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A Black Man's invention saving lives through time, but lost in time!


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Who would ever think that people in Lake Tahoe and California would be devastated by the raging fires that seem to be unstoppable? It is reported that at least 15,000 fire fighters are working day and night to extinguish the deadly Caldor fire.  There is no question that these brave fire fighters must have gas mask to protect themselves from smoke inhalation. But how many people know including these fire fighters that a Black inventor invented the gas mask which operates according to the same principles as the gas mask use today. This inventor's name is Garrett Morgan. He invented the gas mask during his day it was known as a smoke helmet to fight fires.  The purpose of the helmet was to allow the wearer to enter a room filled with noxious gas, fumes, or smoke for the purpose of saving human life and property. And this is the same purpose of gas mask use today by fire fighters. Today’s gas mask is known as an air-purifying respirator which is standard equipment used around the globe. So the similarities between today's gas mask and Morgan's smoke helmet match. Morgan discovered that no matter how dense an environment is pure air is always located near the floor or ground. Given this fact, Morgan’s gas mask was engineered to access pure air from the ground or floor. The ability to breathe pure air in a noxious gas environment whether through accessibility or purification the goals are exact. Not to mention the saving of human lives. The gas mask is the largest prevention of deaths when attempting to extinguish a fire. Some 50–80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries, including burns to the respiratory system. It is safe to say that Morgan's smoke helmet which fire stations have modeled the principles of its operation, is responsible for saving thousands of lives. With the raging fires in Nevada and California I haven’t heard of any report extending credit for Garrett Morgan’s gas mask.  The safety and welfare of our society humbling given through a safety device by a Black inventor has been repeatedly ignored. This lack of consideration is a reflection of the past.  Garrett Morgan was directly involved with saving lives of underground workers after an underground explosion in Cleveland, Ohio. The mayor at that time at an awards ceremony did not even recognize Morgan for his outstanding achievement of bravery along with major newspapers.  The lesson to be learned is that we should always give reverence to those who are in some way instrumental with the saving of human lives. If not, this heartless action adds doubt to our humanity.


Herbert Addison Burns

Reference Sources

Citizen Advocate, “A Great Hero Rewarded”, 1916

 NY Times, ”To Save Lake Tahoe, They Spared No Expense” 2021

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