CFDHISTORY ---›Line of Duty Deaths ---› 98John Winterbottom

John Winterbottom

Killed in the Line of Duty December 05, 1855

Fire Company Unknown
Cause of Death Steamer Explosion
At Fire Box Number
Incident Type Accident
Incident Location

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.