“Fire! Fire…” With excited people running around, the alleys of Eppingen echo with shouting and screaming and the crying of children. The whole town is in uproar. Men rush towards the source of the fire, carrying leather fire buckets. Will the town survive this testing time?
Whenever the town piper’s horn sounded from the Piper’s Tower and reverberated across the town, everyone living in Eppingen knew there was danger to life and limb – but not only that, all their possessions were at risk, too, items created and handed down over many years and decades, even generations.
Everything was at stake for this little town – and for the residents, it all came down to surviving – or not.
In September 1846, there’d been a major fire in the suburb of Bretten. The voluntary fire service was set up just a year later, in 1847, making it one of the oldest in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
The danger of a major fire is ever-present. Apart from military actions in wartime, it’s the only real hazard for a town of timber-frame buildings. So it’s good to be prepared.
At the same time, a simple, but very effective system of rewards ensured that plenty of would-be helpers would quickly head to the site of the fire.
The first man to reach the fire squirt received three guilders, the second was given two, and the third just one. Any later arrivals received nothing at all. A good reason to put on even more speed next time.
1873 was exactly such an event. The major fire in Kirchgasse destroyed the entire quarter around Piper’s Tower. Not a single house, barn or stables was spared. And worst of all – it had been arson!
Jakob Müller, himself a member of the fire service, had set the fire. He was convicted of the crime and spent 15 years behind bars in Bruchsal prison.
Take a look at the carpet. It shows the outlines of the plots of land where the houses lost in the fire once stood. You can clearly see how widespread the fire was. Perhaps you’ve also noticed the wooden models of the houses affected. Feel free to pitch in, move them into place and rebuild all the houses.
On the lower ground floor, you’ll find a display of fire engines and hose layer units that demonstrate the importance of our town’s fire service – and the pride it takes in its work.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen