December 12, 2014

WORSLEY HOTEL FIRE

40TH ANNIVERSARY

 

On Dec. 13, 1974, an arson fire swept the Worsley Hotel in the Maida Vale section of London, killing 7 people - including a probationary firefighter named Hamish ``Harry'' Petit.

Three other firefighters were injured.

The story of the Worsley Hotel fire was recorded by journalist Gordon Honeycombe in the book ``Red Watch'' and by former London officer Neil Wallington in the book "Fireman! A personal account."

The hotel's kitchen porter, Edward Mansfield, was convicted of setting the fire and sentenced to life in prison.

MORE

November 03, 2014

LULWORTH CASTLE - 1929


On Aug. 29, 1929, flames gutted Lulworth Castle in Dorset, England.

The 16th Century castle sat in disrepair in the decades following the blaze.

Restoration work began in the 1970s and was completed in 1988.

The Aug. 30, 1929 edition of the Times of London published the following account of the inferno:


The Dorchester brigade was the first to arrive, shortly before 11 o’clock. Mr. A. R. Jeffrey, chief officer of the Dorchester brigade, and firemen wearing smoke helmets made their way to the roof immediately above the fire. The roof was of lead, and was concealed from view by battlements. With some difficulty a hosepipe was got up and was turned on to the flames through the roof. The fire had still failed to cover the whole of the top floor, and there were hopes that it might be prevented from spreading. Then, at the critical moment, the water ceased to flow. It had been pumped from a large tank in the garden, which soon became exhausted. A supply of water was next obtained from a well a few yards from the mansion. The brigades of Poole, Swanage and Weymouth had now arrived, as well as a sergeant and 14 men of the Royal Tank Corps who are stationed at Lulworth. They, with the villagers, the estate workers, and Girl Guides who were encamped in Lulworth Park, did valuable work in saving the treasures in the building.

The fire was still confined to the top floor, but was burning fiercely, and it was apparent that unless a larger volume of water could be poured on to the flames the buildings were doomed. The salvage workers had been forced to retreat from the third storey, but they continued their work below, and the lawns around the mansion were strewn with old furniture, books, paintings, and other art treasures. Efforts were made to save the King’s Bed before smoke and heat made it impossible to reach the third storey, but without success. 

The supply of water from the well was still being poured on the flames, but this well also became exhausted. Part of the lead roof fell in, and the third floor became ablaze. Two members of the Dorchester fire brigade were slightly injured by molten lead and falling glass. Salvage work was still going on in the lower storeys, but water was now the great need. About two miles from the mansion is Arish Mell Gap, through which the sea can be seen from the terrace of the castle. The sea now appeared to be the only available source of supply, and between the mansion and the coast three fire engines were placed at intervals and a line of pipe was run into the sea, but all attempts to get sea water failed.|

The King’s Room and the ballroom on the third floor were now blazing, and there was nothing to prevent the fire spreading. The flames issued from the windows of the circular towers and from all sides of the building. The task of removing the salved treasures from the lawns to buildings on the estate was carried on throughout this afternoon and evening. It was not until about 5 o’clock that the fire burned itself out. To-night there are beams in the building still smouldering, and some of the walls of the castle, owing to the damage they have suffered, have rents which give them a dangerous appearance.

October 23, 2014

DAVE'S STORY

Dave Squires
 
Editor's Note: Weston-super-Mare is a town located on Bristol Channel in North Somerset, England. You editor found the following story on the fire brigade's website. It's an inspiring tale about a local fire buff named Dave Squires.

Dave Squires first appeared outside the ‘Station’ in June 1983 (then aged 29 Years). He would walk up and down, looking at the Fire Station but would suddenly disappear and return another day. The Firemen then had no knowledge that Dave was un-employed and had Learning Difficulties. After several weeks Jack Bell went out and invited Dave in.

Dave appeared to be very nervous and shy but was shown around the Appliance Room before he made an excuse that he had to go home, and he was gone.


Dave, however, continued to visit the Station and the Firemen of White Watch warmed to this visitor.

Dave appeared to have little confidence and it took some persuasion on the part of White Watch to get him to join them for a cup of tea in the Mess Room on the 1st Floor. Whilst in the Mess Room there was a two-pump and TL shout leaving just two of us on the Station with Dave. A problem was apparent – Dave could not face going down the stairs and he froze and began to panic. Dave had shown no outward problem when he climbed the stairs but he was clearly not going to descend without help. It took the two of us - fifteen minutes to coax Dave down the stairs, sat on his backside – one step at a time. Later we found out that Dave lived in a Ground Floor Flat with his parents and an Auntie. Dave continued his visits and was welcomed by all the Watches on the Station. Dave never had a problem with the stairs again!

