Like Moths To A Flame

This exhibition of istanbul’s traditional fire brigades at rezan has museum is chock full of historical detail.

Their job was not easy. They were playing with fire, but how good-natured they were… They had their own slang, their own endless verbal interplay. It was a culture all its own, a way of life.

Istanbul’s traditional ‘tulumbacı’ fire brigades performed a municipal service in a veritable theatrical display of inimitable cries and verses chanted on the way to and from the scene of the conflagration. The mixed military-civilian firefighter brigades of the Ottoman Empire symbolized the honor and heroism of their neighborhood. So how were they transformed into our business-like fire fighters of today?

The exhibition, which parts the curtain on the neighborhood firefighting culture that disappeared in August 1924 after the founding of the Republic, includes a selection of equipment from the Cibali Tobacco and Cigarette Factory Fire Brigade and from the Fire Brigade Museum’s collection.  May 31st is the last day of the exhibition, which features a plethora of details about everyday life, the state structure and the socio-cultural dynamics of the period.

The European practice of fighting fires with a water pump or ‘tulumba’ started in France and Hungary in the 16th and 17th centuries. The introduction of the tulumba in the Ottoman Empire in the early 18th century (November 1719 - November 1720) is attributed to an engineer of French origin by the name of Gerçek Davud (originally ‘David’).