Departments // Summury presentation with a focus on the period
BVA - Bombeiros Voluntários da Ajuda
Founded in 1880 this VFD is one of the oldest in Portugal. One of its former Fire Chiefs was Royal Prince Afonso and the first fire house was a small storehouse in the Royal Palace of Ajuda. For a number of reasons the operational base of this VFD was re-located in 1907 from its original 1st alarm response area (the Ajuda District, now part of Lisbon but formerly one of its outskirt villages) to a city’s mid-town location (occupying two nearby facilities, one after the other). In early 2016 however the Ajuda FD has returned to its District of origin, for the time being housed in provisional facilities, in the north-western section of the city of Lisbon.
Following a pattern that became a typical attribute on the way the VFDs operate in Portugal these usually make available to local citizens the continuing operation of a Health Service (ie: immediate assistance and patient transportation in cases of illness or accident, including attending to the victims of serious civil unrest incidents, which were frequent events in the late 19 and early 20 centuries). This component has been a distinctive feature of the VFD Ajuda operation, side by side with the response in cases of fire and other emergencies. For this purpose a semi-autonomous branch named Cruz Verde (the Green Cross) was created, as it conspicuously shows in the FD’s crest.
Old images available evidence the existence of wheeled stretchers and other vehicles assigned to the Health Service, including one mobile first-aid station, operated by human or animal traction and later motorized according to those ancient pictorial records. These also lead to the conclusion that human traction has indeed coexisted with early automotive apparatus assigned to fire-fighting duties (not depicted in this platform though), which look as dating from the first decade of the 20th century. The information that could be sourced from this FD’s small museum and historical archive (undergoing re-organization) does not allow however for listing and describing with precision the whole motorization process of the apparatus used by the FD Ajuda along the period concerned by this platform.
Despite research constraints and based on little more than old images from different sources it is however possible to affirm the following:
a) in 1907 there existed, at least, one automotive light-duty pumper, most likely resulting from conversion of a private car;
b) in 1925 the fleet of apparatus consisted, at least, on: 1 ambulance and 4 light-duty apparatus (of Pumper or utility categories), including the 1907 one.
It is assumed, although not duly backed by indisputable evidence, that some of those rigs would still be active in the beginning of the 30’s. There is however strong evidence that modern motorized apparatus were purchased and put to operation the 40’s: at least one light-duty Packard pumper (sold new by the H.Vaultier company, even in the late 30’s), then named the “extra-rapid rig” (likely inspired in BSB’s ASS class units operated from 1930/31) and one Fargo ambulance. The former would add to a former heavy duty pumper, which image is available in this platform although no documentary reference could be traced for it.
In the decade of the 50’s an excellent, although still not enclosed body, medium/heavy duty pumper was added to the fleet, where it saw many years of active duty, along with other (new or used) pieces of apparatus, a of smaller calibre though.
In the 60’s pictures show one light/medium duty Ford pumper (most likely donated by the then BSB, after end of its active life there as a quick-response apparatus). This rig would be replaced in the 70’s decade, by a functionally equivalent Dodge/Pierce/Jacinto M.O. enclosed body apparatus. The latter would be operated by the VFD Cruz de Malta as well, at an undisclosed time (pictures in this platform show the same vehicle with the two different liveries).
Later on and similarly with what has happened with other VFDs in Lisbon, the FD Ajuda received by donation one medium/heavy duty Pumper (Chevrolet) and one Tanker/Water Carrier (Bedford), both discharged from active duty in the BSB. No precise dates are known for these new acquisitions, which are likely to have occurred during the 70’s decade.
Throughout the 1930-1979 time-frame (and later) the fleet of the FD Ajuda has always integrated automotive pumpers, along with a considerable quantity of ambulances and tankers/water carriers (the latter from the 60’s decade onwards). It is also noted that, similarly to what the FDs Lisbonenses, Campo de Ourique and Cruz de Malta did, the FD Ajuda has operated sometime along the 60’s/70’s decades one mobile first-aid vehicle, based on a Citroen H chassis (no images available). The Ajuda FD still keeps in good working condition (at least in 2014 it was the case), as one museum and parade piece of apparatus, one 1/4 Ton Wyllis jeep (dated from the 40’s?), probably donated by the Portuguese Army in the late 50’s or early 60’s.
The pictures available in this platform concern some of the apparatus in active duty or acquired in the 1930-979 period, which images and details could be unveiled, irrespectively of the historical or operational relevance of those vehicles. In more recent years the apparatus fleet was significantly increased, namely by means of importing from Germany a few second-hand heavy-duty vehicles (pumpers and rescue units).
For the purpose of coordinating operations between the then BSB and the VFD Ajuda, the latter was assigned the complementary co-designation of Lisbon’s 2nd Auxiliary Division of Fire Services.
Ref#1: blog Restos de Colecção (http://restosdecoleccao.blogspot.pt/2014/07/bombeiros-voluntarios-da-ajuda.html)
Ref#2: F. H. Santos (Coord.); Bombeiros Portugueses-seis séculos de história (2 vols).SNB/LBP, Lisboa 1995
© LIS50 | 2016 50 years of Lisbon’s motorized fire & rescue apparatus - 1930 through 1979 // (an history-aimed, not-for-profit private initiative)
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