As time went on, Dave was given an old Lancer Fire Tunic, Yellow Leggings, a Helmet and would be ‘allowed’ to ‘Man’ the Land Rover! Eventually, he was given (all donated left-offs) shirts, trousers and cap. Dave gradually became less shy, and his confidence building was not only apparent to the Firemen but also to his family. So much so, that on the first Christmas, Dave’s parents opened their home and invited all Station Personnel to join them in a ‘drink’. Dave’s family were so grateful to the Firemen at Weston for all their interest shown in Dave and for their encouragement in boosting Dave’s confidence.
 
Early Spring 1984, (some eight or nine months after Dave’s first visit to the Station) a Fireman by the nickname of ‘Scooter’ came on duty one day clutching a local newspaper. ‘Scooter’ announced that there was a job in the situations vacant column which would be ideal for young Dave. The situation vacant was for a ‘trolley attendant’ at Leo’s Supermarket. The, then, Manager, of Leo’s was known to the Firemen. He had kindly given his permission for our Christmas Carol Float to be in attendance outside the Supermarket. The Firemen, with their knowledge of Dave, were able to recommend that Dave be given a chance to fill the vacancy, as they knew Dave to be reliable. Dave is still at the Supermarket today!

For all the difficulties Dave has endured he has a wonderful memory (which is more than can be said for a large majority of us Firemen). Dave could remember where every piece of equipment belonged in the Appliance Lockers and would, quite often, find items that we had mislaid.
 
Dave’s memory was put to the test. Watching a Fireman taking a Drill in preparation for his Leading Fireman’s Exam, a fellow Fireman enquired "do you want to have a go Dave"? Dave responded quickly and recited the Drill instructions word for word.

Dave was working throughout the week but on Saturday and Sunday evenings (Stand-down time) Dave was encouraged to take Parade and make out the Duty Board – this he did efficiently and still does it today!

Dave’s presence on the Station was accepted by Senior Officers throughout the Brigade!
 
Dave’s ‘help’ was never taken for granted and the Firemen wanted to reward Dave for his outstanding achievements. So, off to HQ we went and Dave witnessed a Recruits’ Passing Out Parade. This, Dave, thought to be a great honour and he enjoyed himself immensely.

The years went on and Dave’s enthusiasm for the Fire Station never failed.
 
In 1987, Dave’s mother passed away but Dave appeared to treat his loss as a ‘a fact of Life’. Dave remained at home with his father and his Auntie. Around 1999 Dave’s Auntie died and in January 2001 Dave’s father died.

Dave, who was once introverted and protected by his loving and supportive family now lives an independent life and is self-sufficient. Indeed Dave copes with all his washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning as well as holding down the same job. He finds time for recreation amidst all of the aforesaid mentioned - he plays Skittles with the William Knowles Centre, he attends the Winter Gardens (when Wrestling is taking place) and travels on Public Transport. He even travels on Public Transport to places such as Bodmin in Cornwall where he stays at a specially chosen Centre for his annual Holiday.
 
This is an encouraging story and shows that we are not put on this earth to see through each other - BUT TO SEE EACH OTHER THROUGH. 

October 09, 2014

EXETER - 1887

Painting by Fred Ford from collection of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service


On Sept. 5, 1887, a fire at Exter's Theatre Royal killed 168 people.

Gas lighting ignited some gauze backstage on the opening night of a romantic comedy called Romany Rye.

A witness reported:

"Soon after the outbreak the City Fire Brigade were on the spot, but the water they poured on the fire was absolutely without effect."

 The number of exits proved to be inadequate for the audience.

 Only 68 bodies were recovered.

The blaze led to national fire safety reforms.

There were 800 people in the audience and most of the deaths occurred in the upper gallery.

Victims were buried in a mass grave.

LINK

BEESTON - 1886

On April 29, 1886, fire destroyed Anglo Scotian Mills in Beeston, England. The plant was by Frank Wilkinson, who stands in the foreground, according to Exploring Beeston's History.

ROAD TO RECOVERY

Photo: Street of Liverpool
Workers retrieve fire engine from bomb crater on Roe Street in Liverpool in late 1941.

October 08, 2014

EARLY BLITZ

Firefighters at work in City near London Bridge on Sept. 9, 1940, the early days of Hitler's blitz. Click on photo for full view.

September 23, 2014

BIRMINGHAM

Photo: Wikipedia
Blitz damage on Birmingham High Street, looking toward Bull Ring, April 10, 1941. The Luftwaffe dropped 1,852 tons of bombs on Birmingham between August 1940 and April 1943.

September 22, 2014

FALKLANDS HOSPITAL FIRE


By London Fire Journal

On April 10, 1984, fire claimed eight lives - including a hero nurse - at King Edward Memorial Hospital, the only hospital in the Falkland Islands, the remote British overseas territory off Argentina.

Nurse Barbara Chick, 36, who emigrated from Britain a year earlier, "ignored orders to keep out of the burning hospital and stayed with her patients until she was overcome by smoke," the Associated Press reported. 
 
Teresa McGill, 26, and her newborn daughter, Karen, were also among the dead, according to rootsweb.com. The others were four women and a man.

