Why 18th-Century Firefighters Let Some Buildings Burn

In the 18th century, firefighters weren't always meant to fight fires. If your building didn't have a fire mark, they might just let it burn. The reason: fire insurance, and fire insurance companies. [CORRECTION: the plaques on the wall at 1:10 are parish boundary markers, not fire marks! The facts and words in the video are true, but those markers were misidentified in the sources I used. Apologies.]

Filmed safely: www.tomscott.com/safe/


"No pay, no spray": www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna39516346
"It's not reasonable": www.ctvnews.ca/canada/it-s-no...
Additional stories:

The Great Fire of London painting via the Museum of London: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gr...

Images licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/...
Fire Mark, 39 Church Trees by Alan Murray-Rust, www.geograph.org.uk/photo/528...
Fire mark of the Hand in Hand Fire \u0026 Life Insurance Society on a house in Loose by Marathon, www.geograph.org.uk/photo/542...

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  • This video has a correction! The plaques on the wall at 1:10 are parish boundary markers, not fire marks. The words and story in the video are still true, but those markers were misidentified in the sources I used. You can find fire marks elsewhere in London, the UK, and the world. Apologies!

    Tom ScottTom Scott4 månader sedan
    • Why is the traffic light blue

      Ran RoRan Ro2 månader sedan
    • thanks!

      Jun IanJun Ian2 månader sedan
    • Making mistakes....... And you explicitly said we couldn't trust you.

      Matthew SeymourMatthew Seymour3 månader sedan
    • You are forgiven

      Benji SmithBenji Smith3 månader sedan
    • @sumreen Sultana Woah! Which city, my dude?

      Suman SSuman S4 månader sedan
  • Firefighters: *Put out fire* Card: *Declines* Firefighters:

    Mathematician23Mathematician23Dag sedan
  • wait... 16606? I've seen that number...

    santiago orgeirasantiago orgeiraDag sedan
  • Wheres your mask?

    M RM R5 dagar sedan
  • I seem to remember that being a thing in Ancient Rome too.

    MySerpentineMySerpentine13 dagar sedan
  • Just like American EMS

    Bryson HaagenBryson Haagen15 dagar sedan
  • 16606, oh no, THE NUMBER

    santiago orgeirasantiago orgeira17 dagar sedan
  • The existence of any "Thing" (such as private fire brigades that charge for their services) does not automatically give any measure of justification... I feel like, recently, people believe it does and will often present terrible fluff as oposition to outcries and complaints. Especially if that terrible thing benefits them in some way. We need to have... something(?) that challenges real cruelty and injustice/immorality... 2020 has shown me just how bad things have got.

    Sarah WhiteSarah White18 dagar sedan
  • You're going to give American conservatives an idea with this video

    Emilio AlbanEmilio Alban20 dagar sedan
  • I wonder if you have heard about the freiwillige feuerwehr (volunteer fire department). In Germany and Sud Tirol (Italy),young men and women volunteer... are not paid...and risk their lives for the benefit of the community. Now that's heroic.

    CathCath20 dagar sedan
  • That story about firefighters letting a home burn because the owner didn't pay them $75 is from my home state. Gotta love the US :)

    lucy starlightlucy starlight21 dag sedan
  • Governments letting people die because private insurance companies won't save them... sound familiar

    David HedgesDavid Hedges22 dagar sedan
  • 1:53 WHAT! That is in my province! Wow, I never heard about this!

    Paul, Does things.Paul, Does things.29 dagar sedan
  • in USA not everyone is guaranteed that firefighters will try their best. some places you have to pay, and if you don't, they will watch your home burn.

    Gun Bowling 2 - VR Game Dev LogGun Bowling 2 - VR Game Dev Log29 dagar sedan
  • 1:42 Sounds perfectly moral for me. No one has to sacrifice himself, let alone risk his life without receiving anything in return.

    PropherexPropherexMånad sedan
  • "Because some men Mr Wayne Just want to watch the world burn"

    Cozy HouseCozy HouseMånad sedan
  • Tom, could you explain, if you know, of course, why the government called it the London fire *engine* establishment in 1866? What was the “engine” aspect of it as I know they did not have fire trucks

    Hunter GrayHunter GrayMånad sedan
  • Ah yes, the libertarian dream.

    Roach Dogg JRRoach Dogg JRMånad sedan
  • Perhaps one day healthcare will be free

    physicalsphysicalsMånad sedan
  • Same reason poor Americans are still left to die without healthcare, then.

    twocats eightlegstwocats eightlegsMånad sedan
  • Empty London looks like something that is great to visit. If you are walking and talking (with a 360 camera on a stick). You will not even attract fans.

