"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

December 22, 2010

ROW RESOLVED


From the BBC

A row between firefighters and London Fire Brigade over duty hours has been resolved with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) accepting a new shift pattern.

Members of the FBU voted in favour of the 10.5-hour day shifts and 13.5-hour night shifts instead of the current nine-hour days and 15-hour nights.

The FBU said it was pleased at the "sensible compromise".

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said the the ballot would bring the "long-standing dispute to an end".

Since October, about 5,500 firefighters staged two eight-hour strikes and called off plans to walk-out on the Bonfire Night in November at the last minute.

Union members backed the new shift pattern by 2,670 votes to 510.

Ian Lehair, the FBU's executive member for London, said: "This was always our objective. I wish it could have been achieved without the foolishly dramatic threat to sack all London firefighters, which led to two one-day strikes."

Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Councillor Brian Coleman, said the ballot demonstrated that the "strikes were completely unnecessary and should never have happened in the first place".

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, added that he was "really pleased with the outcome of the ballot".

November 01, 2010

NOVEMBER STRIKE

Photo: London SE1 community web site

"The London Fire Brigade's Southwark training centre is the nerve centre for the private emergency fire service protecting the capital during the latest strike by members of the Fire Brigades' Union," according to the London SE1 community web site. Security has been increased at the training facility.

London's firefighters held a second walkout on Nov. 1, 2010, and the industrial action resulted in injuries to two striking firefighters and a union official.

The dispute is over the fire authority's efforts to force a new contract on members of the Fire Brigades Union. Firefighters who decline to sign the new contract, which would impose a new shift pattern, face dismissal.

Minimal protection was again provided by 162 temporary firefighters employed by AssetCo. during the 8-hour work stoppage. The contract crews staffed 27 engines after undergoing a 12-day course on basic tactics.

There are no special units - i.e., turntable ladders or rescues - "on the run" during a walkout.

The London Fire Brigade normally fields about 170 engines and other appliances, and regular firefighters undergo a 16-week basic training course at Southwark followed by three years of probation.

[London firefighters had also planned to strike between Nov. 5 and Nov. 7 to coincide with the Bonfire Night holiday and the Hindu festival of Diwali - both of which feature incendiaries - but that action was shelved.]

During the national fire strike in 2002, the military deployed about 90 "Green Goddess" engines to protect Greater London alone, according to BBC statistics. LINK

The BBC reported: "Private contractors responded to 20 callouts, including eight fires, between 1000 and 1800 GMT on Monday."

A London Fire Brigade press release said: "Lessons learned from the first strike have enabled deployment and management of the emergency fire crews to be achieved more efficiently than last time."

However, "the service provided by the contractor is not intended to replicate or replace the Brigade’s operational cover arrangements and a reduced level of firefighting services will be provided," according to the fire brigade's web site.

Injuries

Injuries on the picket lines marred the day.

The Daily Mail reported: "A striking fireman was hospitalised today after he was hit by a car that was apparently breaking a picket line outside a fire station." The car was following a fire engine, staffed by a contract crew, into the Croydon Fire Station, the Daily Mail said.

News reports identified the driver of the car as a fire brigade manager.

In another incident, "A stand-in firefighter was driving a fire engine back into the brigade's Southwark training centre when it collided with Fire Brigades Union official Ian Leahair, sending him crashing to the ground," according to the Evening Standard.

At Dagenham station, a striker suffered a sprained hand after he was struck by a fire engine, according to a Fire Brigades Union press release.

The general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, said: "It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike."

According to the Evening Standard:

"AssetCo, based in South Ruislip, draws many of its recruits from the Uxbridge-based Reliance Security Group, which provides security guards for shopping centres and to transport prisoners to and from courts. The temporary crews were sent on a course in Lincolnshire, where they were taught basic techniques in firefighting and dealing with road accidents."

The temporary firefighters are paid about 20 pounds per hour by AssetCo., which also has a contract to maintain the fire brigade's fleet of vehicles, according to the Evening Standard.

A contract firefighter quoted by the Daily Express said: “There’s the potential for somebody to lose their life. I don’t understand why we couldn’t have had more training."

