The Firefighters' Guild has been formed and dissolved repeatedly throughout the history of Ankh-Morpork. Usually formed in response to fires which cause significant damage to large parts of the city, the guild is usually dissolved in response to... er, fires which cause significant damage to large parts of the city. The Guild suffers from the undying capitalist spirit of Ankh-Morpork, as those men who are paid per-fire extinguished eventually begin to guarantee a regular supply of fires to be put out (see also Inn-Sewer-Ants). This has led to the frequent destruction of large portions of the city and ultimately to the Guild's being banned.
It also has lead to one of the finest lines in all of Pratchettdom: "The penny really dropped after 'Charcoal Wednesday'".
Bucket Brigades & Ankh-Morpork
Conventional urban fire fighting is handled primarily through bucket brigades, where buckets of water are passed from one stationary person to the next along a line stretching from a well or other water source to be dumped on the blaze and sent back down the line to be re-filled. This method is not effective in Ankh-Morpork for three reasons:
- it relies upon a citizenry that is willing to help one another,
- it relies upon citizens willing to contribute actual buckets to the effort,
- it relies on the availability of water, never a sure thing in Ankh-Morpork, unless you count the contents of the Ankh as water (considering that the Ankh frequently catches fire in the Summer).
Today's Fire Fighting Techniques
In contemporary Ankh-Morpork smaller fires are dealt with by the Free Golems, who gather un-called at fires and who have a non-economic motivation for their work: the words in their heads (i.e. on their chems) which preclude their standing by and allowing humans to die.
The fire-fighting process itself is almost as unusual as a non-economic motivation in Ankh-Morpork. Working as a team and without spoken orders, the golems don't actually extinguish fires in the traditional sense. Instead they opt to remove the fire from that which is burning, carrying it away and stomping out the flames. This is a result of their ceramic nature, which has the benefit of making them virtually fire-proof and thus able to enter burning structures and carry burning materials out of it. Their ceramic nature also has the liability of making them vulnerable to the highly unfortunate consequences of exposing hot golems to cold water (see Anghammarad).
Larger fires in Ankh-Morpork are dealt with through the expedient of closing the river gates at the point where the Ankh flows out of the city, forcing the river to crest its banks. Depending upon the time of year this results in the city being either flooded or smothered, and eventually extinguishes the fire. Although there is an argument that states that any fire which is dealt with by a great amount of Ankh water is nauseated into giving in, and commits suicide of its own free will...