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

November 03, 2014


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 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.

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.


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

October 08, 2014


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


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


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 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."  
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


Photo: G. Del Giudice
Buckingham Palace - August 2014

August 20, 2014


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


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

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


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


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


Image: BBC

April 30, 2014


Photo: BBC
Fire crew rescues mannequins in 1938


Old Brixton fire station, Ferndale Road


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

January 13, 2014


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."


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

January 11, 2014


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.