The Origins of Baltimore and the Need for Fire Insurance
The origins of the city of Baltimore stretch back to 1745 when Baltimore Town (a town on the Patapsco River), and Jones Town (a town east of Jones’ Falls) were amalgamated into one. Though the first fire regulation was introduced in 1745, the absence of a proper fire fighting force and adequate fire fighting equipment meant that the terror of fire loomed large over the colonists — particularly in winter when people constantly used firewood to heat their homes.
Baltimore’s first recorded fire occurred on March 16, 1749, at the house of the Greenbury Dorsey family. Unfortunately, despite the valiant attempts by locals using leather fire buckets — which most people had in their homes at the time — to save them, they all perished. Over the next several decades, groups of prominent citizens took action to try and protect Baltimore from the scourge of fire. This included the establishment of the Mechanical Fire Company in 1763, the Friendship Fire Company in 1787, the Deptford Fire Company in 1792 and the Liberty Fire Company in 1794. All were volunteer organizations, with limited resources. And most of the time that meant having just one fire engine each.
Despite the efforts of these and other fire companies, fires continued to consume many homes and businesses and the need for fire insurance became increasingly evident. In 1787, the Maryland Legislature passed an act incorporating the Baltimore Fire Insurance Company (later called the Maryland Fire Insurance Company) to help insure the city and its people against fire. However, this company was short-lived, and therefore paved the way for the formation of Baltimore Equitable Insurance.