October 27, 2010

COMMENTARY


From The Independent newspaper:

"You may not have heard of AssetCo, a small, but growing British company that specialises in fighting fires. That may quickly change if you have the misfortune to find yourself among the thousands of Londoners who get into a spot of bother on Bonfire Night. Not only does AssetCo provide equipment to the London fire brigade, it also supplies firefighters in the event that the regular ones are unable to perform their duties, perhaps because of a major catastrophe, perhaps because of something else... such as a strike.

"Hence the Bonfire Night problem. With 5 November being the brigade's busiest night (and this year there is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to contend with, too), most people have some sympathy with the men and women who fight fires, which is a dangerous job and a very real life-saver. But in holding a strike on Bonfire Night, their union is playing a dangerous game because that sympathy is likely to be stretched, possibly to breaking point. The Bonfire Night action is using the Bob Crow technique: that is, carefully timing your strike to cause the maximum disruption, discomfort or, in this case, fear to the public, most of whom probably haven't heard about AssetCo and, being unlikely to have experienced its services, will probably be a mite nervous about calling upon its people, however good AssetCo happens to be at the job.

"The problem with the firemen's use of the Crow tactic is that it is the sort of thing that could easily backfire, prodding the Government into picking a fight with unions generally. What better way to divert attention from the pain of the Chancellor's cuts than getting into a war with those nasty union barons. That sort of war that could lead to a company such as AssetCo filling its order book rather quickly. It won't have escaped anyone's attention that assorted Conservative ministers have been busy hobnobbing with the CBI, which has been calling loudly for a string of stringent new restrictions on unions and their ability to strike. "

October 25, 2010

OCTOBER STRIKE


Striking firefighters block contract fire crew.





From Evening Standard

A family whose house was engulfed in flames during the October 2010 firefighters' strike claimed they received a “farcical” response from a stand-in crew.

Evridiki and Hippokratis Spanos made six 999 calls as smoke poured from their roof but had to wait about 20 minutes for privately-hired firefighters to arrive. A crew should normally arrive within six minutes.

Mrs Spanos said the stand-ins — hired by the London fire brigade to provide cover during an eight-hour strike — took a further 20 minutes to connect hoses to a street hydrant.

When they did begin to tackle the electrical fire at their terrace home in Enfield, she claimed, they were unable to direct the water jets on target.

“One stood at the front of the house and another at the back, but the two water arcs missed the fire completely,” said the department store worker, 49.

“They were going over the top of each other, over the roof, not hitting the spot. It was a complete farce. All we could do was stand outside, panicking because the fire was getting worse.”
Brigade sources today said the temporary crew were taunted and heckled as “scabs” throughout by people believed to be striking firefighters.

The brigade denied the response was farcical, saying water was deliberately sprayed over the flames to dampen the fire. An investigation into the blaze was under way today.

The Spanos family face a repair bill of thousands of pounds and lost many irreplaceable items. Their home is so badly damaged that the couple and their teenage son and daughter have temporarily had to move in with Mrs Spanos's sister in Leyton.

When the strike finished — 90 minutes after Mrs Spanos saw the smoke — crews from Enfield and Chingford arrived and extinguished the fire using a cherry-picker. The house's top floor and roof were virtually destroyed.

The call-out was one of 49 attended by 162 temporary crews, provided by contractor AssetCo, during the London Fire Brigades' Union action. Up to 27 fire engines were available but were not operated from fire stations — many of them barricaded — to avoid greater hostility from striking firefighters.

About 200 protesters gathered at the brigade's Southwark training centre on Saturday evening to give the temporary workers a “welcome committee” as they completed their shifts.

The FBU is protesting at plans to sack all 5,500 firefighters and re-employ them on new shift patterns.

Regional secretary Joe MacVeigh said: “Saturday was a relatively quiet day and it was by the grace of God that tragedy was avoided.”

From Socialist Worker

Striking London firefighters scored a huge victory against management's scabbing operation today (Saturday). Militant mass pickets all but destroyed bosses' operation to break the strike.

And, in a glimpse of what coordinated action could mean, many London tube workers refused to work on safety grounds during the strike, shutting down the entire Jubilee line for much of the day and causing major problems on other lines.