The AP reported that one of the victims was married to a local firefighter.
 
The hospital, located in Port Stanley, was built in 1914 and in disrepair.
 
BBC correspondent Robert Fox, reporting from the scene, said:
 
"By dawn, all that was left was four stumps of chimneys, the thin wood boarding of the walls, and fittings flapping like charred tissue paper in the wind."

The hospital lacked fire doors and working fire hoses and pumps.

Royal Air Force firefighters drew water from the sea for the local fire brigade.
 

A temporary hospital was established at Port Stanley town hall.

The blaze also damaged a prefabricated section of the hospital used by the U.K. military, which defeated Argentine troops in the Falkland Islands War two years earlier.
 
From London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a message of "deepest sympathy."

Speaking in the House of Lords on April 11, Baroness Young, minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, acknowledged "fire hazards" existed.
 
A parliamentry investigation into the fire was damning.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Aug. 1, MP Michael Stern said:

"Lack of fire doors was perhaps the principal and most obvious cause of the rapid spread of the fire, which was the reason why so many lives were lost.

"There had been many reports in the 1970s of the inadequate fire precautions in this and other public buildings in Port Stanley.

"In 1982, the fire officer, the civilian doctor and the military authorities together demanded the urgent installation of fire doors in the hospital - a wooden building - as the only way of stopping a fire should one break out."

"By the date of the fire, those doors had not even been ordered.

"As a result, whatever the cause of the fire - perhaps inevitably, the report was unclear about the exact cause - it spread rapidly and uncontrollably, and the deaths that occurred were to a large extent inevitable.

"Had fire doors been in situ, the deaths might have been avoided."

A new hospital opened in 1987.

In England, Barbara Chick, a Bristol native, was honored with a ceremony and plaque at Shirehampton Health Centre on Sept. 5, 1984, according to the November 1984 edition of the Falkland Islands Newsletter.

It read:

In Memory of Nurse Barbara Chick, S.E.N
A resident of Shirehampton, who
gave her life on 10th April 1984

trying to rescue patients
trapped by a fire at the
King Edward VII Memorial Hospital
Port Stanley
Falkand Islands


At the  ceremony, Dick Mellor, chairman of the Southmead Health Authority, said:

"Her whole life was caring for others. In that disasterous fire her reactions automatically were for the patients first."  
 
LINKS:
 
Associated Press  
Glasgow Herald   House of Lords, April 11, 1984 
House of Commons, April 11, 1984   House of Commons, Aug. 1, 1984

September 03, 2014

THE QUEEN'S OWN

Photo: G. Del Giudice
Buckingham Palace - August 2014

August 20, 2014

KING GEORGE VI


King George VI visits Lambeth Fire Station during World War II. Major Frank Jackson, chief of London Fire Brigade during 1940-41 blitz, stands in helmet and uniform in right of photo.

August 19, 2014

OLD PALACE SCHOOL


It's the largest loss of fire service personnel in U.K. History. On April 20, 1941, a German bomb landed on Auxiliary Fire Service Sub Station 24U, which was housed in Old Palace LCC School, St. Leonards Street, Poplar. Thirty-two firemen and two fire women perished. Twenty-one of the dead were from AFS Beckenham, Kent. They had been sent to London to provide relief.

The following roll of honor is from rootschat.com

AFS Firewoman (Telephonist) Hilda Dupree – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 21. Of 33 Warwick Road, Walthamstow, Essex.

Firewoman Winifred Alexandra Peters – London Fire Brigade
Died 20th April 1941 aged 39. Of 122 Canton Street

AFS Fireman Percy Charles Aitchison – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 27. Of 20 Copse Avenue, West Wickham, Kent.

AFS Fireman Ronald Mark Bailey – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 25. of 81 Links Road, Tooting.

AFS Fireman Alan Charles Barber – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 26. Of 6 Fairford Close, Shirley, Croydon, Surrey.

AFS Fireman Earnest Reginald Beadle – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 32. Of 211 Birkbeck Road, Beckenham.

AFS Fireman Kenneth John Bowles – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 30. Of 27 Beckenham Road, West Wickham, Kent.

AFS Fireman John Coleman Burrell – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 35. Of 39 North Street, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

AFS Fireman Patrick Joseph Campbell – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 24. Of 39 Bannister House, Homerton

AFS Fireman Harry John Carden – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 29. Of 7 Mounthurst Road, Hayes, Bromley, Kent.

AFS Fireman Robert John Deans – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 28. Of 144 The Grove, West Wickham, Kent.

AFS Fireman Frank James Endean – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 36. Of 34 Aviemore Way, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Fireman Cecil Farley – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 43. Of 5 Linden Leas, West Wickham, Kent.

AFS Fireman George John Joseph Hall – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 43. Of 44 Warwick Road, Anerley, Kent.

