How Rule Breakers Were Punished 1913-1914

This is the first in a series of posts that will highlight some history of punishments given Detroit Firefighters that broke the rules.  This article is an overview of penalties imposed in 1913 and 1914.  The next will give specific examples (also from 1913 and 1914) of rules broken, excuses given, and the resulting punishments.     

Punishments for rule breakers on the Detroit Fire Department has evolved over the years. In 1913 a firefighter was dismissed from duty for damaging L-15 by driving over a curb. When viewed from today’s standards, that seems like a high price to pay. I’ll leave it to you to decide if time has changed things for the better or the worse. dunceDocuments from 1913 and 1914 show that the punishment for a minor rule infraction was most typically a reprimand.  Loss of leave day privileges for 30–90 days was imposed as the severity of the infraction increased.  In 1913, Detroit Firefighters were given one 24 hour leave and one 12 hour leave in each 11 day cycle. In September of that year a state law designated that all Michigan firefighters be given one 24 leave after each 3 – 24 hour shifts.   Loosing leave days resulted in being on duty continuously for 30–90 days. 

At times a combination on penalties were imposed.  One firefighter, who was 5 hours late for duty, lost 60 days leave and was transferred to a different fire station.  A cadet (the equivalent of today’s trialman) lost leave privileges for 30 days and was set back 10 names on the cadet list.  

For the most severe rule violations a dishonorable dismissal from duty was imposed. When a firefighter was dismissed he was ordered to turn in his badge and buttons.   

In the next post you will notice that penalties could vary based on which firefighter broke a rule or who was offended by your actions.  Not so different from what I’ve witnessed in my time on the job.  For failing to phone in a badge number when assuming watch, one firefighter was reprimanded while another lost 30 days leave.  One firefighter swore at a Lieutenant another swore at a Captain.  Guess who got the stiffer penalty?

Question: Have changes in penatlies imposed evolved for the better or worst? 


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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