The strikers in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), walked out for eight hours from 10am this morning. They had voted by 79 percent to strikes over a management order to either sign new contracts with shifts that would put fire cover at risk, or face the sack.

The bosses bought in a scab fire force from private firm AssetCo to try to break the firefighters' strike.

But the scabs were kept out of all the capital's fire stations by mass pickets, including up to 400 in Poplar, where the picket was joined by firefighters who'd come from across Kent to support them, and 200 in Dagenham, with a big delegation from Essex FBU.

Graham Beers, FBU rep for Dagenham, told Socialist Worker, "It was great to see the big groups turn up from Essex—the strikers walked out this morning to a big round of applause.

"This is the first time I've ever been on strike. Members of the public have come with boxes of chocolates and things like that. The support we've had has been incredible."

There were also reports of pickets of as many as 50 firefighters at Homerton, Woodford Green and Shoreditch in east London and Kensington in west London, boosted by large groups of off-duty firefighters, and many more stations where pickets were much bigger than expected.

Delegations of firefighters also joined today's anti-cuts protest in central London. There, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the crowd, "AssetCo's scabs have not got into a single fire station today.

And he added, "I have reports that two of the 27 fire engines they're using have already crashed."

Firefighters listening in on the brigade's radios told Socialist Worker that one scab fire engine drove into a wall, while another managed to crash into a lamp post. Ironically, fire bosses have previously admitted that the scabs can't cover traffic accidents.

In the morning, most scabs didn't even dare show their faces at fire stations—and the few who did were quickly driven away.

The scabs were forced to find somewhere else to lurk until they got orders over the fire engines' radios.

In Leytonstone and Dagenham, they were found hiding out in Tesco car parks.

Graham, the Dagenham rep, said, "When we found out they were in the car park, we sent a greeting party to go and see them and tell them what they're doing is wrong."

At several other stations groups of firefighters set off in their cars to track scab fire engines that drove past.

In Poplar the pickets ran down the road after the scab engine, waving a huge FBU banner.

And in Kensington they twice managed to stop fire engines and confront the scab crews inside. After the second time, the scabs said they were giving up and taking the fire engine off duty.

Union activists believe that by 3pm there were as few as 11 of the scab crews left working, trying to cover the whole of London—and failing.

London Fire Brigade Press Release

The London Fire Brigade can report that despite repeated incidents of harassment, intimidation and violence against emergency fire crews the plan to provide a contingency fire and rescue service in the capital during the eight hour FBU strike today has been successful.

All 162 ‘contracted’ firefighters were deployed by 9.00 a.m. and 27 fire engines have throughout the day responded to 49 incidents including several fires in residential buildings all of which were successfully dealt with.

During the day fire crews:

Experienced a hit and run with three motorbikes on one fire engine that has left the vehicle damaged.

Were followed and threatened on all 27 fire engines deployed across the capital.

Faced barricades across at least one station entrance preventing fire engines from getting in and out.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said:

“I would rather the FBU had not orchestrated today’s strike, but the contract, which was of course never designed to fully replicate the service delivered to London, has delivered.

“The most disappointing aspect of the day has been that the people responding to calls, because of this strike, have had to suffer abuse, violence and harassment as they tried to access fire stations or attend incidents.

“Despite the mindless actions which posed a real danger to Londoners, the emergency fire crew delivered the plans to keep the capital safe. However, Londoners should never have been put at risk by the actions of a minority of individuals hell-bent on causing disruption.”

Several incidents were reported to the police, and the Brigade will be reviewing how further strike dates can be managed.

Fire Brigades Union Press Release

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said this evening:

“Today London’s 5,600 firefighters did the last thing they wanted to do. They went on strike for eight hours, leaving the capital without their expertise.

“It was an orderly, disciplined but solid strike. Eight out of 10 of them voted in the ballot, and of those, eight out of ten voted in favour of the strike. All of them supported it on the day.

“This wasn’t a fight we sought or wanted. London Fire Brigade wants changes in shift patterns; we are willing to negotiate changes. But we do expect to negotiate them; we won’t have them imposed on us by the threat of sacking all our members. That’s what LFB tried to do. Everything changed on August 11, when LFB sent out letters starting the process of dismissing all our members.