AFS Messenger Bertie James Frederick Harris – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 17. Of 31 Brabazon Street,

AFS Fireman Leslie Thomas Healey– AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 32. Of 15 Greenview Avenue, Shirley, Surrey.

AFS Despatch Rider Ernest Herbert Henly _ AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 19. Of 2 Grange Cottage, Silver Street, Kinton Langley, Chippenham, Wiltshire.

AFS Fireman Sydney Bartholomew Jones – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 54 Harrogate Road, Hackney.

AFS Fireman Albert Victor Kite – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 36. Of 166 Village Way, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Fireman John Francis Mead– AFS
Died 20th April 1941 aged 29. Of 39 Christie Road, Hackney.

AFS Fireman Vernon Joseph Middleditch – AFS
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 220 Hunders Lane, Darlington, Co. Durham.

AFS Fireman Alfred Edward Minter – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 46. Of 48 Aylesford Avenue, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Fireman Norman Richard Charles Mountjoy – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 30. Of 11 Ash Grove, West Wickham, Kent

AFS Fireman Frederick George Parcell – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 32. Of 28 Love Lane, South Norwood, Surrey.

AFS Fireman Martin Charles Parfett – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 296 Pickhurst Rise, West Wickham, Kent.

AFS Fireman William Charles Plant – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 26. Of 22 Sultan Street, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Fireman Cyril Bertram Porter – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 31 Clinton Road, Forest Gate, Essex.

AFS Fireman William Thomas Rashbrook – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 133 Chatsworth Road, Clapton.

AFS Leading Fireman Leonard Roots – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 31. Of 10 Avenue Court, Avenue Road, Anerley, Kent.

AFS Fireman Albert Alfred Saville – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 35. Of 54 Harrowgate Road, Hackney.

Station Officer Richard William Sinstadt – London Fire Brigade
Died 20th April 1941 aged 46. Of 74 Beccles Drive, Barking, Essex.

AFS Fireman Edgar William Vick – AFS London
Died 20th April 1941 aged 38. Of 234 Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Leading Fireman Walter John Woodland – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 41. Of 68 Links Way, Eden Park, Beckenham, Kent.

AFS Leading Fireman Herbert Charles Wotton – AFS Beckenham
Died 20th April 1941 aged 30. Of 78 Upper Elmers End Road, Beckenham, Kent.

June 14, 2014

ANOTHER WALKOUT


On June 12, 2014, firefighters staged another walkout in a series of protests against pension changes. The action coincided with the start of the World Cup. The public was urged to use caution cooking food  consuming alcohol. The London Fire Brigade urged people to order "takeout" meals.

May 12, 2014

'HEROES WITH GRIMY FACES'

The London Auxiliary Fire Service fighting a fire near Whitehall road caused by an incendiary bomb. Photograph by William Vandivert. London, 1940.
 
AFS trailer pump pulled by taxi 
 
Holborn Circus, London

Professional firemen grumbled. The public sneered. In the end, the U.K.'s auxiliary fire crews performed heroically when German bombs rained from the sky in 1940 and 1941. 

Writing on the 70th anniversary of the Blitz in the Sept. 7, 2010 edition of The Guardian newspaper, Francis Beckett - author of the book "Firefighters and The Blitz" - said the fire service was "about the only thing the government had got right."

In March 1938, the government created the Auxiliary Fire Service to augment the U.K.'s regular fire brigades.

In London alone, the AFS recruited 28,000 auxiliary full- and part-time firefighters to supplement the professional fire crews , and they performed with great courage and determination as German bombs fell.
 
However, "the AFS might easily have failed," Beckett wrote.
 
"Professional firefighters resented it, while AFS people grumbled that they were paid less and their conditions of service were inferior."
 
Members of the public were critical of AFS members for skirting military duty.
 
In the  end, according to Beckett:
 
 "The situation was saved by an alliance between London Fire Brigade chief Major Frank Jackson and the leftwing leader of the Fire Brigades Union, John Horner, who collaborated in persuading regular firefighters to accept the AFS as equal."

The following BBC article surveys the fire service at war:
 
By September 1939 the AFS had over 200,000 members, some of whom were equipped with pumps pulled by cars, or London taxis painted grey, as equipment was in such short supply.

The Blitz on London and other large cities greatly enhanced the reputation of fire-fighters - Winston Churchill dubbed them the 'heroes with grimy faces'. Firemen dealt with hundreds of fires raging out of control as bombs continued to fall and buildings collapsed around them. The blazing fires provided a marker for more German raids, creating yet more destruction. In the first three weeks of the Blitz the London firefighters fought 10,000 fires.

Regular paid fire-fighters worked 48 hours on, 24 hours off, although during the Blitz, they sometimes worked for 40 hours or more. They were joined, mainly at night, by part-time members of the AFS. For many of these volunteers, it was their first experience of fire-fighting.