    MrVipitisMrVipitisMånad sedan
  • This reminded me of the when the credit card declined mene

    Le NinLe NinMånad sedan
  • IDK why govt "finally taking over" is a good thing. Govt could have simply come along and made their own service for the uninsured or for public property. Plenty of places have very badly run rescue services...

    Vane BVane BMånad sedan
  • And in America ambulances still aren't free.

    imamoose007imamoose007Månad sedan
  • Katarina firestation in stockholm is the worlds oldest still in service firestation

    einareinarMånad sedan
  • “Ok we’re here thank god” “I hear someone screaming let’s go save them” “Wait, that’s not our plaque let’s go home boys” “Wh-“ *screaming intensifies*

    L3GIONL3GIONMånad sedan
  • Anyone else see a place where they live on examples of places that don’t have this sustem

    Dumb GeniousDumb GeniousMånad sedan
  • I lived here.

    gestucv olonorgestucv olonorMånad sedan
  • Why 18th-Century Firefighters Let Some Buildings Burn Is it capitalism? I bet the answer is capitalism. Is it cuz of capitalism? Capitalism is a hell of a drug, so I'm not surprised the answer is capitalism.

    Johnny CarcinogenJohnny CarcinogenMånad sedan
  • Petition to make Tom Scott do an 'Amazing Places' at 40.8223286, -96.7982002

    Valsaraj KarrapayilValsaraj KarrapayilMånad sedan
  • 1:50 Why am I not impressed that USA was in the examples? I guess otherwise it would be socialism. And US Americans hate socialism and everything involving the word 'social'.

    Anno NymouseAnno Nymouse2 månader sedan
  • are you sure that the road was clsoed tho

    Kitty Craft0Kitty Craft02 månader sedan
  • Wait a second the insurance companies only insured the building so if you were trapped inside they ain’t saving you...

    DrllpDrllp2 månader sedan
  • An abject and apt little lesson on what neoliberal capitalism delivers.

    Richard ChristieRichard Christie2 månader sedan
  • 100 IQ Move:(assuming you live in 17th century London) Steal every kind of mark and drill them to your door frame so that no matter what department shows up they have to help.

    Austin WertzAustin Wertz2 månader sedan
  • I’ve seemed to have noticed different levels of intelligence. The highest level is to proactively see and prevent problems before they occur. The middle level is to see a problem after it occurs and try to prevent future problems. The lowest level is to not see a problem that repeatedly occurs.

    Winter’s GhostWinter’s Ghost2 månader sedan
  • 2:31 Birb

    Spaghetti SmoothieSpaghetti Smoothie2 månader sedan
  • Capitalism vs Socialism

    Darren BurgessDarren Burgess2 månader sedan
  • I came here from your drum drop from 2009. Will be one of my main channels now I guess, especially with this knowledge

    KostanyKostany2 månader sedan
  • I thought the answer would be something scientific, like because it stops the fire spreading, but turns out no.. just capitalism 😂

    Shaunak GokhaleShaunak Gokhale2 månader sedan
  • AFAB. All firefighters are bastards!

    Lucifer, CEO of HellLucifer, CEO of Hell2 månader sedan
  • In Germany manny anal Villages don't have the money for a fire Department so they have something call the Volunteer firefighter and most yung people are in it cause you have party's and are well respected

    K1r5ch1K1r5ch12 månader sedan
  • But government bad bro 😭😭

    miles davis playing guitarmiles davis playing guitar2 månader sedan
  • *several groups of firefighters rush to the scene* every single one of them: *checks fire mark* "Wrong fire mark. Looks like a family of 7 including children and 2 dogs are going to die. What a tragedy. Anyways..."

    EnoxitusEnoxitus2 månader sedan
  • This may seem insane, but Americans still have to pay a bill for using an ambulance. In some cases it’s cheaper (though certainly not safer) to just rush the injured or sick to the hospital in a normal vehicle.

    RT GarbageRT Garbage2 månader sedan
  • Imagine how much it would suck if you paid for a fire mark, only to have it obscured by flames and/or debris during an actual fire.

    Sam ErensSam Erens2 månader sedan
  • dude hahaa stoppp you're going to give the united states bad ideas

    Autumn RainAutumn Rain2 månader sedan
  • capitalism be like:

    Stanisław AdamowiczStanisław Adamowicz2 månader sedan
  • Content

    Riley CarpenterRiley Carpenter2 månader sedan
  • I wonder if there were more expensive insurance companies that would put out neighbouring houses to stop the fire spreading to yours & cheaper insurance companies that would only come if your house specifically was on fire.

    ccityplanner12 :ccityplanner12 :2 månader sedan
  • Reminds me of health insurance.

    Josh DerakJosh Derak2 månader sedan
  • The answers for everything bad is always capitalism

    Super SophisticatedSuper Sophisticated2 månader sedan
  • They still do.. i watched a house a couple streets over go from almost fully intact with some smoke coming out, to completely burned down with nothing left but some half burnt lumber and a couple mattresses. The firefighters were there the entire time, but they were helping the house burn down by creating holes in the roof and it wasn't until the house was almost fully burned down did they start using water on it..

