FROM PAST TO TODAY
Istanbul City, in which great historical fires took place, consisted of all wooden buildings since the Byzantine period. That is what the records say. Many fires broke up in Istanbul, like those in the other cities of First and Medieval Ages. The city became more and more important after the Ottoman Conquest. The population of Istanbul increased day by day. The city gradually developed, and streets and squares became smaller due to the new constructions. Therefore fire hazard grew more in the city. All the houses in Istanbul were constructed of wood.
The foundations were made of stones. Puddled clay was used in making walls. Houses were so closely terraced that no doubt they would burn down very quickly in case of fire. When a yell of “Fire!” broke the silence of the midnight, the sleepers threw themselves out of bed and left the houses behind taking their goods, light in weight but heavy in value. Up to 1714, there was no Fire Brigade in Istanbul. On 12th March 1579, according to the ordinance of Sultan Murad the Third, everybody had to have a ladder reaching the roof of their houses and also a big barrel full of water, and in case of fire each member of a family would extinguish the fire in collaboration until janissaries (ottoman soldiers) and the other people came to help. A Frenchman who became a Muslim, changed his name “Davit” to “Davud” and got the adjective “Gerçek [=Real] in front of his new name, manufactured a water-pump called “tulumba”. In 1717, he became the chief of water-pumping team consisting of water – pumpers, which is “tulumbacılar” in Turkish. The water-pumping brigade, which means “Tulumbacılar Ocağı”, prevailed from 1714 to 1827. After the water–pumping brigade was abolished in 1827, a paramilitary fire–extinguishing department was established. It was then realized that this department was insufficient for fires in Istanbul. For this reason, each district was decided to have a water-pump and residing people would become a part of the district water–pumping team. On 26th September 1874, a four–brigade fire regiment was founded and fire platoons were formed by Hungarian Szechenyi Pasha. Each platoon was organized in a district such as Babıali, Fener, Pangaltı, Dolmabahçe, Yıldız, Arnavutköy, Sarıyer, Nuhkuyusu and Kuzguncuk. A naval fire brigade was established afterwards. In 1923, a municipal fire department was founded and 49-year military duty of firefighting passed to the Municipality on 25th September 1923. In 1997, the fire service of Istanbul Municipality, which was a directorate of the Municipality for 74 years, was made into a department, including three directorates. Now the department of Istanbul Fire Brigade incorporates four directorates.