The archives of the Fire Department of New York has released footage of a borough department responding to a fire in 1926. In the first of two silent videos, the camera is mounted on the car transporting Fire Chief John Kenlon from the Brooklyn Fire Department to a storage warehouse fire on East 123rd Street. Kenlon’s name comes up frequently in the rise of the FDNY during the early part of the 20th century. The date of the video is given as April 24, 1926, and it was not only a remarkably snowy spring day, it could be the first dashcam video ever.
The second video takes us through the entire process of a fire call, from the fire alarm – placed in a box on the street – to the call going to the Manhattan Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau and then being sent to the stations, and the department fighting the fire.
The low-res screencap above shows the hood of Kenlon’s vehicle, with a clanging bell at the front, driving on the sidewalk among pedestrians to get to the fire. As you’ll see in the videos below, the situation on the actual roads was just as chaotic as the driving. So is the footage playback itself, which repeats and plays upside down and backwards at times, but we think is worth every second.