VIRGINIA CITY — An exhibition and competition among historic fire engines continuing through today in this Comstock-era mining town includes a hand-pumped engine built in 1810 that was one of the first three ever used in San Francisco.
Protection Engine No. 2, which took a crew of at least a dozen to operate, served with the Fire Department of New York for more than 35 years before being shipped to San Francisco in 1849, said Steve Frady, spokesman for the Reno Fire Department.
It’s among the antique hand-pumped fire engines registered for the free event that began Saturday featuring steam-powered fire engines, motorized fire engines and bucket brigade contests.
“What we have is 200 years of fire technology,” Frady said.
“It’s a great opportunity for families to take a look at how firefighting has evolved over the years. It shows what the evolution of going to a fire and pouring water on a fire is all about,” he said.
The oldest known form of organized firefighting is the bucket brigade, a line of people who continually pass buckets of water from the source to the fire, he said.
Men’s and women’s teams will compete in Virginia City to see who can move 50 gallons of water in the fastest time.
While today’s automated pump engines can produce thousands of gallons a minute, the old hand-pumped version could put out only a couple of gallons per strike, Frady said.
“You really had to pump it hard to get 60 strokes a minute and perhaps get 70 gallons of water,” he said.