“One thing marred the day. London firefighters will be saddened that their chief fire officer, Ron Dobson, chose to come out with a series of unfounded accusations of violence against the men and women who work for him and for London.

“I’m going to appeal publicly to Ron Dobson at the end of this strike. You and I know that London firefighters are dedicated, brave and skilful public servants. Stop trying to tell the public a different story, and stop trying to bully them. Withdraw the sacking notices, then we’ll withdraw the second strike planned for November 1, and let’s sit down together and sort out shift patterns.”

Questions and answers from BBC

So, what's the strike about?

London Fire Brigade is proposing to change the start and finish times of duty for frontline firefighters.

What does that involve?

The brigade wants to cut the current 15 hour night shift to 12 hours and increase the current nine hour day shift to 12 hours. Firefighters would continue to work two day shifts followed by two night shifts and then have four days off. As a compromise the brigade has also suggested an 11 hour day and a 13 hour night.

What does the FBU say?

It fears that if firefighters don't accept the changes to their contracts they will be sacked and that by accepting the changes the door would be open to more "detrimental" changes to their working practices.

Why does the brigade want to change firefighters' hours?

It says current start and finish times have been the same for 31 years but the work it does now has changed dramatically - they don't just fight fires.

How long have negotiations between the brigade and the FBU been going on?

Five years.

Will staff be sacked?

The brigade says that if agreement is not reached following the consultation a decision will be made on whether to give notice to staff to terminate existing contracts and off re-engagement on new start and finish times.

So, if staff don't sign the new contract they will be sacked?

Yes they will be dismissed if the brigade terminates the existing contracts of employment and staff don't sign up to the new agreement.

Would staff get redundancy?

No. The jobs would still exist.

What is the contingency plan during the strike?

London Fire Brigade has a legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service at all times. It can no longer rely on the military's 'green goddesses' so it is contracting a private company.

AssetCo web site

In July 2009, AssetCo was awarded a 7-year contract to provide the London Fire Brigade with up to 700 staff, trained to provide a support firefighting service. This is the first major contract of its nature to be outsourced by a UK Fire and Rescue Service, and was awarded to AssetCo following a competitive tendering process.

Our reserve firefighters were recruited and fully trained to provide contingency to London Fire Brigade in the event of extreme situations such as pandemic illness or flooding.

Our crews are available for immediate deployment with crew competency maintained through continuous professional development.

October 06, 2010

OFF THE RUN


On Oct. 6, 2010, the Evening Standard reported the London Fire Brigade was "in meltdown" after a union action took almost 100 engines off the run.

The newspaper said:

"A confidential memo passed to the Evening Standard claims that 91 of 169 engines were out of service on 114 occasions on Monday, some for almost 11 hours at a time, due to staff shortages or mechanical defects."

Members of the Fire Brigades Union are "working to rule" in a dispute over new shift patterns.

On Oct. 1, the West End EXTRA reported: "Fire crews from Knightsbridge had to battle their way through West End traffic to fight a serious blaze in Great Portland Street" because the Euston station didn't have the required staffing.

A firefighter from the Euston station said: "Because of the dispute, we didn’t have the cover we needed at Euston to go out and tackle this blaze."

In an Oct. 6 dispatch, The Press Association reported Deputy Fire Commissioner Rita Dexter said: "The current work to rule action is causing some disruption, caused by temporary unavailability of staff and vehicles as we move them around to ensure cover."

September 08, 2010

70 YEARS AGO


London burning

September marks the 70th anniversary of The Blitz.

Writing 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 the buildup to the war.

In March 1938, the government created the Auxiliary Fire Service.

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. 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 equals."

August 19, 2010

AT THE READY

Old Bishopsgate Fire Station, Built 1884

HOSE DRILL

August 18, 2010

1937 MODEL


"LCC Fire Engine, c.1937 - very rare example comprising a large wooden model of the Limousine style Fire Engines from the contemporary LCC London Fire Brigade. With a red pressed steel bonnet, wooden body, with bare metal Bedford style radiator grille and wheels, removable wooden ladder and hose, bell to cab interior - beautifully done. 46cm long."

UNION VOTE


Aug. 17, 2010

Bosses threaten to sack London firefighters

By Tom Walker
Of the Socialist Worker

Firefighters in London are set to ballot for industrial action over management’s threat to sack them all.

