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.

May 29, 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


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.


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


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.


On July 3, 1968, an Airspeed Ambassador propeller aircraft carrying eight racehorses slammed into two parked jets at London's Heathrow Airport and cartwheeled into Terminal 1, which was then under construction. Six of eight people aboard the aircraft were killed. The racehorses also died. Another 31 people on the ground were injured. The accident was blamed on a mechanical problem. The aircraft was operated by BKS Air Transport. It had been recently converted to carry horses.

May 23, 2013


Photo: Imperial War Museums
Firemen at Cox's Court off Little Britain in the City of London after air raid on July 7, 1917.

From Friends of London Fire Museum

German Zeppelins and aircraft attacked London during World War I.  

There were in all 25 raids on London, 7 by Zeppelins and 18 by aircraft, 22 took place at night, 3 by day.

On a yearly basis there were 4 in 1915, 3 in 1916, 13 in 1917 and 5 in 1918.

A total of 524 people were killed and 1264 injured.

Having been warned by the military authorities of the approach and direction of airships, on some occasions the LFB were able to anticipate the likely target area and concentrate motor engines accordingly, an example being 13/14 October 1915 when motor engines were concentrated at Woolwich, with its Royal Arsenal, before the arrival of the attacking Zeppelin, the resultant fires caused by the 24 incendiary bombs dropped being quickly contained.  

On 7 July 1917 a particularly serious daylight air-raid took place on the City, carried out by Gotha IV bombers, killing 44, injuring 121 and causing three serious fires, one at the Central Telegraph Office in St Martins-le-Grand in the City.

This prompted Chief Officer Sladen to recommend three measures to meet the air-raid situation (a) return former LFB firemen from the armed forces - one officer, 174 men from the navy and two officers, 68 men from the army (b) provide additional Royal Engineers sappers during air-raids and (c) create a Metropolitan scheme of fire brigade assistance during air-raids or expected air-raids.

These measures were quickly agreed by the government including a scheme for fire brigade reinforcement during air-raids, established by the Fire Brigade (Metropolitan Area) Order 1917, under Defence of the Realm Regulation 55B.

This designated the Metropolitan Police District plus Watford, Dartford and Egham Urban Districts - over 750 square miles - a Special Fire Brigade Area in September 1917, and comprised 90 local authority fire brigades including the LFB.

The Chief Officer of the LFB was appointed the Mobilising Officer in charge of the scheme, the Senior Superintendent being the Assistant MO and an additional District Officer post created as the Deputy MO, the scheme coming into operation in October 1917. 

Hydrant and coupling adaptors were issued to meet the problem posed by the varying patterns of connections used by participating brigades, which also undertook training for the scheme.

Predetermined appliance moves were worked out by which motor engines from outer London brigades stood-by at LFB stations from where they were despatched to incidents as required.

 Throughout the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Area (MFBA) 11 motor engines from 10 brigades were on 1st Move call to send an engine to stand-by at LFB stations, subject to the dispatch and arrival of an LFB motor escape to stand-by at their home station.

A second group of 14 brigades were to keep a motor engine in readiness to dispatch if required under the 2nd Move.

If dispatched, predetermined adjacent brigades covered their home station or moved up to stand-by in turn.

To assist identification each engine in the scheme was numbered from 100 onwards commencing with the Kodak Fire Brigade, examples being Wimbledon - 101 and Ilford - 135.  The LFB reinforced or stood-by in the opposite direction as necessary.

First Move reinforcement mobilising was subsequently implemented 19 times with 2nd Move being required only once, on 6 December 1917, an example being motor engines from Wembley and Twickenham attending a fire in Shoreditch.

On other occasions a number of outer engines were moved by the Mobilising Officer outside the 1st & 2nd Move procedure. (Similar Fire Brigade Area Schemes were established during 1918/19 in the North Eastern, South Western, West Midland and North Western English Regions.)

Of the 25 air raids in the London County Council LFB area the worst single bombing incident was that at the Odhams Printing works in Long Acre, Covent Garden on 28 January 1918 when a 660 lb bomb from a Staaken Giant hit the building, 38 being killed or later dying of injuries received and over 85 being injured, the basement then being used as a public air-raid shelter holding c.500 people at the time.

The Brigade rescued survivors and later recovered the dead. While in no way comparable to the aerial attacks of the Second World War sufficient death, injury and damage were inflicted by these air raids to cause serious concern. 

