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The Fire Brigade of Paris was formed in 1811 following a decree by Napoleon 1st, and they have the unusual characteristic of being a military body under the orders of the Prefect of Police. The Fire Brigade (BSPP) does more than just put out fires for Parisians. Their barracks contain several historic treasures as well.


This is the case of the Sévigné Firehouse, established in the Hôtel Chavigny, which opens its doors- as do all of the firehouses- to the public during the "Heritage Days". Famous for the Firemen's Ball, the barracks are transformed into a festive soirée on July 13th and 14th each year. Firefighters, popular and admired, serve champagne and beer to the community as well as visitors, present in droves to party with the firefighters. The parismarais team is fortunate to be their media partner and cover the event of the ball.


Below, a few reports on the history and life of the Paris Firemen in the Sévigné Barracks.

  • Napoleon and the creation of the Paris Fire Brigade
  • The history of the Sévigné Barracks, Hotel Chavigny
  • Ethics of the Paris Fire Brigade
  • All about the grades and ranks!
  • Two friends at the Sévigné Fireman's Ball

Napoleon, creator of the Paris Fire Brigade


In July 1810, Paris celebrated the marriage of the Archduchess Marie Louise to Napoleon. The ball given by the Ambassador of Austria turned into a disaster when the ballroom, a fragile wooden building, caught fire in the garden of the residence and caused many casualties.


Napoleon, furious at the ineffectiveness of relief assistance, therefore created on September 18 1811 the Fire Brigade Battalion, responsible for fire- extinguishing pumps in Paris. Napoleon in this manner penalized the failure of the civilian fire guards, created in 1716, and Paris acquired the only military fire brigade in the world. This new service was placed under the orders of the Prefect of Police and is intended only for peaceful missions.


In 1866, Napoleon III transformed the battalion into a regiment; its jurisdiction was extended to the entire department of the Seine in 1939. In 1968, the regiment became the current Fire Rescue Brigade of Paris (BSPP); the Parisian firemen became the go- to specialists for emergencies, natural disasters, and accidents of all kinds. In 1982, they were given the responsibility of aiding victims, therefore their importance grew considerably. The BSPP has more than 8,000 soldiers enlisted and covers much of the Paris region.

Napoleaon face aux pompier du 21eme siecle
Napoleon face aux Pompiers du 21ème Siècle (Spectable la Nuit du Feu 2011)
Le carosse de Marie-Louise d'Autriche
Le carosse de Marie-Louise d'Autriche
Mariage de Marie-Louise Mariage de Marie-Louise
Mariage de Marie-Louise
Marie Louise d'Autriche Montre de Marie-Louise
Marie-Louise d'Autriche Montre de Marie-Louise

History of the Sévigné Firehouse


In 1265, Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX (Saint Louis), built a large mansion in rue du roi de Sicile; in 1813, it became the Sévigné Firehouse. Many prestigious people followed one after the other: Baron de Roquefaure, master of robes for Henry IV in 1601, François d'Orléans until his death in 1612, then Leon Bouthilier Chavigny, the King's Counsel. The latter at great expense made notable changes to the building in 1637 by placing it in the hands of the architect Francois Mansart. The hotel became quite lavish thanks to additions such as gardens, courtyards, galleries, stables, a farmyard, and an orangery which perfumed the adjoining apartments.


The good taste and wealth of the owner made it one of the largest and most prestigious buildings in Paris. On April 28, 1647, one of the most sumptuous feasts ever was given at the Hotel de Chavigny for Honoré II Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, in honor of his visit to Paris. His secretary remarked about Mr. Bouthilier that "the palace of this lord is one of the largest and finest in Paris." Leon Bouthilier Chavigny died in 1642. The complexity of his inheritance situation caused the separation of the building into the hôtel de la Force and the Hôtel Bouthilier de Chavigny, located on the Rue de la Culture Sainte-Catherine (now called rue de Sévigné) .


Over time, the pomp and luxury tarnished. In 1792, the building was confiscated as state property and became the center of funeral services before housing the first Paris Fire Brigade. On September 18, 1811, by imperial decree, the Emperor Napoleon officially created the Paris Fire Brigade, divided into four companies. In November 1814, the 3rd company - which on 1 October 1894 became the current 11th company - settled in the Rue de Sévigné. At the end of the nineteenth century a fire cellar was dug, and a shed as well as many additional housing units for officers and NCOs were constructed.


Today, historical elements of the building blend with modern amenities; one can observe for example Leon Bouthilier de Chavigny's coat of arms, the gate built in 1698 by Mr. Pouletier, or the top wall of the west barracks that used to isolate residents of the palace from the din of the La Force prison. History also left some inconveniences. In fact, having stables in adjacent buildings for four centuries caused such pollution that it continues to erode the saltpeter stones and wooden support beams.