London fire commissioner Rob Dobson sent a letter to the workers’ FBU union on Wednesday of last week to begin a 90-day “consultation period” on the plans.

It means that London’s 4,000 firefighters face mass dismissal as part of a scheme to tear up contracts and impose new shifts.

The proposal is to take three hours from night shifts and move them to the daytime shifts.

But the union says this will leave London without enough fire cover at night—and create childcare chaos for firefighters.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said the threat is the kind of thing workers “would expect from Victorian mill owners”.

“We will fight this disgraceful attack every step of the way,” he added.

Firefighters are set to ballot for industrial action short of a strike in the first instance.

And there is a growing mood for full strike action if bosses don’t back down. The union is now holding mass meetings around London.

Battle

Both sides have been building up to this battle for months—even years.

The Tory-controlled fire authority, run by notorious Barnet Tory councillor Brian Coleman, is spoiling for a fight with the union. It is using the economic crisis as an excuse.

But the bosses are clearly nervous.

They waited an extra two weeks before issuing the formal sacking threats after the union made clear its plan to ballot.

Up to 500 firefighters held a noisy protest outside a fire authority meeting in June.

The meeting discussed the plans to attack firefighters while also approving a hefty pay rise for Coleman.

Some 98 percent of London FBU members have already voted against the shift plans in a consultative ballot earlier this year.

And London firefighters took action short of a strike last year over conditions of ­service—and won.

Leaked

In the run up to that dispute it was revealed that London fire bosses signed a £9 million five-year deal with private firm AssetCo to provide strikebreaking “cover” if workers walk out.

These rent-a-scabs would be put to work with just a few weeks’ training—nothing compared to the years of training and experience that real firefighters have.

FBU regional official Paul Embery called the privateers a “ragbag collection of ­blacklegs”.

Meanwhile, documents leaked in March prove that the shift plans mean cuts to night time fire cover.

They show the changes would give “a capability to withdraw personnel from night shift” and “the removal of ten appliances [fire engines]”.

The scene is set for a huge battle over this most vital of public services.

London is the largest and highest-profile fire brigade in the country.

It could be a national focus for the fightback against Tory cuts. If London strikes, the FBU should recall its annual conference—and ballot for national strike action in its support.

BOTTOM UP

On Aug. 17, 2010, the fire brigade extricated a burglary suspect who was too wide to fit through a window in East London, according to the Evening Standard.

August 03, 2010

MOVING IN

A pair of firefighters moving in to fight flames after German attack on London during World War II. Firefighter closest to bus is carrying spool of hose. Air raid warden stands to left in helmet and business suit.

AERIAL ATTACK

Photo: AssetCo web site
Aerial platform attacks fire near London Eye (in background)

WANDSWORTH - 2010

Photo: BBC web site
On Aug. 1, 2010, London firefighters rescued two people from a six-pump fire at Sudbury House on Wandsworth High Street.

July 26, 2010

GENERAL STRIKE

Bus set alight in London during the General Strike of 1926. The 10-day industrial action was called by the Trade Union Congress. The armed forces and civilian volunteers attempted to maintain basic services, such as public transit.

July 23, 2010

1891 INFERNO

Major fire on Queen Victoria Street in 1891.

July 22, 2010

THE CITY - 1940

Photo: City of London
Firefighters and Auxiliary Fire Service trailer pump at "emergency dam" at Aldermanbury after a German air raid on the City of London on Dec. 29, 1940. The trailer pump is numbered for Auxiliary Fire Service sub-station 55X.

CLAPHAM - 2010


On July 5, 2010, London firefighters rescued several people - including these women standing on the window ledge - from a fire in a commercial building in Clapham. Most of those rescued suffered from smoke inhalation.

July 14, 2010

EUSTON - 1973

Photo: BBC
On Sept. 10, 1973, the Irish Republican Army detonated a bomb at the Euston railway station in central London. About an hour earlier, a bomb exploded at the King's Cross station. Thirteen people were injured between the two blasts.