    Rhubartu the SaiyanRhubartu the Saiyan2 månader sedan
  • horrible historieeeeeeeeees

    James CharlesJames Charles2 månader sedan
  • 2:55

    181cs033 Ananthu181cs033 Ananthu2 månader sedan
  • The country town I used to live in had a fire brigade of volunteers and an engine paid for by raffles.

    1973Washu1973Washu2 månader sedan
  • firefighters: finally we put out the fire. inspector: wait, there is no mark on that house. firefighters: welp. *lights torches*

    Falbere!Falbere!3 månader sedan
  • Encyclopedias: bore me to death Shakespeare: shake my spear

    Jalapeno SerranoJalapeno Serrano3 månader sedan
  • I heard the monument is not where the fire started but if was laid on its side from that point the top would mark pudding lane where the fire is believed to have started

    RRPRRP3 månader sedan
  • 2:25 "It took death and destruction to move things forward." Sadly, it still takes death and destruction to move things forward. And the daily, hum drum death isn't enough, either. Not unless we're talking about progress in highly-regulated industries like nuclear energy. After thousands of cyclist and pedestrian deaths per year, American streets look just about the same as they did a decade ago. But because those deaths are an every day thing, no one feels compelled. It's not until politicians see the numbers for themselves or have someone close to them personally affected by tragedy that things even make it to the 'bill' phase of lawmaking. And even then, you have lobbyists. Corporate lobbyists don't care about lives; they care about policies that might affect their bottom dollar. That's why the general public needs to be more aware of local lawmaking. Sucks that the way American cities are structured discourages such involvement. The mentality just isn't there. It takes thousands of people to combat a handful of company word-jockeys to even stand a chance, but the current societal fabric (funded by those same companies, mind you) keeps people ill-informed. Status quo is, by far, the most serious underlying cause of most deaths worldwide (but especially in America).

    HauntedShadowsLegacyHauntedShadowsLegacy3 månader sedan
  • I went to Austria. We drove about a lot and there was a lot of fire brigades. Probably cuz it was in the mountains, forest fires would be common and roads were narrow, windy and they were something you could rely for speedy travel.

    LimerenceLimerence3 månader sedan
  • Haha, I already knew this one. Thanks Horrible History.

    LimerenceLimerence3 månader sedan
  • In argentina a cuple decades ago there was a major economic scandanls involving some banks. The directors plane misteriusly crash. And the banks office cach fire (with all the registers in it). The firefighters only make shure that the fire whoden spread.

    Mariano SolisMariano Solis3 månader sedan
  • 2:27, The only mistake Tom has ever made.

    broe5010 broe5010broe5010 broe50103 månader sedan
  • Another decade of Tory rule and we’ll have this system back.

    Marcus JayMarcus Jay3 månader sedan
  • Did Cicero not make a lot of money by having slave fire fighters and buying burning buildings before this.

    king oliking oli3 månader sedan
  • capitalism ❤

    Carolin aCarolin a3 månader sedan
  • In this video, Tom says that human lives are worth more than property. And implies they are worth more than profits. These 3 minutes and 14 seconds indicate that Tom is more qualified for national office than the majority of politicians in London and Washington. At least in 2020 & 2021.

    Johnny CarcinogenJohnny Carcinogen3 månader sedan
  • 2:04 Capitalism tends towards monopoly? Weird. Who knew?

    Johnny CarcinogenJohnny Carcinogen3 månader sedan
  • Hi Tom Scott, thank you for the video. Very informative (as usual). How do you read your lines? I wonder: do you memorize the script just like an actor or there is a teleprompter behind the camera?

    Pierre GrahamPierre Graham3 månader sedan
  • Sure fire office HHAHAHAHHAHAAA

    K JK J3 månader sedan
  • *Kids screaming for help* "Sorry kid, daddy didn't pay the bill"

    MrDogenMrDogen3 månader sedan
  • Thank you Scott for your videos, I am a big fan.

    John PrivateJohn Private3 månader sedan
  • Here in our community in USA up until about 20 years ago it was a private for pay fire service. You could pay a annual substitution and there would be no charge for a fire. We would get a decal that went on mail box to identify us as subscribers. If you did not subscribe they would bill you for the service and it was very expensive. Insurance polices to this day in US have a provision to pay for this with rather low limits. Now it is still private but we all are required to pay subscription include with our county property tax. This is not that small of a community with about 30,000 homes.

    John PrivateJohn Private3 månader sedan
  • Capitalism working perfectly fine

    Ein ZuschauerEin Zuschauer3 månader sedan
  • The tall, thin metal pole that comes into view at around 0:32, I walked into by complete accident (I think I might have even literally be facing it) and the noise echoed hugely because of the surroundings being quite large buildings. The street was busy and everyone looked.