During the Blitz, the division of responsibility among different fire brigades caused chaos when one fire brigade called for help from others. As a result, in May 1941 the Home Secretary announced that the regional fire brigades and the AFS would be merged, and their name changed to the National Fire Service. This change was effected in August 1941. Some of the most senior jobs went to men from the Auxiliary Fire Service. The creation of the new service ensured that there could be standardisation of organisation, equipment and drills throughout the different fire brigades.

Women were recruited into the fire service from 1938 onwards. In March 1943 there were 32,200 women serving full-time, and 54,600 part-time, with the National Fire Service. While women did not tackle major fires, they provided important back-up to their male colleagues. They staffed communication centres, crewed mobile canteen vans and acted as drivers and dispatch riders. During bombing raids the latter were often the only means of communication between fire crews and their control rooms.

From December 1940, after the 'Second Great Fire of London' showed the disastrous consequences of leaving small commercial and industrial premises unattended at night, compulsory fire-watching patrols were introduced. Men between 16 and 60 were required to put in 48 hours each month. In September 1942, women were also obliged to take their turn.

During the war, more than 900 firemen and women lost their lives.
 
For more:

Blitz! World War II
Classic Movie - "I Was A Fireman"
AFS Women Honored
Remembering War
"Snakehips" Johnson

BLITZ IN NUMBERS

Image: BBC

April 30, 2014

'GET IN THE BACK DUMMY'

 
Photo: BBC
Fire crew rescues mannequins in 1938

OLD BRIXTON


Old Brixton fire station, Ferndale Road

SOUTH LONDON - 1980

Photo: Wikipedia
Firefighters on roof after suspicious blaze at old South London Camping Warehouse in South London in 1980.

January 13, 2014

EMPRESS OF CANADA



On Jan. 25, 1953, fire destroyed the ocean liner Empress of Canada at Gladstone Dock in Liverpool during an annual overhaul.

Firemen said they were fighting a losing battle and withdrew as the doomed ship's steel plates bulged and "rivets flew like bullets."

According to an Australian Associated Press dispatch from Liverpool:


"During the last half-hour before she heeled over the vessel listed rapidly to over 30 degrees.

"Parts of the superstructure and
funnels hit the three-story concrete dock shed and there were resounding crashes from  the burnt out interior of the liner.

"The liner slid quickly on to
her side and smoke billowed high into the air as the red hot hull hit the water."

READING LANE


Photo: Private Collection 
"Make pumps 20." Reading Lane, Hackney, about 1960.

January 11, 2014

FINAL SHOUT


Photo: Islington Gazette
"Alpha 27" - Clerkenwell Fire Station

Is London's safety in jeopardy?

Ten London fire stations - including Clerkenwell, Europe's oldest - answered their final shouts on Jan. 9 as the government pressed on with efforts to realize millions of pounds in savings.

The move prompted emotional scenes as well as warnings that the closures - along with the removal of 14 fire engines from the streets of the capital - will lead to greater loss of life.

The Evening Standard reported: "Firefighters on Green Watch were in tears as they walked out of the Clerkenwell station, which opened in 1872, for the last time."

The building is located on Rosebery Avenue, Islington.

Belsize, Bow, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich also closed, leaving London with 155 engines and 102 fire stations.

At Clerkenwell, the bells went down for the last time at 6:05 a.m.

The Green Watch attended a shout in Oval Road, Regent's Park along with 
Belsize fire station, which also faded into history.

December 27, 2013

APOLLO THEATRE


On Dec. 19, 2013, a section of the famed Apollo Theatre's ornate plasterwork ceiling collapsed during a performace.

Scores were injured.

The London Fire Brigage sent eight engines. The London Ambulance Service sent 25 ambulances.

The Apollo, located in London's West End, opened in 1901.

Nick Harding of the Kingsland Fire Station said:

“We believe around 720 people were in the theatre at the time. A section of the theatre’s ceiling collapsed onto the audience who were watching the show. The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it.

“Firefighters worked really hard in very difficult conditions and I’d like to pay tribute to them. They rescued people from the theatre, made the area safe and then helped ambulance crews with the injured.
         
“Specialist urban search and rescue crews were also called to the scene to make sure no one was trapped. Fortunately all those who were trapped were rescued and treated for injuries or taken to hospital.'
         
"London Ambulance Service treated 76 patients, 58 of whom were taken to hospital to be treated for their injuries. Fifty one of these were walking wounded and seven had more serious injuries.

“In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this. I imagine lots of people were out enjoying the show in the run-up to Christmas. My thoughts go out to all those affected.”

NINE LIVES


A cat's nine lives: This feline, accompanied by an air raid warden, is one of the lucky ones. It is estimated hundreds of thousands of pets died during the Blitz.

October 17, 2013

ST. KATHARINE'S DOCK


Photo: East London Advertiser
Fire boats in action at St. Katharine's Dock, near Tower Bridge, on Sept. 7, 1940, at the start of the Blitz.

October 02, 2013

WOMEN'S BRIGADE


Photo: Topical Press Agency 
Women's Fire Brigade at hose and ladder drill during First World War in March 1916.