July 13, 2010

CLASSIC PUMP

London Fire Brigade pump, circa 1935

CITY ABLAZE

BABY RESCUE - 2010

Photo: Television footage from Daily Mail
On July 12, 2010, a passerby rescued a baby from a fire that engulfed the top floors of a 16-story apartment building in Southwest London, according to the BBC and the Evening Standard. More than 100 firefighters attended the 20-pump incident at Madingley, Saint Peters Road, Kingston. There were no serious injuries. The fire was the second 20-pump incident in three days for the London Fire Brigade.

PLANES & TRAINS


Photos: ITN & BBC web sites
On July 9, 2010, a fire destroyed a warehouse at Heathrow Airport (first photo). More than 100 firefighters attended the 20-pump incident. Four aerial ladders and other special units were also called to the scene. The evening before, an 8-pump fire that started in a Burger King forced the evacuation of 2,000 railway and underground passengers from the Liverpool Street train station (second photo).

July 01, 2010

GREYS

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR WIDER VIEW

June 02, 2010

100 YEARS


From London Fire Brigade press release

Charlie Harwood, who served as a firefighter in Tooting during World War Two, visited Tooting Fire Station to celebrate his 100th birthday with firefighters from the station’s green watch in March 2010.

Charlie was presented with a commemorative firefighter’s axe by green watch’s youngest firefighter, Mark Whittall. Children from the local Henry Cavendish primary school also presented Charlie with a bunch of flowers and excerpts from Charlie’s war-time memoires were read out.

Bill Thorne, green watch manager, said: “It was an absolute honour to invite Charlie to the station. It was a fantastic opportunity for the firefighters to meet him and hear about his experiences of firefighting during the War. Charlie is a real life hero”.

Charlie, who reached his 100th birthday on March 6th, was born in Vauxhall and spent his early life in Balham. He enlisted with the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1939. On the Friday before the War was declared Charlie was asked to report to his local fire station, along with all the other civil defence and fire brigade personnel. He said: ”I went home from work, had my tea, said goodbye to my wife and reported to Tooting Fire Station”.

Charlie spent the war years fighting fires in London, attending many of the major blazes and incidents, including those during the Blitz.

Charlie remembers his first ‘shout’ was a huge blaze caused by bombing at Woolwich Arsenal. He said: “I thought I was driving into hell, there was fire everywhere you looked, it was awful. After a while we drove back to Tooting. As we looked back towards the docks it looked as if the whole of London, particularly the docks, was on fire”.

Charlie recalls a particularly tragic incident during his time as a firefighter: “We were called to Henry Cavendish school, which was being used as a fire brigade sub-station. On arrival we found 12 firemen and one firewoman had been killed by a bomb falling on their mess hut as they sat to eat. It was our job to retrieve the bodies. I had lived in this area all my life and knew well a couple of the men who had been killed”.

Being a firefighter during the War was a tough job, Charlie said: “We worked 120 hours a week and our wages were £3 a week”.

Unfortunately, Charlie’s eyesight was not of the standard required to remain in the peacetime fire brigade. In 1945 he returned to the building trade, an area he’d worked in prior to joining the brigade.

May 12, 2010

BLITZ IN NUMBERS

UPDATE: FEB. 24, 2011

Image: BBC

April 07, 2010

No. 37 FIRE FORCE

Photo: london-se1.co.uk
Fire Brigade memorial at Southwark Cathedral

NEW KIT


In April 2010, the London Fire Brigade introduced a new look - a blue fire kit.

The turnout gear is designed to integrate with breathing apparatus sets, chemical protection suits and other fire brigade equipment.

“We have taken advantage of the latest technology from an evolving and competitive market to purchase a replacement that is safe, light and comfortable," London Fire Commissioner Roy Dobson said.

"The safety of our firefighters is of paramount importance and the new fire kit will meet the exacting standards demanded by the London Fire Brigade,” Dobson said.

March 17, 2010

CENTRAL LINE - 2007


Photo: Daily Telegraph
On July 5, 2007, hundreds of London Underground commuters were trapped on the Central Line for two hours after a train struck "an obstacle" between Mile End and Bethnal Green, according to The Daily Telegraph. "Emergency services treated 20 people for light injuries, including five who were brought to hospital mainly as a result of suffering breathing problems because of panic attacks," the Telegraph reported.