Several LFB stations were damaged by enemy action including Edgware Road, Belsize, Knightsbridge, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Pageants Wharf, Waterloo Road, Streatham and Northcote Road.

During the raid of 8 September 1915 two incidents took place which led to the posthumous award of medals for gallantry to two members of the brigade.

Fireman C.A.Henley, on duty at one of the last remaining Street Stations in Bartholomew Close in the City, was rendered unconscious when a bomb exploded nearby, destroying the station. 

On recovering he rescued a woman from an adjacent damaged building and conveyed her to nearby St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, returning to get a jet to work from a hydrant until relieved by arriving fire crews, but later died from injuries received at this incident.

He was posthumously awarded the Kings Police Medal. 

During the same raid, at a fire caused by enemy action at Furnival Inn, Lambs Conduit Passage, Holborn, Fireman J. S. Green, following participation in earlier rescues and attempting a further rescue of persons reported on an upper floor, was badly burned and later died of his injuries, for which he was posthumously awarded the Council’s Silver Medal.

Two Station Officers were also awarded the Kings Police Medal for meritorious service in leading and co-ordinating firefighting and rescue work following air raids - StnO W.Gardiner of No. 24 Station Brunswick Road at an incident near his station in Poplar on 24 September 1916, and StnO T.M.Crane at the Odhams Printing Works incident at Long Acre, Covent Garden on 29 January 1918.

A fire and explosion at Brunner-Mond's munitions factory at Crescent Wharf, North Woolwich Road, Silvertown on the evening of 19 January 1917 killed 73 people and injured over 400 others.

Among those killed were two firefighters - Sub-Officer H. Vickers and Fireman F Sell - in attendance from West Ham Fire Brigade's nearby Silvertown station, which was wrecked and where several members of firefighters' families were killed and injured.  

Shrapnel from this explosion also caused a serious fire in a large gasometer at Blackwall and at the East Greenwich Gas Works on the opposite side of the river as well as triggering numerous street alarm calls to various parts of East and South East London by people who had seen the glow of the fire in the night sky.

This put under pressure an LFB already dealing with the Blackwall, East Greenwich and other resultant fires and in process of providing extensive reinforcements to West Ham Fire Brigade at the original incident. 

The LFB sent 29 pumps and two floats and fire brigade reliefs were maintained for 10 days. 

Six members of the West Ham FB were later given awards for bravery at this fire. 

A motor engine was subsequently stationed at LFB’s North Woolwich station while Silvertown Fire Station was reconstructed.

Consequent upon this and other fires and explosions in munitions plants and military depots elsewhere in Britain, in July 1918 a further order, the Fire Brigades (Metropolitan Area) Order 1918, provided for fire brigade reinforcement throughout the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Area to be extended to fires in such establishments.

With the end of the war these government sponsored reinforcing arrangements lapsed, being formally terminated in August 1921. 

The largest death toll of LFB members in a fire not resulting from enemy action occurred at a cattle feed factory at Albert Embankment in the early hours of a fog-bound 30 January 1918.  Seven members of the brigade - two Sub-Officers, W. E. Cornford and W. W. Hall and five firemen, E. J. Fairbrother, W. H. Jash, J. W. C. Johnson, A. A. Page and J. E. Fay - perished under a wall collapse during the latter stages of the incident.

A Superintendent and a Station Officer were also injured. 

Ironically, this was later to become the site of Brigade Headquarters.

In common with the rest of the population, the Brigade was affected by the influenza epidemic which swept the country during 1918/19 and suffered staffing difficulties as a consequence.

In all, 224 fires and other incidents caused by enemy action were attended by the London Fire Brigade and 138 persons rescued, for which members of the brigade were awarded 3 King's Police Medals, 1 Silver Medal and 43 Commendations (one KPM and 35 Commendation   recipients were later awarded BEMs); members of assisting bodies also received commendations as follows: London Salvage Corps 3, London Rifle Volunteers 2 and MWB turncocks 2.

Thirteen members of the brigade received injuries, from which 3 died: Firemen J. S. Green, C. A. Henley (both decorated posthumously) and A. H. Vidler, and 3 were invalided from the brigade. At the end of the First World War Chief Officer Sladen and his deputy S. G. Gamble retired, being replaced by A. R. Dyer and C. C. B. Morris respectively.


King's Cross Fire - CLICK HERE


Photo: UK Fire Engines
Essex Road, Isington, Sept. 13, 1958