From the beginnings to the fire of the Liceu

The Barcelona Fire Service as it is known today was born in 1865 when the City Council of Barcelona assumed  the Fire Company, created years ago by the Society of Mutual Insurance against Fires. Long before, however, the city already had different organizations, usually formed by union volunteers who, in a more or less successful manner, intervened in the extinction of fires.
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Construction workers, carpenters and locks of each District  were called by the “ring of fire”, the insistent ringing of bells,  and were directed in the operation by the first councilor of works of the City Council that reached the site of the accident . The neighbors also intervened but the lack of means (buckets, a manual bomb and some stairs), the little preparation and the city’s own urban planning – with narrow streets, small, tight houses and industries within the urban center- made it very difficult to succeed in  the interventions. The fire ended up extinguishing, but too often it dragged whole buildings, private properties and some lives.

Regulation of the Mutual Insurance Society of Barcelona 1836

To try to minimize the damage of fires, the Society of Mutual Insurance against Fire, a philanthropic organization that was driven by property owners and members of the municipal government, was established in 1835. The burning of Convents of the Night of Saint James in 1835 gave the final impetus to the constitution of the Mutual Society, that together with the City Council of Barcelona created the first Fire Company.

La Ciudad Se Convierte en Un Mar de Llamas. / ¡o Iras Y Abominaciones de los Hombres!

Ramon Soley Cetó. Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona. 1835


The company consisted of 30 construction workers or maneuvers, 8 carpenters and 2 locksmiths at the orders of a commander and 4 chaplains. It had a budget of 1,000 Catalan pounds per year plus monthly installments and daily expenses for each fire. The architect Josep Mas i Vila was the first leader.

Un Incendio en Barcelona.

Gravat procedent de La Ilustración. Periódico Universal (Madrid), 7, 15 febrer 1851, p. 49. La descripció dels fets a la mateixa revista, número 6, 8 febrer 1851, p. 41-42. Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona. 1851

In 1851, when the Mutual Society was fully responsible for the Fire Company, the architect Antoni Rovira i Trias was appointed head of Fire. In 1856, Rovira published the Manual for the Stopping of Fire, a treatise on theorizing the best way to organize the fire service management based on his own experience and taking as a reference the organization of the fire brigade companies in France. In this theoretical treatise on the management of the fire service Rovira indicates that the management can be municipal, military or private – three models  that the city had experienced – but strengthens the  municipalization of the service. In that sense, Rovira emphasizes the need for municipal governments to commit themselves to the extinction of the fire through a well-prepared, equipped and targeted company and in a prevention policy, especially in the most popular areas such as theaters and party halls.  Six years later the flames completely destroyed the Teatre del Liceu.

Incendio del Liceo de Barcelona en la Noche del Dia 9 de de Este Mes [Abril 1861].

Sanz, F. Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona. 1861 Incendi del Gran Teatre del Liceu el 9 d’abril de 1861. Les flames surten de darrere l’edifici. En primer terme, els bombers apagant el foc.


The fire of the Liceu Opera Hall in 1861 will be a turning point and will start a decade of change and modernization in the city and in the service of Firefighters: Barcelona demolishes its walls and the city breathes and widens with the Cerdà Plan. The City Council collects the insistent requests and civic proposals for the regulation of the fire service and in 1865, the Fire Brigade is definitively located in order to protect the safety of the citizens of Barcelona.

Imatges i records, p. 18

This is the beginning of a stage of innovations and advances in the Firefighters Service of Barcelona that will become a benchmark and a model both national and internationaly.

Año 1888 [Aspectes de l’Exposició Universal i Altres Vistes de la Ciutat]

Bonet, Pere Joan. Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona. 1888

  • The International Exhibition of 1929

  • Objects with history: The Liceu (Opera House)

  • The Fire Laboratory

  • The health service

  • Attack on Hipercor

  • A human service

  • When I grow up I want to be a Firefighter

  • Escombreras Oil refinery

  • Barcelona Racord

  • ¡Alarma! magazine

  • The Genoveva

  • The “Mútua”

  • The heavy snowfall of 1962

  • To be in a good shape

  • The helmet

  • Mary Santpere: honorary firefighter

  • Acrobatic gymnastics

  • Fire trucks 1

  • Lights on!

  • The fire trucks 2

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