1752 First Fire Regulations

Historical period: The Beginnings

1752 First Fire Regulations

• On September 29, 1752 Edward Cornwallis' successor, Governor Peregrine Hopson, and his Council enacted the first fire regulations for the town of Halifax. It looks like part of these rules are based on a similar act passed in Boston in 1692.

• Below is the Act of 1752:

"The following Act, providing in Case of Fire and was Resolved upon, and ordered to be enacted and published.


An act providing in case of Fire for the more speedy extinguishing thereof and for the preserving of goods endangered thereby - Whereas, by reason of the nature, Contiguity and adjoining of the Houses and Dwellings in the Town and suburbs of Halifax, great Desolation and Ruin must in all probability happen, should any fire break out therein; If all possible means should not be improved for stopping the progress and extinguishing thereof - and Whereas persons whose houses are on fire, or so near as to be in danger thereof are often under great Consternation and Hurry and not only the person in whose house the Fire began, but the neighbourhood are concern to exert their utmost Diligence and application to extinguish it, and prevent the progress thereof and to preserve their substance by the removal of their goods, and for that purpose are glad of the assistance of others; and Whereas evil minded and wicked persons on pretence of chantably offering their help may take the advantage of such confusion and Distress to rob, plunder, embezzle, convey away and conceal the Goods and Effects of their unfortunate neighbours; for preventing thereof and for the more effectual stopping the progress of, and extinguishing fire, should any happen Be it enacted,


By his Excellency the Governor, and his Majesty's Council of this province and by authority of the same it is enacted - That when any Fire shall break out in the Town of Halifax or the suburbs thereof, Two or Three of the Magistrates of the said Town shall and may and are empowered to give direction for pulling down or blowing up any such house or houses, as shall be by them adjudged meet to be pulled down or blown up, for the stopping and preventing the further spreading of the Fire. And if it shall so happen that the pulling down or blowing up of any such house or houses by the Direction aforesaid shall be the occasion of stopping the said Fire, or that the said Fire shall stop before it come[s] to the same, that then all and every owner of such house or houses shall receive reasonable satisfaction and be paid for the same by the rest of the Inhabitants of the said Town and Suburbs (to be accounted from the River called Fresh Water River to Mr. Mauger's Distillery house inclusive) whose house shall not be burnt at such Rate or Rates as shall be thought just (in proportion to the value of the Houses that are to be taxed) by the Justices of the said Town and County, in court assembled at their next Quarterly Sessions - the said tax to be levied, in case of non payment, by Warrant of Distress from the said Justices, and for want of sufficient Distress the offender suffer one month Imprisonment provided always that if the house where the Fire did begin and break out shall be adjudged fit to be pulled down or blown up to hinder the increase and further spreading of the same that then the owner of such house shall require no manner of satisfaction ...


Provided always that if the house where the fire did begin and break out shall be adjudged fit to be pulled down or blown up to hinder increase and further spreading of the same that then the owner of such house shall receive no manner of satisfaction for same or any thing herein contained to the Contrary not withstanding. And it is further enacted by the Authority aforesaid that it shall and may be lawful to and for the Justices of the Peace for the Town and County of Halifax from time to time annually to appoint such number of prudent persons of known fidelity not exceeding Ten in the several parts of the said Town and Suburbs as they may think fit who shall be denominated and called Fire Wards and have a proper badge assigned to distinguish them in their office, of a Staff of Six feet in Length coloured Red and headed with a bright brass pike in of Six inches long. And at times of the breaking forth of fire and during containment thereof shall and are hereby Authorized and empowered to command and require a position for the extinguishing and putting out of the fire and for removing of household stuff and furniture goods and merchandise out of any dwelling house storehouse or other buildings actually on fire or in danger thereof and Guards to secure and take care of the same as also to require assistance for the pulling down or blowing up of any houses in any other service relating thereto by direction of two or more of the magistrates of the town as aforesaid to stop and prevent the further spreading of the fire and to suppress all besmirch and disorders.


And the Officers appointed from time to time aforesaid are required upon the Notice of Fire breaking forth (taking their badge with them) immediately to repair to the place and vigorously exert their authority for the requiring of assistance and using their utmost endeavours to extinguish and prevent the spreading of the Fire and to preserve and secure the Estate and Effects of the Inhabitants; and due obedience is required to be yielded to them and each of them accordingly for that same, and all disobedience, neglect or refusal if any, shall be informed of to some of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace within Two days next after, and the offenders therein upon Conviction thereof before any of the two Justices aforesaid (quorum [...]) shall forfeit and pay the sum of Forty Shillings each to be levied and distributed by the discretion of such Justices among the poor most distressed by the Fire and in case the offenders are unable to satisfy the Fine then to suffer Two days imprisonment. And it is further enacted by the Authority aforesaid that if any evil minded wicked persons shall take the advantage of such Calamity to rob, plunder, [...] embezzle, convey away or conceal any goods, merchandise or effects of the distressed Inhabitants whose houses are on fire or endangered thereby and just upon removing their goods and shall not restore and give notice thereof to the owner or owners if known or bring them to some public places as shall be appointed and assigned by the Governor and Council within the span of Two days next after Proclamation made for that purpose, the person or persons so offending and being thereof convicted shall be deemed Felons and suffer death as in Cases of felony without benefit of Clergy."


(Source: Nova Scotia Archives)


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