The gasoline-powered fire-fighting pump, invented by Gottlieb Daimler and the subject of a patent application filed with the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin on July 29, 1888, attracted worldwide attention in next to no time.

Gasoline engine by Daimler, piston pump by Kurtz

Gasoline and fire – two elements which firefighters were unable to reconcile for a long time. Back in 1910, the fire brigade commissioners still disagreed as to whether the gasoline engine was suitable for driving fire-fighting vehicles or not – despite the fact that they had been using gasoline engines for some 20 years at the time, not to drive vehicles, though, but to drive pumps.

It is generally assumed that it was bell-founder and fire-fighting pump manufacturer Heinrich Kurtz who gave Gottlieb Daimler the idea of placing his gasoline engine at the service of fire brigades. Be that as it may, it was Kurtz who had produced the castings for Daimler's first internal-combustion engine two years earlier, and who now supplied the fire-fighting appliance with piston pump for which Daimler made an engine available – initially a one hp single-cylinder unit.

Gasoline engine by Daimler (1888) - picture 1 of 4
Gasoline engine by Daimler (1888) - picture 2 of 4
Gasoline engine by Daimler (1888) - picture 3 of 4
Gasoline engine by Daimler (1888) - picture 4 of 4

Kurtz was perfectly familiar with the fire brigades' problems, knowing that the steam-powered pumps customary at the time required about a quarter of an hour's heating before they were operational. In order not to have to idly watch the fire wreaking havoc during this time, the fire brigades carried along gas-powered extinguishers, spraying water into the flames under carbonic-acid pressure. A gasoline engine, by contrast, was capable of being put into operation immediately and with much greater effect.

In his turn, Gottlieb Daimler was gladly prepared to open up new fields of application for his internal-combustion engine. Only a small additional transmission was required to adapt the high-speed single-cylinder engine to Kurtz's piston pump which, in its turn, reached its highest efficiency at 180/min. Gottlieb Daimler was granted a patent – No. 46779, class 59 – for his engine-driven fire-fighting pump on April 15, 1889.

Output boosted to up to ten hp

No invention, however well devised, cannot be improved upon. Daimler's engine-driven fire-fighting pump may have been capable of holding its own in competition with any contemporary fire-fighting appliance, but there was no good reason for being content with an engine output of just one hp. As early as the 13th German Fire Brigades' Convention in Hanover the same year, Daimler displayed a more powerful engine-driven fire-fighting pump, now featuring a twin-cylinder engine with as much as four hp (2.9 kW). In the following years, Daimler boosted the output of his engines up to ten hp (7.4 kW). And as early as 1892, his six hp (4.4 kW) pump proved itself in a large fire in Cannstatt where it did five hours of reliable service in fighting the fire in a factory producing bed feathers. Its technical data caused quite a stir: it sucked water from a depth of five meters and pumped it through a 150 meter long pressure hose 20 meters high into the roof. This appealed to the professional fire brigade of Erfurt, which acquired the fire-fighting pump at a price of 5610 marks in 1896. In Erfurt, the pump continued doing reliable service for another 25 years.

The fact that the first engine-driven pumps were limited in their capacity was attributable less to the engines than to the pumps. It was not before 1909 that high-speed centrifugal pumps were developed, making better use of the engine output and pumping the water jet twice as high into the air.

Worldwide attention

Daimler was perfectly convinced of the trend-setting nature of his invention. As early as 1892 he left no stone unturned in his endeavors to spread the news of his engine-driven fire-fighting pump throughout the world. In that year, he displayed a unit with six hp (4.4 kW) twin-cylinder engine first in St. Petersburg, then in Leipzig, Munich, Florence and Milan. In 1893, Daimler's engine-driven fire-fighting pump was exhibited at the World Exposition in Chicago.

A Daimler fire-fighting pump was also shown at the first British "Horseless Carriage Exhibition" in Tunbridge Wells in 1895. Gottlieb Daimler had sent it to Evelyn Ellis who, together with Frederick R. Simms, managing director of Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd., proudly presented it to a stunned public.