The Firehouse Light

I happened to pick up this book at the library the other day, and it caused such excitement in our house that I thought I should share.

firehouse light

The Firehouse Light begins with a story of a fire in a small town, many years ago. The townspeople must get their hand-pulled hose carts, axes, and buckets to fight the fire out of a dark wooden shed. Then a simple four watt light bulb is donated to illuminate the shed so that they can get their equipment easier.

The years pass, and the little town grows. The little four watt light bulb is moved to a real firehouse and then a newer one. The firefighting service develops over time; volunteers are replaced by professional firefighters. The hand-pulled hose carts are replaced by horse drawn carts, and then trucks that become gradually more modern; the little town becomes a big town, and then a city.

It is reminiscent of The Little House, but the constant in the story is that four watt light bulb. It continues to glow, softly, a sentinel watching over the many firefighters through the years. One hundred years after the bulb was first lit, the city throws a birthday party for it. At that point, I finally began to wonder, oh my goodness, is this a true story!? Of course it is, as you’ve guessed by now. At the end, there is a picture of the real light bulb, at home in it’s firehouse in Livermore, CA, and the address for its own website!

I was reading to the two little ones, but Savannah, from the next room, called out to ask, is it still burning? Sam and Liss could barely contain their excitement as I pulled up the site. Indeed it is, in it’s 114th year of illumination, having burned for nearly 1,000,000 hours (the website says it will be 1,000,000 as of June this year). You can go see it now, on it’s own webcam. It appears the bulb has already outlasted several cameras, and has been recognized by Guinness and Ripley’s as the world’s oldest known working light bulb. There are some theories that may help explain how it has lasted so long, but I’ll let you explore that topic on your own.


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