The main beam supporting the ceiling of the current gym has recently collapsed. The cost of restoration is estimated at 300,000 euros. Private donations are a great help to this protected historic monument.

Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Hotel de Chavigny
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Hotel de Chavigny et Hotel de la Force
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Carte ancienne de l'Hotel de Chavigny L'escalier intérieur classé
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Honneur aux morts au feu - 1881
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Passage en revue des troupes
à la Caserne Sévigné - 1825
Incendie de la Tourelle,
rue Vieille du Temple - 1884
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Attellages en 1888 dans la cour de l'Hotel de Chavigny
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Camions de Pompiers dans la même cour en 2012
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Cour intérieure de l'Hotel de Chavigny
Histoire de la Caserne Sévigné
Capitaine Latour et Capitaine Angeneau

Ethics Fire Brigade of Paris


The motto: "SAVE OR PERISH" is also illustrated by "Altruism, Efficiency, Discretion," or, as General Casso, Commander of the regiment and then the brigade from 1963 to 1970 wrote:


I do not want to know your philosophy,

Nor your religion or your political affiliation,

I do not care whether you are young or old,

Rich or poor, French or foreign.

If I ask you what is your trouble,

This is not indiscretion but to better help you.

When you call me, I run,But make sure you have alerted me by the quickest route
And the safest.

The minutes of waiting will appear to you long, very long,

In your distress forgive me my apparent slowness.

Pompier et ethique
Pompier et ethique Pompier et ethique

Short guide to ranks or how to know who you are addressing

Pay attention to these small, seemingly insignificant stripes, as they are very important!
Remember that different colors represent different ranks. Gold bars are of a higher rank than red bars, but below the white and gold ones! It is therefore not recommended to address someone with three gold bars by giving him a big pat on the back and saying, "How are you doing, little guy?" while feeling his biceps. A "My respects, My Captain." is more appropriate.

Do not patronize those with "one red stripe," ranks do not mean the age or experience, a captain may be younger than his lieutenant! As for those with four and five stripes, do not think you'll get to have a little dance with them. They are certainly present at the ball but they have hundreds of firefighters under their command and other things to do than to invite the ladies for a whirl!

Insignes de grade de service courant des officiers
Insignes de grade de service courant des sous –officiers 
Insignes de grade de service courant des sous –officiers
Insignes de grade de service courant et de distinction des militaires du rang :
Insignes de grade de service courant et de distinction des militaires du rang

Dance Card rue de Sévigné.

Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers

Two female friends, working in hotels close to the Sévigné Firehouse, attend the Fireman's Ball every year.

It is 8pm, Julia and Laure prepare for the Firemen's Ball of Friday the 13th. A crucial question torments them:
But how does one dress for the Firemen's Ball?

"It's a ball..."
"A long silk poplin dress!" ensures Laure.
"A Firemen's Ball." objects Julia.
"A shiny helmet and a ladder under my arm?"
"The Firefighters are asking too much. Classic outfit, we'll find a few accessories at the barracks."

Seventeen shirts and seven trousers later, the ladies are at the barracks gates. It is 21h, and despite the pouring rain the queue is over five hundred meters long on the Rue de Rivoli. No waiting for Laure and Julia.

"We're with"
- It's fine, they are on the list; please enter, ladies."

They unscrupulously bypass the 2- hour queue, eyes burning with excitement as they bask in the smiles of the freshly shaven firefighters.

"It's amazing, not one beard, not even one hair!" Laura exclaims.
"It's normal, it is because of being in direct contact with fires."
"Ah yes, it would fall into their eyes, they would be blinded."
"No, it would burn!"
"Poor things, it's a dangerous job, I thought they mainly handled cats stuck in trees."
"Shut up and let's drink champagne!"


A firefighter opens the champagne to the sound of a crackling walkie-talkie - So chic! The young ladies photograph the firefighters.
"Look, their biceps are the size of my head!"

The two girls stick together under the tarps to protect themselves from the rain but some, less afraid of the downpours, dance in raincoats to the sound of disco. It is 10pm, the the atmosphere is already electric.

"Let's dance the Macarena!" enthuses Laure.
The firefighters make the crazy bet to get the caviar socialists of the Marais dancing to the sound of hits of the 80's and 90's, Rasputin by Boney M, Barbie Girl by Aqua, Free from Désire by Gala, etc. Something magical emerges from the blue uniform of the gentlemen.

Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers

At 11pm, the atmosphere is loud, a mad umbrella dance is performed under the amazed eyes of foreign tourists who have never attended a ball such as this. Our girls go to the bar where a good team spirit is present among the firefighters.

