. Józef Hłaskoreturned to Warsaw from Moscow(where he served as the commander of that city's firefighters) and became the successor of Tuliszkowski. In 1920, during the Polish-Bolshevik War, the Polish Ministry of Interior decided to nationalize the unit. However, the authorities of Warsaw have sued the state authorities and the decision was withdrawn. Until World War IIthe Warsaw Fire Guards were the only privately owned fire brigade in Poland and one of the very few such units in the world. Officially their status was similar to that of the Municipal Police. The private ownership (most of the shares were held by the city of Warsaw) allowed for fast modernization of the Guards. In 1928 the last horse-drawn cart was decommissioned and since then the Guard was fully motorized. In 1936 a new headquarters was built at Polna street, where one of the branches is located even now.
In 1939, after the outbreak of the Polish Defensive War, by orders of one of the military commanders, the Warsaw Fire Guard was withdrawn from Warsaw to Lublin. However, many firefighters ignored the orders and stayed in Warsaw, where their continued their service during the hard days of the siege of Warsaw, extinguishing fires in dramatic conditions, often during German bombardment. Along with their colleagues evacuated from
Łódź, Brzeziny, Ozorkówand Nieszawa, they continued their service until the capitulation of Warsaw. Altogether, the Warsaw firefighters lost 30 men and 50 wounded during the fights.
After the start of the German occupation of Poland, the Warsaw Fire Guard was officially nationalized by the Nazis. However, the unit remained largely independent and in December 1939 most of the firefighters joined a newly-formed
Skałaresistance organization, with time incorporated into the Armia Krajowa. Most of the firefighters took part in the Warsaw Uprisingof 1944, when their experience and commitment proved vital in stiffening the resistance of the besieged city under constant bombardment. On an interesting note, one of the self-propelled pumps of the Warsaw Fire Guard was used as a flamethrowerduring the heavy fights for the PASTbuilding. The last commander of the Warsaw Fire Guards was Col. Adam Kalinowski. After the war the Allied-backed communist authorities of Poland did not re-create the Guards and instead formed a local branch of the state-owned firefighters unit.
postage stampwas issued in 1986 to commemorate the Brigade's 150th anniversary. It featured a painting by Józef Brodowskiof the brigade's horse-drawn carriages on their way to fire in 1870.
# Jabłonowski W., "Warszawska Straż Ogniowa 1836-1939", Warszawa 2001
# dr Boss E. "Dzieje Warszawskiej Straży Ogniowej 1836-1936", W-wa 1937
# pr. zbior. "Opowieść o warszawskich strażakach. CXXV lecie WSP", Warszawa 1961
# Burzyński E. "Z dziejów Warszawskiej STraży Pożarnej. 150 lat działalności." Warszawa 1989
# Jaworski A., Wilczur J. " Strażacka wierność", Warszawa 1988
* [http://members.home.nl/bnieborg/series/2878.html Stamp featuring the Fire Brigade]
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