DUCK FIRE

Photo: BBC website
On Sept. 29, 2013, fire erupted on the London Duck Tours craft Cleopatra on the Thames in London. Thirty people were rescued.

PENSION STRIKE


UPDATED

On Sept. 25, 2013, firefighters in England and Wales staged a four-hour strike over pensions. It was  the first nationwide industrial action in the U.K. fire service in a decade. Additional firefighter walkouts continued into December.

June 28, 2013

WOOLWORTH - 1979

Photo: Skyscraper City

Photo: Manchester Libraries


Photo: Woolworths Museum
On May 8, 1979, flames swept a Woolworth store in central Manchester, England, killing 10 people and injuring 47 others. 

The fire started in an electrical cable and spread to furniture made of flammable polyurethane foam.

There were about 500 people in the store at the the time.

Among the victims was Woolworth employee Cyril Baldwin, 68, who served as an auxiliary fireman during World War Two and died trying to save others.

According to the UK Fire Service website:

The Station Officer immediately sent a message to “Make Pumps 10″. Rescues were started from a 13.5m extension ladder and from the cage of the hydraulic platform. Other members of the public were found at ground level and were brought out to safety. At 13.35, an ADO arrived and requested a turntable ladder to rescue a man seen on the top floor. By now other appliances were arriving and further 13.5m ladders were pitched to the barred windows.

Attempts to pry open the bars were made using pick axes and crow bars, whilst cutting gear was made ready. These attempts were unsuccessful. An air-operated saw was then used. Firemen managed to cut two of the bars then bend them outward to enable the rescue six persons. Two of the women need urgent administration of oxygen when they were removed.
At 13.42, two jets had been laid up an internal staircase from Oldham Street to the second floor by BA crews. These crews found terrible conditions with intense heat and smoke preventing further penetration into the building, even though they had been on their hands and knees in an attempt to get underneath the heat layer. At 13.42 a Divisional Officer took over command and sent “Make Pumps 15″.
In the meantime, a second hydraulic platform had rescued a woman from a toilet window at second floor level, and had now started to remove a further twelve persons from the roof. A fireman had been taken to the roof level in the hydraulic platform cage and had remained on the roof whilst the rescues were carried out, calming those awaiting rescue. By 13.45 all those that had been seen calling for help at the windows and on the roof had been rescued.
A second jet this time to the first floor was laid up the Oldham Street staircase and was used by BA crews to tackle a fire that involved the escalator. This team was then tasked with making their way to the second floor which was fully on fire. Another BA crew also started to tackle the second floor fire, this time entry was by stairs from Piccadilly. At 1354 the message “Make Pumps 20″ was sent.
BA Crews using jets from the head of two 13.5 ladders and protected by covering jets from pavement level attacked the fire on the second floor from the frontage of the store. Two other jets were now laid into the back of the second floor from Piccadilly, even though the padlocked and chained doors had made access difficult. A further rescue was carried out from the top floor by turntable ladder. The Assistant Chief Officer took over the incident at 14.15. Eight jets were now being worked into the second floor, and conditions finally started to improve.
Three bodies were now found only 6 ft. from the exit doorway three others were found a short distance further away. Four others were also found on this floor in various other locations. Hydraulic platforms being used to fight the fire were constantly having to stop work due to them hindering work carried out inside by BA crews. At 15.00 one BA team had to be rescued by turntable ladder after they had been cut off after having traversed the third floor and made their way to the roof. 
Another crew had been cut off by collapsing stock within the store and were rescued from a window by an HP. The fire had now died down, but severe smoke logging continued. It was decided to use a high-expansion foam generator for smoke extraction purposes. The Message “Fire Surrounded” was sent at 15.51, the fire now being almost out and conditions having improved to allow a thorough search of the building.

June 27, 2013

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON




"In the early afternoon of Saturday 6 March 1926 a man was cycling down Chapel Lane in Stratford when he spotted smoke coming from the roof of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in front of him. He immediately took action to raise the alarm, but found the fire had already taken hold. The building was full of smoke and timber could be heard cracking." - The Shakespeare Blog 

May 29, 2013

FIRE OVER LONDON


HEATHROW AIRPORT LONDON - May 24, 2013

"One Airbus A319 with seventy-five passengers and five crew on board landed on Runway 27 Right following an engine cowling failure on take-off, causing hydraulic failure to right engine and fire in right engine.  Aircraft turned around.  On landing Heathrow Fire Service extinguished engine fire and carried out a full evacuation of aircraft.  Two passengers injured during evacuation, one suffering from hyperventilation and one with a sprained wrist.  Both treated by London Ambulance Service on scene.  Aircraft powered off and returned to stand under supervision of Airport Fire Service." - Brigade Control Information Bulletin

May 24, 2013

ESSEX HOTEL - 1969



 
 
In the early hours of the day after Christmas 1969, fire swept a small hotel in Essex, killing 11 people. The blaze led to reforms in U.K. fire safety regulations. 


