A longstanding tradition in the fire service, a “wet-down” is a ritual, celebrated by many fire departments in the United States, in which firefighters commission a new fire apparatus by spraying it with water. The ritual dates back to the late 1800s, when horse-drawn pumpers were used throughout the nation’s fire service.
Horses that were commissioned for service would be washed along with the pumper at their newly assigned firehouse and backed into the firehouse bay. The firefighters would then fit the new horse with its harness, placing the company in service. After every run, firefighters had to hand push their pumpers back into the bay and ready themselves for the next alarm.
When new horses or pumpers were purchased neighboring firehouses, department chiefs and citizens from the surrounding community would attend the ceremony to celebrate the new powerful addition to their neighborhood firehouse. Local clergy came to bestow blessings upon the horse throwing holy water unto it for long life, strength, speed and good health. The blessing would serve to ward off any evil spirits or “gremlins” that could affect the firehouse’s newest addition.