18 Nov 2020


Fire Marks of Capitol Hill

You’ve probably seen them around the Hill: Small plaques with a firefighter motif mounted on the front of a house. These plaques hearken back to the early days of fire fighting, when insurance companies would install them on houses that had paid for their services. (RSP)
Over the years, numerous stories evolved around them, including that fire companies would refuse to douse the flames of houses without such plaques. In fact, the fire mark (as they were known) originally, in England, did indicate who was responsible for paying the attending fire company, but the fire fighters would never have left a fire to burn.
In the United States, the marks were heavily used in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in particular. This mark belonged to the Fire Association from that city, while the United Firemen’s Insurance company showed a fire engine bracketed by the letters U and F (see picture, above)
There do not seem to be any fire marks that belong to the city of Washington, those that you do see are either antiques that have been brought from elsewhere or reproductions. Fire makes are popular forms of decoration. Even the reproductions are today collectible – the company that made this particular style went out of business in 2006. It is based on the fire mark used by the Associated Firemen’s Insurance Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

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