V-1 ROCKET

Photo: www.worldwar2database.com

CIGARETTE CARDS

In the years leading up to World War Two, collecting "cigarette cards" was a popular hobby, and in 1938 tobacco companies issued a series depicting air raid precautions, according to the Midnight Watch web site.

CLERKENWELL - 1867

Photo: Metropolitan Police
"The Fenians were 19th Century Irish Nationalists organised in 1858 as the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland, and in 1867 as the Clan na Gael in the US. The name derives from old Irish 'Fianna', legendary Irish warriors whose name became an Irish term for soldiers. Their activities included the Clerkenwell Bombing in 1867, in which 12 people were killed and 126 injured as the Fenians attempted to rescue two of their members." - Metropolitan Police web site

March 16, 2010

MORNING AFTER


Photo: Museum of London
"This photo was taken the morning after 10 May 1941, the night of the most severe attack of the London Blitz. Queen Street Place, Cheapside and the surrounding area were heavily damaged. Southwark Bridge lies in the distance with Three Cranes Wharf in the centre. Firemen were faced with over 2,000 fires, but low tides and over 40 fractured water mains limited their firefighting capacity. That night marked the last of the major bombing attacks on London for the next three years. Police Constables Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs photographed the destruction of this street and across the City, as they had done throughout the Blitz."

- Museum of London web site

MUMBAI BLUES

Meantime in Mumbai: Firefighters are trading their 1930s-era London-style kits - wool, brass buttons, cork helmets (left) - for modern gear.

March 15, 2010

BATTERSEA - 2009

Photo: Sky News web site
On Dec. 16, 2009, a double-decker bus accident in Battersea injured about two dozen people. Crews from the London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service provided care. Medics are dressed in yellow and green uniforms.

HAULIN' TARPS

Photo: Fire Engine Photos
London Salvage Corps DCU (damage control unit) in Tottenham in late 1970s. The vehicle carried tarpaulins and other salvage equipment. The salvage corps, operated by the insurance industry, disbanded in the 1980s. It began operations in 1866.

March 11, 2010

SHOREDITCH - 2010

Photos: BBC web site, submitted by viewers
Fire in Shoreditch, central London

On March 11, 2010, flames swept a block of buildings on Tabernacle Street in Shoreditch, and at the height of the incident 20 engines and about 100 firefighters were at the scene.

The initial alarm was received at about 4:30 a.m. and smoke was visible across central London. The fire was under control about seven hours later.

"This was a complicated fire spreading rapidly through different premises and onto a bituemin covered roof, creating huge plumes of smoke across the city and presenting very difficult firefighting conditions for the crews attending," London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said.

"This incident yet again highlights the need for our fire safety work to prevent the fire risk and disruption these incidents have on our capital,” Dobson said.

The building housed a popular club, bar and restaurant - Sosho and the East Room.

Owner Jonathan Downey told The Evening Standard: "It's like one of those smart bombs has just landed on my organisation. Floors have collapsed, some walls are in danger of collapsing. Our head office was there."

INITIAL REPORT FROM THE SCENE
04:32
F24 SHOREDITCH
20 PUMP FIRE PERSONS REPORTED, AERIALS 4
37219101
TABERNACLE STREET, EC2.
Range of buildings of 3,4,and 5 floors, 40 metres x 50 metres, 20 percent of 2nd floor, 20 percent of 3rd floor, 50 percent of roof alight, 3 jets, 1 ground monitor, 2 aerials, all breathing apparatus crews withdrawn, all persons not yet accounted for, tactical mode oscar.

March 08, 2010

WAREHOUSE FIRE

Photo: Collection of Kevin McDermott, retired London firefighter
Warehouse fire, circa 1960s or 1970s

BIG CHILL

Photo: Collection of Kevin McDermott, retired London firefighter
Winter scene, late 19th century or early 20th century

WHITEFRIARS - 1959

From left to right - Station Officer Hanslip with Firemen McDermott, Elliot and Sloman outside Whitefriars Fire Station in London, 1959

Photos: Collection of Kevin McDermott, retired London firefighter
Left to right - Firemen Smith, Collins and McDermott of the Red Watch at Whitefriars Fire Station, London, 1959.