To help them find the fire hydrants. This is a joke that I heard on the radio on my way to work this morning. Funny, but nowhere near the truth. Dogs are often considered a staple in the fire department, specifically dalmatians. That brings up the question why do fire houses have dalmations as mascots? You might think that it is for companionship, and though that is a byproduct of having a dog around, it was not the original purpose.
It seems that many years ago, oh lets say the 17th, 18th and 19th century when the primary mode of transportation was the horse and carriage, that it was common for the dalmatian to run along side of the carriage to protect the horses and carriage as well as the passengers and their luggage. When other dogs would run up to try and scare the horses, the dalmatians (there were usually two) would jump into action. Amazingly the horses and dalmatianswould develop a very strong bond. It is because of this bond that dalmatians became the universal symbol for the fire department.
Fire departments would usually keep a dalmatian on hand to protect the fire house as well as the horses that were used to pull the pumper. That was not their only purpose though. In those days, insurance companies would usually pay those who put out a fire, and since the first one to the fire would be the one that would get paid, dalmations would fend off any one else that might try to get ahead of the fire department to put out the fire.
Here is where we get to the companion part. Once horse drawn fire equipment was replaced by mechanical, the dalmatian stayed on as a companion for the fire fighters at the station. Many fire stations across the US and England still have a dalmation around for companionship.
If you would like to read more about the history of the dalmatian in the fire department or more about the dalmatian breed, please follow the links below.
Dalmatian in Fire Fighting History – South Bay, WA Fire Department
Dalmatian History – American Kennel Club