"I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out `Look out Sir' and saw the building collapsing. I called out `drop everything and run.'"
On Jan. 30, 1918, fire claimed the lives of seven London firefighters in the Vauxhall section of the Borough of Lambeth.
The following official report - from the Superintendent of "E" District - is posted on the web site of the Vauxhall Society, courtesy of the London Fire Brigade Museum.
Loss of Life at a Fire Collapse of Building
I submit that at 3-44 a.m of this date a call was received by stranger to a private house alight at Albert Embankment, S.E., to which Motor Escape, Motor Pump and 10 men from No.94. Station Vauxhall and Motor Pump and 6 men from No.87. station Kennington responded.
At 3-55 a.m., a "home call" message was received, viz:- It is a building of three floors about 40 x 40 ft. used as Pepper Mills alight, one hydrant in use. No.3. