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Four's Company: 1943

Four's Company: 1943

January 1943. "Engine Company No. 4, Washington, D.C. Firemen returning from a fire." Photo by Gordon Parks for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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6th and R Street NW

Engine Company No. 4 was DC's first all-black firefighting company. It was moved to 931 R Street NW in 1940. This scene shows the truck heading east on R Street as it crosses 6th Street. Only one of the houses with the fancy turrets on the left still has its turret (602 R Street NW). This photo is probably from the series Gordon Parks did to document Engine 4.

No more tailboarding

The practice of tailboarding (as we called it where I was), that is having firefighters ride on the back step, was abolished throughout the U.S. by the mid-1970s. It was an incredibly dangerous practice and lots of firefighters were killed falling off the back of the truck trying to get into their gear while bumping down streets and around corners.

Modern fire trucks have inside seating with seats designed to hold turnout gear and breathing apparatus so that you can don your gear while in motion and still be safe. Firefighters do a much better job when they arrive alive!

Back step Firefighters

No longer do Firefighters ride the back step to fires. Today they all sit in an enclosed cab, most often air conditioned.

The days of the back step firemen are gone.

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