Monday, March 4, 2024

Hans Peter Nielsen (1859-1945): Inventor of fog-spray fire hose nozzle


Nielsen in his biplane & his fire nozzle

Hans Nielsen was born in Denmark in 1859, where he worked as a watchmaker. A year after marrying his wife Hansine in 1883, the family immigrated to the United States. They first settled in San Francisco before making their permanent home in Alameda. 

He is best remembered in Alameda, for being the city's first paid fireman in 1890. He worked as the engineer on the horse-powered Encinal Steamer #1, where co-workers marveled at how quickly he could get steam into the pumper (using a little primer of gunpowder!).

Nielsen is credited with being the inventor of the fog-spray fire hose nozzle used to extinguish oil and gas fires. The nozzle covers a greater surface area, allowing for a greater rate of heat absorption, which speeds its transformation into the steam that smothers the fire by displacing its oxygen.

In 1901, Nielsen left the Fire Department to become the first engineer at the Alameda Electric Light Plant. Alameda Municipal Power is the oldest municipal electrical utility west of the Mississippi, and from 1887 until 1902 provided Alameda with electric street lights. In 1902, the Alameda Electric Light Plant sub-station also began to offer electrical power to homes and businesses.

Nielsen dabbled in a number of other things, including automobile repair, construction of a biplane, inventing a "releasing device" for hitched animals, a patent for an Acetylene Gase Generator and pioneering new caster wheel designs. 

Grave of Hans Nielsen and his estranged wife Lily

Nielsen is buried with his second wife Lily Palmer, despite a contentious divorce proceeding. She was a former boarder of his and was 31 years his junior. The divorce was never finalized and she is listed as his wife in his obituary.

Sources: Oakland Tribune; Find a Grave; Wikipdedia

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