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• BVL       Bombeiros Voluntários de Lisboa

BVL - Bombeiros Voluntários de Lisboa


Founded in 1868 this is the oldest VFD in Portugal, entitled from its origin to the use of the nobility title of Royal. Along the early years of operation a number of volunteers have ceased their membership with the purpose of establishing other VFDs, in Lisbon and elsewhere That is the case for the VFD Lisbonenses (originated on a scission held in 1910) and the Campo de Ourique VFD, established in 1916.


The VFD Lisboa has always been located in the upper portion of the old town, from where apparatus respond, within and outside this historical area, since the hand-traction times. The first steam pump, operated by animal traction, entered on active duty in 1906. Motorization of the apparatus has started with the acquisition of one Isotta Frachinni private car, which was converted into one light-duty pumper that has served this VFD from 1913 to 1933 (no images available). The next automotive piece of apparatus, also converted from a private car into a light-duty pumper, was a Spa inaugurated in 1928 (see picture herein).


The VFD Lisboa has set a pattern that would become a typical attribute on the way the VFDs operate in Portugal: making 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 Lisboa’s operation, side by side with the response in cases of fire and other emergencies.


The first motorized piece of apparatus aimed to support the Health Service (as a semi-autonomous branch named Cruz Portuguesa-The Portuguese Cross) entered on active duty in 1916 and consisted on a small first-aid station, with no patient transportation capability. The first motorized vehicle specified by this FD as one ambulance (in the current sense of the word, ie: a vehicle able to carry within it illness cases or accident victims) was one Daimler private car, special purpose-converted in 1933.


The dates of de-activation of the hand and animal traction are not known. The decade of the 30’s was characterized by the acquisition and operation of several automotive apparatus, typically on US-made chassis. Along that period it is well documented the inauguration of 3 additional ambulances, 1 light-duty pumper (Stutz chassis) and 1 personnel carrier/flying squad.

In the 40’0s and 50’s there was a remarkable progress towards modernization of the fleet of apparatus, which took place by the acquisition of 1 brand-new heavy-duty pumper, several ambulances and 1 Willys jeep.


Such effort would be quite enhanced in the 60’s by means of adding 7 new apparatus to the fleet, including one medium-duty Ford pumper that was rebuilt (for fitting into the Fire House…), following donation by the BSB where that rig had seen active duty. The splendid heavy-duty International H pumper that entered in active duty in the 70’s was the first apparatus at the fire scene in the early hours of the infamous day in August 1988 when the Chiado  conflagration destroyed a portion of the historical part of the city, in the immediate vicinity of the VFD Lisboa’s fire-house.


As direct access to the documentary sources  (except a booklet for the 1968 anniversary) was not possible all data released in this platform (namely the identification and description of the rigs) should be considered as merely indicative, that is: it may have happened that, unwillingly, that some important pieces of apparatus were overlooked or ill-described in this platform. Consequently additional contributions and comments, namely from former volunteers or officials, is highly appreciated and most welcome anytime in the future

For the purpose of coordinating operations between the then BSB and the VFD Lisboa, the latter was assigned the complementary co-designation of Lisbon’s 1st Auxiliary Division of Fire Services.



Ref#1:  BVLisboa; Centenário 1868-1968.BV Lisboa, 1968

Ref#2: site http://bvlisboa.com.sapo.pt/Paginas/historia.html

Ref#3: 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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