German firefighting porta-sprinklers of 1931

A golden age of firefighting was upon us in February, 1931, when Modern Mechanix magazine ran this article on Germany's bizarre portable shower for firefigters:
IT’S a far cry from the old bucket brigade to modern fire-fighting efficiency. Even now the American fireman is known as a “smoke-eater,” but that term would hardly fit the present day fire laddie in Germany, for with the new portable sprinkler system adopted by some of the larger cities of that country a fireman may approach quite close to the flames without becoming singed.

The outfit, which looks like a deep sea diver’s uniform is equipped with a sprinkler helmet which operates off a connection attached to the nozzle of the hose. The fireman can control the spray by a simple movement of a hand lever.

German Firemen Protected by Odd Sprinkler System (Feb, 1931)


  1. My how things have changed. Nows-a-days, a building burning down in Germany is so rare, the fire people are just bored to death. Nothing has been built in the last fifty years out of wood, save maybe the backyard Hütte’s. If the contents of a German residence, apartment building, etc, catch on fire, the most that would ever burn is the roof and the furniture. They construct things here out of ceramic bricks that put a cinder block to shame. This should be the defacto outfit for American firefighters. The US continues to build homes out of wood mostly, and are horrified when they burn down.

    As a profi photog, one of the best images I have seen in a decade, is a subdivision in SoCal where every single home was destroyed by forest fire. Every single one, save one that was built to German standards. It was not touched by fire whatsoever.

    May water raining helmets grace all the brave firefighters in the states, at some point in the future. -Or- May building standards there wise up to the realities of the materials they build with.

  2. California needs to build out of wood, since bricks, ceramic or otherwise, don’t do to well in earthquakes.

  3. I’ll wager the solution used is a small tank of muriatic acid and bicarbonate (I think).

    That’s what was used in the old-school fire-fighting “grenades” (before central sprinklers were common) that you still see hanging in the rafters of some old wooden buildings. Just add air.

  4. “It’s a dry heat” NOT. Have you ever picked up a pot with a wet towel? In the heat encounterd in a building fire, water would proabably only make things worse. Doesn’t look very smart at all.

  5. @4
    that’s from a trading card collection on different trades if I remember correctly. I remember the power linesman card; they used wooden “saddles” over the power lines while working on them hot.

  6. “I choose you, Charizard!”
    “I choose you, German Firefighter of 1931! Your sprinkler attack will be highly effective against Charizard!”
    “Das Sprinkle!”

  7. “The outfit, which looks like a deep sea diver’s uniform…”

    ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ says the old bronze diving helmets were originally invented for fire fighting.

    Brilliant way to roast your skull.

  8. As a firefighter there appears to be some significant problems with this design: 1. As stated before, hello steam burns! Water is a FF’s best friend, but only if used correctly. 1.a. Dragging an additional hose to supply this would be too cumbersome. 2. Encapsulate the head in a metal bucket? Crispy!

    If this was a good design/idea, it would have been put into practical use.

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