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• BVL      Bombeiros Voluntários Lisbonenses

BVL - Bombeiros Voluntários Lisbonenses


Founded in 1910 this FD originated from a scission within the VFD Lisboa in which immediate vicinity, in the upper old historical district, the initial fire-house was established. Later on the VFD Lisbonenses moved their (single) fire-house to the center of Lisbon, where two nearby facilities were consecutively used, the latter being purpose-built and FD-owned.


One of the distinctive characteristics of this FD is indeed a permanent dynamic of innovation, namely with regard to automotive apparatus. In the very early years (after a short period of operation with non-automotive apparatus) it appears that the motorized vehicles operated were the ones privately owned by the FD volunteers. Very soon however the FD Lisbonenses has acquired and put into operation its own  incident-response apparatus.


It should be highlighted that the FD Lisbonenses was the first FD in the city of Lisbon offering the following state of art means of operation: a)a purpose-built pumper, in 1910  (chassis Ferbeck; not represented herein); b)a, purpose built, combination engine carrying a water tank, a booster hose on a fixed reel and a PTO pump).


The latter, (a Delahaye vehicle of the French standard Premier Secours) was ordered in 1919 and added to the fleet in 1921, where it stood in active duty up 1957 and in reserve status until 1961.This apparatus was recognized at the time as a highly innovative and reliable unit, capable of an outstanding operational performance (on grounds of speed, dependability and pumping capacity).


Many other automotive apparatus for specific purposes would follow, both equipped from origin and tailor-made converted (see in this platform, examples of a few in-house conversion drafts). A good example of this is the splendid Ford F-750 Big Job engine that entered in active duty in 1956, which was largely innovative at the time and also a sister unit of the BSB’s work-horse apparatus added to their own fleet in the same year. The 40’s and the 50’s were times of an enhanced re-equipment dynamic, with a particular focus on the Civil Defense   component (concept at the time: response to warfare condition involving the use of chemical and incendiary projectiles), for which purpose special call apparatus became then part of the fleet.


The VFD Lisbonenses fully aligned with a pattern that became a typical attribute on the way the VFDs operate in Portugal: making available to local citizens the continuing operation of a Health Service. This consists in providing 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 Lisbonenses operation, side by side with the response provided in cases of fire and other emergencies.


The existing sources allow to conclude that, since early times of operation, the Health Service of the FD Lisbonenses held and used specific response equipment, which included (since 1911 or even before) one automotive first-aid station, aimed to provide immediate assistance at incident scene. The first automotive vehicle that could carry patients on board (an innovative concept at the time), ie: one ambulance as we know it, was placed in active duty in 1915.


Later on (in the 60’s) the fleet of apparatus received one additional piece, which was a state of art mobile first-aid station on Citroen H chassis. The same type of unit was also operated, at that time or slightly later, by 3 other VFDs in Lisbon: Ajuda, Campo de Ourique and Cruz de Malta. The FD Lisbonenses, thanks to an Alliance Agreement signed with the Red Cross Society, is for many years to date the only FD in Portugal that may use the internationally recognized red cross symbol in its operations and vehicles (check the images of the ambulances in this platform).


Other interesting cases of apparatus operated by the FD Lisbonenses, which departed from the usual standards in the period for the VFD in Portugal, are: a)one fist-responder van, primarily designed for Civil Defense duties, namely in the context of chemical warfare (40’s); b)one ambulance converted from a wrecked luxury Buick where former Public Works Minister Duarte Pacheco lost his life on a car accident in 1943; c)one light-duty apparatus of the elite brand Rolls Royce, which is the only case known of use by any VFD in Portugal, at any time (1st conversion as a personnel carrier/flying squad; 2nd conversion as a quick-response unit (both in the 40’s); d)one Mercedes-Benz ambulance that could carry 5 casualty cases simultaneously: 4 patients on full stretchers and 1 sitting on a medical chair (60’s).


In the years to follow the acquisition of motorized apparatus (for expansion of the fleet or replacement of retired units) went on, at a pace that was unusual comparing to other VFDs in Portugal. The available images describe well the progress achieved in the period 1930-1979.


Although the collection of items in the private FD Lisbonense small museum does not host any apparatus at this time, the quick-response Delahaye mentioned above is currently preserved in good work conditions (although without its original set of ladders in one overhead structure), in the excellent Museu Automóvel do Caramulo, in central Portugal.


Thanks to one well organized archive, part of the FD’s private museum as well as to contribution from the LBP (Portuguese Firefighters League), it was possible to place in this platform a considerable number of  images (and their key references too, these to the extent of possible), which reasonably portrait the evolution of the apparatus held by the FD Lisbonenes in the period concerned by this platform.

For the purpose of coordinating operations between the then BSB and the VFD Lisbonenses, the latter was assigned the complementary co-designation of Lisbon’s 3rd Auxiliary Division of Fire Services.



Ref#1:  José F.R.F. de Sousa, et al (Coord.); Cem Anos 1910-2010. AHBVL & Sempre CA, 2010

Ref#2: site http://www.bvlisbonenses.pt/index.php/veiculos/museu

Ref#3: blogue http://bvlisbonenses-pmacieira.blogspot.pt/

Ref#4: 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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