History of the Term Fire Plug & Plug Ugly April 27 2016, 2 Comments
The term 'fire plug' dates back to the early 1800s, when water mains were made from wood. The fire department (usually volunteers) would head out to the fire, dig up the cobbles down to the main, then chop into the main so that they could secure the hoses from their pumpers. When finished fighting the fire, they'd seal the main with -- you guessed it -- a "fire plug." The next time there was a fire in the neighborhood, they'd dig up the plug and not have to cut into the main. Hence the term fire plug.
The first firefighters to put water on the fire were paid by the insurance companies. The competing local fire departments would often fight, coming to blows, over the privilege and the payout afterward. Engine crews, knowing that whoever controlled the water would extinguish the fire, would send the meanest, toughest, goons they had ahead of the pumper to guard the plug. Anyone from another crew who came near it would have to fight him. This is where the term plug ugly comes from.
Now-a-days firefighters have automatic and mutual aid. But we've never seemed to shake the competition and the rivalry created by our forefathers. And sometimes, I think, a little competition is a good thing.
New design for the old-school bent-nose brawlers