By Heidi Glaus

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KSDK) - They say the more things change, the more they stay the same; there are few places where it's more true than at a firehouse.

In case you didn't know, the St. Louis Fire Department is the second oldest fire department in the country.

"We started as volunteers in 1857," said Chief Dennis Jenkerson, St. Louis Fire Department.

It is an institution built on tradition.

"Fire departments are very tradition based. All the terminology, some of the things we use in the fire house. 'Dropping the chains,' you've probably never heard of, means raising the bay doors because when they dropped the chains they used to drop the chains onto the horses to put the collars on them so they could go out the door. We still call it 'drop the chains,'" Chief Jenkerson said.

And the reason for red and green lights outside the bay doors dates back about as far.

"Back in those days, you always had red lights outside the fire houses and it kind of signified that that was a fire house. There's some discussion that when the company responded on a fire they would take the red lanterns hanging outside and go to the fire with them. So anybody, any volunteer, any member of the fire department responding to the fire house, if they saw the lantern was gone they knew the company was already at the fire and they would go directly to the fire," Chief Jenkerson said.

There's also a theory the red and green lights started in Chicago.

"There was a chief in Chicago who had a nautical background and in 1930, 1929 around there, he instituted that all Chicago firehouses have a red light and a green light outside the bay doors," he said.

These days they don't actually signify anything.

"Correct, it's all tradition," Chief Jenkerson said.

But it is still a way to recognize a firehouse.

Read or Share this story: http://on.ksdk.com/1b3RjZc