Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include Edward VII, who maintained a kit at a London fire station.

"THE RESCUE" - 1855

"THE RESCUE" - 1855

January 03, 2008




``More than 150 firefighters battled through the night as a huge blaze engulfed one of Oxford Street's busiest stores. Hundreds of shoppers had to be evacuated and traffic was brought to a standstill for several hours as New Look's London flagship shop went up in flames.''

-The Evening Standard, April 24, 2007


WEST END - 2002

Photo: BBC

On Sept. 26, 2002, firefighters extinguished a fire that engulfed two buildings in London's West End - and threatened to spread to the 200-year-old Theatre Royal.

``More than 50 firefighters managed to control the fire which burned for over four hours, closing roads and filling the West End with smoke,'' the BBC said.


Photo: BBC

On Dec. 12, 1997, a fire at a passenger terminal disrupted flights at Heathrow Airport - one of the busiest in the world. Sixty firefighters and 15 engines battled the blaze for five hours at Terminal One. The flames spread from a Burger King restaurant through the building's air ducts.

According to the BBC: ``Although 180,000 people pass through the terminal each day, there were only a hundred people - mostly overnight staff - in the terminal at the time. One expert said that if the ferocious but confined blaze had occurred at peak time, the results could have been `quite catastrophic.' ... An estimated 45,000 passengers had their journeys disrupted or cancelled.''


On Nov. 19, 1897, fire damaged 100 buildings in Cripplegate, primarily warehousing - and put thousands of people out of work. Damage was estimated at 1 million pounds.

``The Great Cripplegate fire of 1897 began in an ostrich feather warehouse and cleared much of what remained of the old area,'' according to the web site of Gold Lane estate.

This ``warren of slums and ‘red light’ areas'' was transformed by the industrial revolution into a district of warehouses and train yards - and laid waste by flames, the web site said. The Lord Mayor of London's launched a relief, according to the web site of the British Library of Political and Economic Science.

The fire brigade was criticized by the public for its response to the blaze, but the chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee defended the efforts of the firemen at a meeting of the London County Council, according to newspaper accounts.

The conflagration also damaged St. Giles Church, which was built in the 1500s and survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. St. Giles was damaged again when fire and destruction visited Cripplegate during the German raids of World War II.



Romilly (National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London)

During the Victorian era, social class was a national obsession. Industrialists in the House of Commons vied with landowners in the House of Lords, while the middle class sought to distance itself from the working class. Sometimes, though, class simply didn't matter. Everyone was equal.

On May 24, 1891, London fireman George Byne was seriously injured in a rescue attempt at the home of a nobleman - Lord William Romilly, 2nd Baron Romilly. Romilly died as did his maid and cook. The butler and another servant escaped the flames. Several engines answered the alarm.

According to a dispatch in The New York Times, Romilly ``upset a paraffine lamp in the drawing room in his London residence. He was alone at the time and vainly attempted to extinguish the fire unassisted. Soon after, the butler smelled smoke, and on making a hurried investigation found Lord Romily lying senseless.''

Upon entering the home, the fire brigade found maid Blance Griffin and cook Emma Lovell ''in the same state of insensibility in which their employer was discovered,'' the newspaper said, while ``George Byne, a fireman, received serious injuries while engaged in rescuing the unconscious inmates of the house.''

The victims were taken to St. George's Hospital.


Photo: BBC

On Dec. 15, 2003, a 12-pump fire ripped through the Tiffin Girls School in Kingston, south-west London. There were no injuries.

According to the BBC, the fire - which took five hours to control - damaged 15 classrooms, the roof, and the power and heating systems.


IRA BOMBS 1969 - 1997

Photos: BBC

Firemen at 1974 bombings of Parliment and Tower of London

Over a period of three decades, from 1969 to 1997, the Provisional IRA carried out a wave of deadly attacks across the U.K. aimed at ending British rule in Northern Island. The attacks included the bombing of a number of London landmarks.

On June 17, 1974, a bomb has exploded at the Houses of Parliament, fracturing a gas main. ``A fierce fire spread quickly through the centuries-old hall in one of Britain's most closely-guarded buildings,'' the BBC said. About a dozen people were injured.

A month later -- July 17, 1974 -- a blast at the Tower of London killed one person and injured about 40 others. The bomb detonated in the Mortar Room in the White Tower, a small basement exhibition room packed with tourists ``who took the force of the blast,'' the BBC said. ``Many people suffered badly damaged and lost limbs and severe facial injuries.''

One of the deadliest bombings occurred Dec. 17, 1983 at Harrods Department Store during the Christmas shopping season. The explosion killed six people -- including three police officers -- and wounded scores more. ``Harrods re-opened three days later despite the damage,'' the BBC said.

On April 24, 1993, a truck bomb at Bishopsgate in the City of London caused £1 billion in property loss, including the destruction of St Ethelburga's church and serious damage to Liverpool Street Underground. There were a number of casualties.


Fire swept the London waterfront at the start of the 20th century.

According to a July 12, 1901 dispatch appearing in the The New York Times the next day: ``A fire at the West India Docks today destroyed a number of huge sheds and their contents. The amount of damage is estimated at from L100,000 to L250,000. Sugar and timber warehouses were involved in the conflagration. The Custom House was damaged, but the vessels in the docks were removed safely.''



