This picturesque street is lined with around 60 red-stripped and black-striped houses, the local firefighters’ colors. The street takes its name from the historic fire that took place in the town on that day in 1899. Since then, and for a number of years, the city of Ponce built new homes on this street and then drew lots to see which of its firemen would be the lucky owners of these free new properties.
Firefighters are a particularly revered group in Ponce, a result of the devastating fires that have regularly swept through the city. But it was the fire on 25 January, 1899, known as "el polvorín", that is perhaps the most famous. It started in a military munition depot, located just three blocks from the now also historic Parque de Bombas firehouse yet the firefighters were told not to fight the fire.
The reason for the order is not really known but what is certain is that several firemen decided to disobey orders, extinguishing the fire and saving the town. Although they were initially in danger of being punished for insubordination, the people of Ponce considered them heroes and the city government eventually rethought their decision and honored the men in a public celebration.
For years the city wanted to do something more than just recognize and honor the firefighters' wisdom and courage. So seven years later, in 1906, the City put together a system whereby these firefighters and their families would be provided with free housing.
The firefighters of the city had always been volunteers who did not receive any pay for their service and the municipal government decided to recognized their courage and importance by selecting a firefighter each year to receive a new home. These houses were constructed by the government and the official name of the street where they were built was eventually changed to 25 de Enero Street, "the 25th of January Street", in honor of those firefighters who saved the city in 1899. The houses, which today number about 60, are easily spotted. They are painted in the distinctive red and black colors of Ponce.