"Look, he gave him a pat on the shoulder, they are friendly!" Laura enthuses observing the scene.
"There is a brotherhood among firefighters, welded by the harshness of their work." says Pierrick seriously, a regular ball- goer.
"They are having less fun than usual," Julia regrets, "it's a shame because they are the ones who often make or break the atmosphere."

Their rather rigid attitude disappoints the ladies, who expected a little more heat from them. They decide to go take pictures with the Legionnaires. After an attempted robbery of a white kepi by Julia – for an accessory - and the indecent flirting of some of the Legionnaires, the girls return to their firefighters who "know how to behave." The atmosphere of electro and disco satisfies all tastes, the mix is ??real in this ball that brings together young and old.

Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers

"There's a 1.20m thing which just crushed my foot!" Laure complains.
"It's a child".
"I'm going to ask the firefighters to take care of me!"
"No you're not going to bother them, they're overwhelmed! Think of all the cats stuck in trees, you selfish girl!"
"Fine, I'll stay here in the barracks, where we feel safe, surrounded, and happy."
"Fine, you want which one?"
"The blue one, with the short hair."

Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers

At midnight, they find a friend from the ball, admirer of the firefighters.

"Yes, like everyone else I wanted to be a fireman when I was little, but I have the physical form of an oyster so I just go to the dance."
"Listen to the drums!"
"No, those are Batucada players, a Brazilian percussion with traditional rhythmic patterns make it a subgenre of samba, it was announced in the program."
"If you say so .. It's a kind of rain dance," says Laura, "it works well in any case, it sure has rained tonight!"

Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers

Some firefighters hum behind the bar and indulge in a little swaying. Julia decides to keep company with one of them.

"It's different this year, a little more stylish but a little stricter, rather a shame."
"Great, you scared him off, I think he had a high rank, there were lots of pins on his shirt!"
"Hey, wait, what are the three red bars on the shoulders of your shirt? The number of scars you have? The number of cats saved? The number of fires extinguished?"
"Um, it just means caporal-chef."
"That's interesting. Continue."
"Did you order a beer?"
"Hmm, yes. Not a talkative guy."
Julia heckled a second fireman.
"Hello. You also have decorations, we realized that we needed the three-striped officers in order to see the leaders!"
"Young lady, mine are gold and I am the Captain of the 11th company, which covers part of the 4th, 3rd and 11th arrondissements; including the Sévigné and Parmentier sites, that equals 470 hectares under my command."
"That is the gold effect, it completely sets you apart from the others. Anyway, bravo gentlemen firefighters, the fires that you extinguish come alight again metaphorically through the excitement of the ball."
At three o'clock in the morning, the firefighters are no longer letting anyone in, the crowd is thinning out and a more cozy atmosphere prevails so that our girls can tap their heels to the beat of a Gotye- style remix.

Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers
Bal des Pompiers

"The firefighters are being squares tonight, we're going home alone yet again! I suggested to one of them to be part of their 'acres of intervention'. He did not seem amused. Never mind, I have Kap'tain Ronron to snuggle with."
"My cat."
"Oh, at least they're cuddly little creatures."

Tonight, the firefighters are on parade, worthy of the values they embody. However, the Sévigné Firefighter's Ball will keep the crowds dancing for a long time yet; it is hoped that firefighters can also do a little more partying in the future and have the right to a little relaxation as well.


My dear firefighters, you don't want the girls to stay shut away at home on the night of the Firemen's Ball, do you?

Bal des Pompiers

© Reportage : Léa Philippe, Pascal Fonquernie, Arnaud Sellier,  Photos et Production TV Florent jabot © 2012

Remerciements : Capitaine Guillaume Angeneau BSPP, 11ème compagnie : Caserne Sévigné et Caserne Parmentier, BIRP – Bureau d’information et de relations publiques de la Brigade des Sapeurs Pompiers de Paris – Illustrations : Collection particulière, Le Souvenir Napoléonien, Monsieur Bernard Chevallier, Historien, Karol Lor, Hotel Le Pavillon de la Reine, Caroline Leguide, Hotel Saint-Paul Le Marais... Et Charlot le chat, mascotte de Bastille Day with Sexy Firefighters from Paris!

A few years ago a revue of several “bal des pompiers “ in PariS

The sky was red as if on fire, the temperature was hot…and everyone was lining up to be first to enter the beautiful Hotel de Chavigny courtyard, home to the famous Marais fire station for the traditional Bal des Pompiers on Bastille Day, July 14.