On April 21, 1902, fire erupted at MacQueen's hat factory in the Barbican and the wind-whipped flames gutted adjacent warehouses as well as assorted businesses and shops. Two firemen sustained injuries Chief Fire Officer Wells directed the firefighting.

``Three hundred firemen and 40 fire engines were engaged,'' according to The New York Times. ``Owing to the danger that Aldergate Street Station might catch fire, traffic on the Metropolitan Railway was temporarily suspended. The guests of the Manchester Hotel, adjacent to the Aldergate Street station, hurriedly left.''



On Sept. 2, 2002, London firefighters rescued seven people from a fire at a four-story hostel on Montagu Place, Marylebone. Eight engines and two turntable ladders attended the fire, with crews using six jets and two ladder monitors to extinguish the flames.

At 7:19 p.m., the fire brigade's control room at Lambeth received the first of 23 telephone calls about the fire, and ``a few minutes later firefighters from Manchester Square and Paddington fire stations arrived at the scene to find people calling for help from a number of the upper floor windows and the roof,'' according to a fire brigade press release.

``They quickly raised their ladders and rescued one man, two women and a child, all suffering from smoke inhalation from a second floor window and one man from the roof who was uninjured,'' the press release said. ``Two other men escaped from the premises before the brigade arrived, one from the basement and another who jumped from a first floor window. Two other people were assisted from the building by breathing apparatus crews.''

Divisional Officer Lee Phillpotts, incident commander, said: ``All the firefighters who attended this incident worked very hard to fight what was a very severe fire. The first crews to arrive in particular did an excellent job as they were confronted by a number of people in great distress at windows and the roof of the building, and an already well developed fire below them.''



Did Mrs. O Leary's cow do more damage in Chicago?

``1966 marks the tercentenary of the Great Fire of London. In reading descriptions of this fire, I was impressed by the facts that only four people died directly as a result of the fire and that only 436 acres were burnt in 87 h. The London fire is dwarfed when compared, for example, with the Chicago 'Mrs. O'Leary's Cow' fire of 1871 when 2,124 acres and 17,450 buildings were burnt between October 8 and 10, 250 people were killed and about 100,000 left homeless. Although fire-fighting techniques had become more advanced and buildings more widely separated than they were in the London of 1666, the Chicago fire was a much faster spreading and more destructive fire.''

- from S. Atallah, Fire Research Station, Boreham Wood, Hertfordshire, and Department of Chemical Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, writing in the journal Nature on July 2, 1966.



On Oct. 5, 1954, fire swept the top floor of the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, forcing the evacuation of thousands of workers and a quantity of mail from one of the largest postal facilities in London.

``The call went out to Clerkenwell fire station, conveniently situated immediately opposite the buildings, and firemen were on the scene within two minutes.'' It later ``emerged that over twenty minutes had elapsed between the discovery of the fire and making the emergency call,'' according to the web site of the British Postal Museum & Archive. The Postmaster General was questioned about the incident in Parliament. It was determined the post office firefighting squad attempted to extinguish the blaze before calling for outside assistance.



On May 24, 2004, a fire at a warehouse in east London ``destroyed millions of dollars worth of work by leading contemporary British artists, dozens of them from the vast collection of Charles Saatchi, the warehouse's owner,'' The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said: ``Among the works that have been lost are pieces by Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread and Jake and Dinos Chapman, all part of the influential and showy Young British Artist movement championed and sustained by Mr. Saatchi for the last 15 or so years.

``Well-known works destroyed in the fire, which raged for two days and leveled the warehouse, included Ms. Emin's 'Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995,' a tent on which she had stitched the names of dozens of past lovers; and the Chapman brothers' 'Hell,' a series of nine miniature landscapes depicting the horrors of war that took them two years to make and that, according to some reports, cost Mr. Saatchi £500,000, or about $905,000.''



On Aug. 14, 1883, fire destroyed a "lunatic asylum'' at Southall Park, killing six people, according to Haydn's Dictionary of Dates and Universal Information.

Among the dead was Dr. Robert Boyd, a physician and proprieter of the private institution, according to the 1886 Dictionary of National Biography, compiled by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee.

Boyd was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, as well as a ``writer on diseases of the insane'' whose work was published in The Lancet and other journals, according to Stephen and Sidney.

Volume No. 4 of the text ``A History of the County of Middlesex,'' reprinted by the web site British History Online, said: ``By 1855 Southall Park had become a private lunatic asylum, which between 1861 and 1881 had an average of 18 patients. The house, a 'fine specimen of Queen Anne architecture', was destroyed by fire in 1883 killing Dr. Boyd, the superintendent, his son William, and 4 patients.''



On Oct. 1, 1869, an explosion killed seven people in a house in Bayswater. The owner of the house, at 69, Moscow Road - a Mr. Titheradge - was a confectioner who also sold fireworks, according to the 1870 edition of the Annual Register, published by Longmans.

The book said:

``At five minutes to three o'clock in the morning the constable who took this road as part of a very long beat happened to be passing near the house, when he heard a noise resembling fireworks, and was startled immediately afterwards by an explosion which blew the front of the shop out, shutters and all. He at once sprang his rattle, and used his best exertions to rouse the people in the place.

``But egress by the front was impossible almost immediately, as the house must have been in flames instantaneously in the front, and the explosion, to all appearances, went through the two windows over the shop. Of course all who slept in that apartment must have been killed at once. A second policeman came at the alarm of the rattle, and he ran for the engine, which came in fifteen minutes after the alarm.''