Fire service folklore recounts the practice of firemen growing long beards to help them breathe heavy smoke. The theory was a fireman would dip his whiskers in a pail of water, then clinch his wet beard between his teeth and breathe through his mouth, using the wet beard as a filter.

One of the earliest recorded attempts was in France, where the "Apparatus Aldini" was tested in 1825. This was a thick mask of asbestos worn over the head. Another mask made of woven iron wire was placed over the first. The device provided a small margin of heat protection, provided the wearer was able to maintain the air space between the two masks and not allow the iron mask to touch the inner mask.

1824, a miner named John Roberts came up with a "smoke respirator," or hood, that would allow a person "to enter a dense smoke condition without any danger." Various types of filter masks were developed and used by firemen in Europe and the United States. In 1861, an inventor named Brad Brooke devised a "smoke and noxious vapor respirator" designed to allow a person to "enter a building however dense the smoke or vapor might be without injury."

James Braidwood, the Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade, invented another type of hose mask at about the same time. To supply air and protect the firefighter from smoke, a tube was co nnected to an air pump attached to the engine outside the fire building. A stout leather dress and hood were worn to protect the wearer from heat and flames. Thickly glazed eye holes were provided in the hood. To furnish light a powerful reflecting lantern was worn on the chest. A shrill whistle was attached to the hood for emergency communications.

In 1863, a patent was granted to A. Lacour for his invention, the "improved respiring apparatus." This was actually a self-contained breathing apparatus of sorts and consisted of an airtight bag made of two thicknesses of canvas, separated by a lining of India rubber. The device was carried on the fireman's back and held in place by two shoulder straps and a belt around the waist. The bag was filled with pure air inflated with a pair of bellows, and came in different sizes for air durations of 10 to 30 minutes. From the upper part of the bag two India rubber tubes were connected to a mouthpiece that was held in place by biting down with the teeth. Corks were placed in the mouthpiece when the bag was being filled through a faucet at the bottom of the bag. The corks were then removed when the wearer was ready to begin breathing the stored air. It came with a pair of goggles to protect the eyes from smoke, a rubber clamp for the nose and an air whistle that could be pressed by hand to signal.

In the 1870s, fire departments were buying and using "Nelly’s Smoke Excluding Mask." This filter-type mask had a small bag of water that was suspended by a neck strap. Connected to the water bag were two sponge filters that were kept wet when the bag was squeezed. Air was drawn through the filters to the mouthpiece in the face mask.

Toward the end of World War II, Scott Aviation was manufacturing breathing equipment that allowed air crews to operate at extreme altitudes. One story goes that a number of Scott engineers watched a smoky fire being fought in a nearby building. They were amazed that the firemen had to operate in such a severe smoke condition and they decided to see if they could adapt their equipment to suit firefighting. Working with the Boston and New York City fire departments, Scott introduced the Air Pac in late 1945 after a year of field testing.

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Merrit I am surprised you didn't mention the "Draeger" Breathing apparatus such as was purchased and placed in service with such companies as The FDNY Rescue when it was formed back in 1917 (?) if I recall, correctly Due to the varied occupancies Of Hell's hundred acres n Manhattan Fires in idustrial complexes manufaturic all sorts of nasty chemicals and I believe It was a loss offirefighters lives in such a fire that caused "rescue" to be formed The Draeger Company came back after many years "away from" atleast Not the primary manufacturer out there, But they were around Back in those days... I wonder how much insite was gained from the "old school" Navy Hard hat divers technology of the late 1800's... I sumise a LOT!!! the FDNY draegers of the teens seemed to be scaled down lighter versions ....:) Any one up for some research?? lol I know I dont have that much time to go looking....
Sorry for not getting back on this as soon as I should have just been really busy thats all. Anyways ask and you shall recieve. Here is what I found out about the "Draeger" Breathing Apparatus. Enjoy !!

During the first decade of the twentieth century, mine rescue teams across Germany, England and Mexico and even mountaineering rescue squads in England, became accustomed to the reliability and performance of using their Dräger breathing apparatus. Word spread quickly about the great success of the breathing devices due to their use in the harsh environments of underground mines, in high altitudes and from news of the esteemed awards given Dräger for the apparatuses at the St. Louis World’s Fair. “Many heroic deeds were being performed in our apparatus”, wrote Heinrich Dräger in 1913.
It was during these early years that the mine rescue men using the apparatus were being called “Drägermen”, quite possibly coined by a newspaper reporter. Ever since, the name “Drägerman” has been synonymous with mine rescue teams worldwide and in the last few decades it has carried over to those firefighters wearing a Dräger breathing apparatus. One industry taking notice of the Dräger apparatus was the American fire service because they too could use dependable breathing protection against smoke and fumes when fighting fires and Dräger’s technology was deemed revolutionary.
From 1913 through 1918, two American - New York and Pittsburgh - city fire departments began equipping their firefighters with the Dräger breathing apparatus. Today, both cities are still
using Dräger self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). An elite group of NYFD firefighters use the Dräger BG-4 four-hour breathing apparatus for incident response, subway/tunnel rescues
and high-rise building fires. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire has been using the Dräger AirBoss® SCBAs for ten years 24/7 without any performance failures! Now, all across America from the Anchorage, Alaska FD to the Miami, Florida FD, somewhere there are firefighters wearing Dräger SCBAs any given minute of every day.
Pictures of Breathing Apparatus
More pictures of Breathing Apparatus
How about this little number. It looks a though it used air siphened by means of the charged hose line
this helps me out ALOT im doing a research paper on Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and im finding a lot of info on SCUBA's and very lil on SCBA
I did some digging around and found these 2 sites the 1st is similar if not the same and the about Draeger 1900
We have created a FREE National Clearinghouse for Firefighting Equipment.
If you have or know a company who has gear that has been taken out of service but might be used by another company, post it. If you have a need, post that too so others can see that too.

Here's a reference that might help -

Proto 'rebreather' BA was used by the London Fire Brigade as early as 1913 and they were still using it in 1966, alongside what we now consider "conventional" SCBA.  It had a longer duration than those early SCBAs but you had a cylinder of pure oxygen strapped to your chest!

Thanks for the info on Drager, wasn't sure on that history. Of course the Scott was developed by Scott Avaition. MSA was Mine Safety Agencey, so that mining industry and Survivair/Sperian now Honeywell came out to the diving industry. Of course there are ISI, Interspiro and others looking for part of the market. As a tech for Scott, Survivair and MSA each have strengths and weaknesses, and each have their own challenges servicing.

The Vajen-Bader Co. produced firemen's respiratory equipment since its founding in 1881. The "Vajen-Bader Patent Smoke Protector" of the 1890s and early 1900s sealed off the wearer's head from the environment and supplied breathable air   Its  marked as  draeger  (wrong)  Vajen-Bader Co.



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