    RedcharcoalazRedcharcoalaz3 månader sedan
  • I think having firefighters for free is a bad idea and we should have MARKET FORCES determine if people should live or die in a fire, just like we do with everything else.

    Bertrand DBertrand D3 månader sedan
  • Here in Chile all firefighters are volunteers, they fight fire on their spare time, which means they also need a regular job and croudfund themselves.

    TheHellKiwiTheHellKiwi3 månader sedan
  • btw do people tell you enough that your one of the absolut best youtubers ?

    HollyHolly3 månader sedan
  • And that kids is why privatisation is immoral.

    ChessChess3 månader sedan
  • I'd rather pay private firefighters than to be taxed. During my lifetime my house will most likely never catch fire whereas I'm taxed 24/7

    ReasonReason3 månader sedan
    • @Reason oh really? Which kings may I ask?

      Mr. HatMr. Hat3 månader sedan
    • @Mr. Hat Funny. Kings used to say about that when it comes to lords and monarchs

      ReasonReason3 månader sedan
    • @Reason taxation is how civilization is purchased, if you don't want that, then you're free to live alone in the jungles.

      Mr. HatMr. Hat3 månader sedan
    • @Reason It's part of life, get with the times.

      ChessChess3 månader sedan
    • @Chess being taxed should be a wake up call

      ReasonReason3 månader sedan
  • Ancaps destroyed

    MisteurMisteur3 månader sedan
  • I live in Tennessee. There are circumstances around that fire in 2010 that weren't published in most articles. There had been a fire at that home previously and the authorities were convinced that the owners were attempting to burn it down themselves for the insurance money. They were charged with paying the 75 dollar fee for abusing the services of the tax payer funded fire fighting services. Then just three weeks later the house caught fire again. They had not paid their previous court fee for the previous occasion, so they let the house burn. I'd call it karma.

    Kosaku KawajiriKosaku Kawajiri3 månader sedan
  • I would love to see a video describing the healthcare crisis in the U.S., explaining the high cost of an ambulance.

    A KA K3 månader sedan
  • All the way back to Ancient Rome can you trace the origins of Private firefighters. It worked a bit more like a Mafia: They would go to the burning building, ask the most exorbitant price they could and only put out the fire to save the property if the owner accepted to pay that high price. If not, they would watch the building burn. Good thing it's not like that anymore.

    MR2MR23 månader sedan
  • I kept reading this video's title as "Why Firefighters Let Some 18th Century Buildings Burn" for literally weeks. I must be going blind.

    DalewynDalewyn3 månader sedan
  • so do i act surprised or point out my disappointment in that of course the USA dropped the ball with having private firefighters 🤦‍♂️? What is next? private police?

    Tsul-FiTsul-Fi3 månader sedan
  • cuz it was lit

    OldManShinjiOldManShinji3 månader sedan
  • I am curious if we can do better with the privatize fire service. I know here in America pensions are becoming a major problem. Cities are just promising too much

    Jhawk2tallJhawk2tall3 månader sedan
  • Now we know why sea park can have fire

    SprechchorSprechchor3 månader sedan
  • cyberpunk 1877

    MM3 månader sedan
  • This reminds me of the police in gangs of New York.

    Nick MedbyNick Medby3 månader sedan
  • The Monument is my FAVOURITE landmark in London.

    k hannak hanna3 månader sedan
  • Because you can only throw so many buckets of water on something before you just give up and watch the show

    Kilroy was HereKilroy was Here3 månader sedan
  • The difficult truth is that until VERY recently, property WAS valued more than lives - at least by society as a whole. Yes, you might care more about your family than your property, but someone else's family? People died all the time from disease, war, and other things.

    Paul S RohrbaughPaul S Rohrbaugh3 månader sedan
  • Monument isn't AT the site of the fire's outbreak; rather its height is such that were it laid on its side, the tip would reach the point of origin of the fire. Its 202 feet (62m) tall, and 202 feet west of the spot in Pudding Lane where the fire broke out.

    Robert PlasterRobert Plaster3 månader sedan
  • Typical 18-century Britishers.

    Varun GuptaVarun Gupta3 månader sedan
  • maker Chitqua The little clay figure of Thomas Todd by the Chinese model maker Chitqua is an intimate portrait of a successful merchant - one of the many who helped create London into a thriving mercantile centre in the 18th century.

    calvin nguyencalvin nguyen3 månader sedan
  • I wonder if there was a market in counterfeit fire marks

    Alex McDAlex McD3 månader sedan
  • Thanks for the history lessons I worked 4 years next to monument didn't know fully what happened

    Rofu MiahRofu Miah3 månader sedan