The Rose & Crown Hotel in Saffron Waldron, Essex is a 16th century coaching in which was extended and modernised in the 19th century. It is in the centre of the town and faced onto the market square. The hotel consisted of floors and a basement. In the early hours of Friday December 26th a small fire, is believed to have started in a television set. This fire was to spread and eventually 11 people would be dead. The Hotel was full and had 33 guests staying, having just celebrated Christmas. The television in the hotels lounge had been left plugged in.
 
At about 01.30am two guests having smelt smoke left their rooms on the first floor to investigate. They discovered the fire in the lounge so left the building and attempted to call the Fire Brigade. At the same time a local passer by spotted the pair panicking with the location of fire. He took the phone from them and gave accurate details to the brigade control operator. The time was now 01.47am. He then ran to the Hotel and operated the fire alarm before assisting in the rescue of 2 of the residents.
 
The Fire Brigade responded quickly, the appliances booking mobile the incident at 01.52. This first attendance, the pump and Pump Escape from Station No 79 Saffron Waldron were greeted by the sight of the hotel well alight. They had only had to travel 200 yard from their fire station to get to the incident. As said above, 33 people were staying in the premises, 9 of which needed immediate rescue using the appliances wheeled 50 foot escape ladder, an extension ladder and a first floor ladder. Three guests jumped to safety and the two guests who had discovered the fire had also left. 5 other guests were rescued by locals who had arrived to assist the brigade. These people commandeered builder’s ladders to assist in the rescues.
 
At 01.57am an assistance message was sent which read “Make Pumps 4, BA 6″. This was followed at 01.59am by a further make up message which read “Make Pumps 10, BA 10, Turntable required. In the meantime BA crews had been ordered to search the rear of the building in a bid to find those guests still missing. The crew managed to search the ground floor, and first floor, but due to the severe conditions they couldn’t proceed to the second floor. These crews were withdrawn and put to work assisting rescues from the front of the premises. Eventually having travelled a considerable distance other appliances arrived. The crews were ordered to assist in rescuing guests from upper floors at the side of the hotel. They were to help 3 persons escape to safety. Two men slid down from a 3rd floor window via a short pitched roof, then fell into the hotels yard. The sustained injuries as they fell.
 
As further assistance arrived, crews started to carry out a more thorough search of the rear area. Here they found 6 bodies. A further 5 bodies were found in rooms at the front of the building. These 11 guests sadly never escaped the fire. They were trapped by the heat and smoke. All of those who died were found on the 2nd and 3rd floors. They had died in the early stages of this fire as a result of a build up of heat and fumes.
 
The risk of death was increased due to other guests leaving doors or windows open in their bid to save their own lives. Leaving these open allowed heat and smoke to spread throughout the hotel far easier. Some fire resisting doors were fitted within the hotel, but the mechanisms used to keep the doors shut after use had failed allowing them to remain open. The fire alarm, even though operated at the early stage of the fire failed to continue to operate and warn residents of the unfolding disaster. It was found after the fire that the wiring to the alarm had been burned through in the early stages of the incident.
 
In total 12 appliances attend this incident. 12 jets were used along with a TL monitor supplied by 5 pumps set into 5 different fire hydrants to fight this tragic fire. This fire was one of a number of hotel fires which gave added impetus to the passing of the Fire Precautions Act in 1971.
 
In 1972, hotels and boarding houses were the first premises to be designated as requiring a fire certificate under the act.
 

BUTLERS WHARF - 1931


Photo: Private Collection
“Moderate or fresh East or North East winds; bright intervals; snow showers; very cold” - This was London’s gloomy forecast for Saturday 7 March, 1931.
 
In Chelsea, athletes due to represent Oxford and Cambridge universities that afternoon at Stamford Bridge, read the forecast, looked to the sky, and prophesied slower times and shorter jumps.
 
In Southwark, at the headquarters of the London Fire Brigade, firemen read the same forecast, looked at the same sky, and wondered why they chose a career that made them get up on such a morning.
 
In a warehouse at Butler’s Wharf near London a fire was in its infancy.
 
Shortly after 10o’clock the Brigade was called for; the bells went down and firemen, their breath condensing beneath brass helmets, scrambled aboard their machines and sped to the scene.
 
A pall of black smoke hung over Shad Thames and as they drew nearer the acrid fumes of burning rubber stung their nostrils.
 
The fireboats Alpha and Beta ploughed their way towards the wharf and crowds gathered to watch the spectacle.
 
On arrival the firemen immediately got to work and attacked the blaze from the street and adjoining premises, they even used the cargo ship “Teal” as a standing platform. In charge of these operations was the Chief Officer, Mr. Arthur Reginald Dyer, and also on hand were the men of the London Salvage Corps under the command of Captain Miles.
 
The Brigade managed to confine the blaze to the single building but it was a long time before the last flame was quenched.
 
