Don’t Miss a Run, and Stay Off the Sidewalks – A Look at Detroit Firefighters Punishable Offenses

As mentioned in the previous article being late was the most common punishable offense for Detroit Firefighters listed in documents from 1913-1914. Offenses involving run response were also common.

Detroit Firefighters hook horses using suspended harness system circa. 1878.

Suspended harness systems, like the one shown in this picture, were installed in all Detroit firehouses in 1878.

In the era when horse power literally pulled fire equipment to emergencies, it was important that firefighters assisted in hitching the horses when a call came in. Consequently when men failed to assist there were consequences, regardless of the reason.

Good Reasons Still Punished

One Detroit Firefighter simply didn’t hear the alarm, therefore didn’t assist with the horses. He lost all leave for 30 days. The penalty was lighter for a man who was on the toilet, which prevented him from helping with the horses. He only received a reprimand. A Detroit Firefighter that was charged with failure to respond with his company stated that his foot fell asleep and when he got out of bed he fell, subsequently missing the rig. When he was able to get up he started running to the location of the emergency only to meet his company on their way back. He received a reprimand.

Follow the Rule When Responding To Runs

Here are some other examples of charges involving run response:

  • Not taking the most direct route to a box alarm – reprimand

NOTE FROM RETIRED DETROIT FIREFIGHTER WAYNE ISKEN: In 1962 we were taught to take the most direct route to a fire. While you may not necessarily have been charged you were questioned about it not taking the most direct route.

  • Passing another rig on the way to a fire – reprimand
  • Driving on the sidewalks causing himself to be thrown off the rig – loss of leave for 60 days. (Rules prohibited running rigs on sidewalks date back to 1855.)
  • Damaging Ladder 15 by driving over the curb – dismissed from the department

Today we no longer have horses to harness, but Detroit Firefighters are still known to miss the rig by not hearing an alarm come in or being detained on the toilet. I can personally attest to being awaken by the alert bell and lights only to realize my arms or legs were asleep. Although I did not miss the run, I’m sure I looked really silly trying to control my unruly limbs as I tried to don my gear.

The next post will discuss long/short leave day punishments and company punishments that were in place in the 1950’s – 1970’s era.

This is the 3rd in a series of posts that highlight some history of punishments given Detroit Firefighters that broke rules. Other posts in this series are:How Rule Breakers Were Punished 1913-1914. 2 Rule Breakers, Same Offense, Different Consequences

Question: What are the strangest or funniest reason you’ve heard for missing a run?

Information for this series of articles provided by Detroit Fire retiree Wayne Isken. Wayne writes the Wayne’s Stuff articles you may have seen. His articles are geared toward stirring the memories of the department retirees with his “Do you remember….” questions. For those of us who were not around during those days they hold a wealth of information about how things use to be. I strongly encourage you to take a look at his writings. They can be found at his website and on

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