"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

February 10, 2008

CAMDEN MARKET - 20 PUMPS

UPDATED FEBRUARY 2008

Photos: LFB and BBC

On Feb. 9, 2008, fire ravaged the stalls at Camden Town market, a major tourist attraction. Leaping flames - visible for miles - spread to the popular Hawley Arms pub and other buildings on a busy Saturday night. There were no serious injuries and the market reopened a week later.

Camden Town is ``a much-loved pocket of bohemia and a part of London where black eyeliner and tattoos usurp Savile Row threads as the urban uniform,'' according to The Scotsman newspaper.

An estimated 450 people were evacuated from the market and another 100 were moved from their homes.

According to a fire brigade press release: ``Twenty fire engines and around 100 firefighters were called to a fire on Chalk Farm Road in Camden. A range of market storage areas, shops, dwellings and two pubs were severely damaged by the blaze.'' An adjoining railway bridge and arches were also damaged.

Firefighters employed a hydraulic platform monitor, 15 jets, a variety of ground ladders and breathing apparatus.

Fire Station Manager Guy Foster, quoted by the BBC, said: "When firefighters arrived they found an intense fire. The decision was taken to clear a large area around the fire because we believed there were propane gas canisters in some of the market stalls.

``The police had to carry out a large operation to clear what is a very busy area on a Saturday night,'' Foster added.

The fire brigade received the alarm at 7:10 p.m., and the blaze was declared under control about six hours later. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known. The first two engines arrived at the fire within minutes, according to reports.

According to The Evening Standard, Ruth Mottram, an owner of the Hawley Arms pub, was critical of the firefighters' response, saying: ``When our staff called the fire brigade the fire was a long way away from us.''

However, London Mayor Ken Livingstone, quoted by The Guardian, praised firefighters, saying: "Yet again the emergency services deserve our thanks for the speed and professionalism with which they have responded to tackle the blaze."

Val Shawcross, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, also offered praise, saying: ``London’s fire brigade demonstrated outstanding professionalism in bringing this difficult and dangerous fire under control, preventing it from spreading further and without a single casualty.

``Considering the fierce fire that fire crews found when they arrived at the incident we should recognise what a very good job they did in bringing it under control so quickly,” Shawcross said.

Assessing the aftermath, the BBC said: ``In all 90 stalls were damaged, 35 of them extensively. In addition six shops and the Hawley Arms have been affected.''

Bus Accident

In a related incident, a double decker bus - diverted along Prince of Wales Road because of the fire at Camden market - crashed into a bridge on Feb. 11. The crash tore through the top deck of the bus and injured six people. One of the victims, a man, suffered severe head injuries, a police spokesman told the BBC.