We always tell our friends and visitors that this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris – and everyone agrees! We divided our time between the crowded Marais streets and the two local fire stations on rue de Sévigné and rue du Jour. In both courtyards live orchestras were playing hits from the 90’s and classic disco. The crowd was a fabulous mix of military men, firemen, local residents, tourists, sexy young girls and boys, couples looking for fun… all together in a « bon enfant » ambiance that you cannot find anywhere but in Paris.

Bottles of Champagne were cheap so we decided to have one and we kindly offered Parismarais t-shirts to the firemen staff in the place. They were good enough to invite us back for more drinks including a very fancy cocktail of rosé and grapefruit juice. Some of my American friends were lucky to have invitations to visit deeper into the building for the “journées du patrimoine” in next september where you can visit the whole building exceptionnaly.

At 1 a.m. The Parmentier team in the second courtyard annonced they were going to do a dance show just to please the Parisians… something they would normally never do. Paris firemen are part of the French army and have to respect etiquette and maintain a certain level of dignity, which they take very seriously when it comes to their reputation of respectable life-savers.

But on Bastille Day, almost everything is permitted… So 3 of the very cutest pompiers started to dance on the podium to Donna Summer’s « Hot Shot » and The Village People « In the Navy ». They started to dance and entertain the crowd.

Could you imagine this happening in London, New York or anywhere else in the world? No way! And all this fun for only 2 euros entrance fee to the « Caserne »! If you’ve never been to the Bal des Pompiers, you’ll want to come back to Paris for these two unmissable nights – July 13 and 14. We wish this would happen every month, but it’s a very special event, only once a year – so be sure to plan your holiday in advance !

After we left the fire station, the streets were still very lively with people dancing everywhere and the many bars of le Marais were offering even more extravagnaza with drag queens in bleu, blanc et rouge and sexy gogo dancers wearing nothing but white, blue and red swimming trunks to celebrate our national holiday in their own way. Start planning your attire for next year – but certainly, do not miss the Bals des Pompiers or Bastille Day in Paris – there’s no better party, anywhere in the world!

The swiss firemen rap to encourage to call only for emergencies: their humour si definitely a pluS!

Swiss firefighters' rap

Le bal des pompiers :
another great touristic attraction in Le Marais !

Did you know that one of Paris’ most popular tourist attractions wears boots and navy blue uniforms?

There is no question that « Le bal des pompiers » held on July 13 and 14 is one the most popular parties on the Paris calendar. Every July, fire stations across Paris turn up the heat as they turn into the hottest dance halls. The Paris firemen are cute, sexy, smiling, open-minded and welcoming. The fact that they are also life savers contributes as much to their popularity with Parisians and tourists as does their friendly attitude.

This year as usual, our team was first in line, press cards in hand, to enter through the VIP back entrance at number 9 rue de Sévigné. The fire trucks were out in the street so the two beautiful courtyards of Hotel de Chavigny, a 17th century mansion built by Louis XIV architect François Mansart, could welcome hundreds of people and a musical band.

Joining the Paris Fire Brigade is not a simple job. You have to be in top physical condition and practice no less than four hours of sport activities each day. It is no wonder that the fire fighters have gorgeous bodies and are the dream of all Parisians – men and women alike.


This house has been home to the Marais fire station for nearly two centuries. The Paris Fire Brigade was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century to improve safety in the city of Paris after the revolution. Unlike firemen in most cities and countries, Paris fire fighters are part of the French army, and that may be why they inspire so much respect and admiration.


Back at the fire station…we were offered a bottle of champagne and became just intoxicated enough to make more new friends in blue shirts. Later we had the chance to visit two other fire stations in central Paris, just to find out if the atmosphere was as nice as in le Marais.


The station in Les Halles on rue du Jour was packed, and the crowd enjoyed a band playing music that was more 80’s and traditional. The busiest fire station was the one in Saint-Germain-des-Prés on rue du Vieux Colombier, where the techno music was hot and the ambiance felt more like the techno parade.

We ended up back in le Marais, at what was certainly the most lovely of all fire stations, due to the beautiful courtyards and architecture. Everyone in our group got to bed very late, with a few phone numbers in our pockets – and dreams of being saved and rescued more often.
Every good story ends with a wedding or fireworks, and this year the fireworks held at the Eiffel Tower, hosted by the city of Paris, were the most beautriful we’ve ever seen! The theme was a celebration of the 250th year of Mozart. The light show was astonishing and the music was a subtle medley of Mozart’s masterpieces, from « Les Noces de Figaro », « La Flute Enchantée », and the « Concerto Pour Clarinette », the music heard a number of years ago on the « Out of Africa » soundtrack. Nearly one million people gathered on the Champs de Mars, bringing their picnics and their high spirits to enjoy an endless night of excitation and fun.
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