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Jun. 23, 2021 | Wednesday
Local News
Exploring Photos with the NOTL Museum: House fires prevalent in 1800s
Exploring photos with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.

In Upper Canada during the early 19th century, metal plaques were provided by fire insurance companies to homeowners who had purchased insurance coverage. This plaque is oval and depicts two hands shaking above the date 1836, followed by the words "Niagara District Mutual Fire Insurance Co." Open fires were an essential part of living in those days, used for heating in winter and cooking throughout the year. But with many fires left unattended, and many houses made almost entirely of wood, serious house fires were quite common and often devastating. The intention was that the homeowner displayed the plaque on the outside of their house so when firefighters arrived they would see the plaque and know they would be paid by the insurance company upon successful completion of their job. It is said that fire brigades would sometimes refuse to put out a fire if there was no immediate evidence of fire insurance on the property. Indeed, fire was so ever-present and potentially catastrophic at the time that it became common for many insurance companies to own and operate their own fire brigades until that responsibility was passed over to local government in 1866. A special thank you to the firefighters of today who always are there to help those in need in our community. We appreciate your bravery and dedication to your job.