All day it burned and when darkness fell searchlights were brought into action.
 
Compared with other conflagrations this fire was not very large, but it was the unbelievably cold conditions that made the fireman’s job so difficult.
 
Water froze as it ran down the walls; sheets of ice spreading across the road made even the most limited of movements hazardous and everywhere hung monstrous icicles like the serpents of Medusa after her decapitation by Perseus.
 
We will leave the last words on the subject to another, more qualified to speak; “The temperature was so low that all branches had to be wrapped in sacking, or it would have been impossible to hold them"
 
From London Fireman, December 1966

Via U.K. Fire Service website

BOLTON CLUB - 1961



Gutted windows - The club occupied top floors of old mill

Fire broke out at the Top Storey Club in Bolton, Lancashire, on May 1, 1961, killing 19 people. Five of the victims died attempting to jump from the club into a canal.

From Lost Pubs of Bolton website


Of all the pubs and clubs in Bolton the Top Storey club on Crown Street was one of the shortest-lived but was without a doubt the most tragic after 19 people lost their lives.

The club was situated in an old mill close to where the multi-story car park now stands and backed on to the open River Croal. It was opened in December 1960 by Mr Stanley Wilcock, who rented the building for his business, Gregg Construction Company, which made kitchen furniture on the lower floors.

Mr Wilcock had the idea of converting the top two floors into a nightclub but by March 1961 he had sold out to two Manchester businessmen, Denis Wilson and Richard Sorrensen ,although he continued to use the lower floors for the kitchen furniture business.

However, the owners of the building were concerned about the idea of a nightclub in the building having only learnt of its existence after seeing an advert in the Bolton Evening News. They considered that the building was unsuitable for licensed premises and at 10.35pm on Monday 1 May 1961 one of the building’s owners, Mr Norman Balshaw, went to the Top Storey club to give Wilson and Sorrensen notice that the club had to close and that they must be out by 24 June.

Mr Balshaw saw the two men in the club office on the ground floor and Wilson and Sorrensen then went upstairs to join the club’s customers.

The Top Storey club wasn’t particularly large and there can’t have been room for more than 100 people in there. On that Monday night, 1 May 1961, there can’t have been more than about 25 people in the club. The layout was just a few tables and chairs arranged down the two sides of the wall with a small space in the middle of the floor. Customers listened to tape recorded music or played on an elaborate one-armed bandit that was a feature of the club.

In 2001 one of the survivors of the fire, Jack Breen, told the Bolton Evening News that he was sitting at the end of the bar at about eleven o’clock with the club’s manager Bill Bohannon. Bill thought he could smell smoke and went down the rickety single flight of wooden steps that was the sole means of entry and exit at the club. When Mr Bohannon got to the ground floor he noticed smoke coming from under the door which led to the workshops.

He kicked in the door but found himself looking into a blazing inferno. He tried to get back upstairs, but was forced back by the intense heat. Upstairs, the first Jack Breen knew about it was when all the lights went out. There was then an explosion that took all the oxygen out of the room but he managed to make his way to a window that had been blown out by the explosion. He stood on the ledge but passed out and fell 80 feet. He woke up in Bolton Royal Infirmary with 20 per cent burns and a badly-damaged hand but he was one of the lucky ones. Nineteen people lost their lives in the fire, five from falls from the windows and 14 who died in the bar area.



Top photos show aftermath of fire

Thomas Cardwell, a fireman on the scene that night, described the scene to the Bolton Evening News in 2001. When the fire brigade arrived they found their turntable ladders were too short to reach the top storey of the building.

"The screams just gradually faded away,” he told the paper.

"The building was full of smoke, more smoke than flames really by then, but it was still very warm. The staircase was completely gone and we had to put ladders up inside the building to get to the top floor."

He goes on to describe the scene in the club itself.

"There were bodies all piled up near the bar. No-one inside that room who had not jumped had lived.

"The bodies weren't very burned, though. They were just quite pink -- almost like they'd been on their holidays.

"But they were piled up in two areas, one with about three bodies and another of about 12. They had panicked when they couldn't get out and were just piled together, like a pack of cards."

Firemen from Horwich, Radcliffe and Leigh joined those from Bolton and it took two-and-a-half hours to get the fire under control. The body of one lad who leapt from the club into the River Croal was found downstream a mile away from the scene of the fire.

The club’s owners, Denis Wilson and Richard Sorrensen, were among the dead as was Sheila Bohannon, the wife of manager Bill Bohannon. It was later suggested that figures in the Manchester underworld had a grudge against Mr Sorrensen and were responsible for the fire though nothing was ever proved.


As a result of the Top Storey fire legislation was written in to the Licencing Act 1964 giving more power to fire authorities to close down clubs considered to be fire hazards, while some fire authorities enacted part of the 1961 Act that had recently come into force.

The cause of the fire was never discovered and an inquest returned an open verdict on all 19 dead.