Killed in the Line of Duty
December 05, 1855
|Cause of Death||
|At Fire Box Number||
Cincinnati became the first fire department in the country to use steam fire
engines pulled by horse and operated by a professional paid fire department.
This unique combination of three key elements established a new standard for
quality in the fire service. The Cincinnati model would not be surpassed
for more than 60 years when mechanized apparatus started to replace horse
drawn steamers. Other cities saw the success of Cincinnati's new
professional department and wanted to bring the steam fire engines to their
communities. When considering what engines to purchase, representatives of
these cities often made the trip to Cincinnati to see demonstrations of
their engines in action. Such was the case on December 5th, 1855. The
famous first steamer in Cincinnati's fleet, "The Uncle Joe Ross," was
brought out for a demonstration before a committee of men from Chicago.
Alexander Latta, the inventor of the Uncle Joe Ross, was on hand as engineer
John Winterbottom brought the engine up to pressure. As the steam pressure
reached its highest point a hose burst and people tried to warn Winterbottom
to stop the engine. Others had made warning regarding how high the pressure
was getting and the amount of water in the engine. Finally Winterbottom
shut the engine off but just as it stopped it exploded in a blast that
tossed the engineer into the air. Windows were blown out of neighboring
buildings. Winterbottom had been killed and Latta injured.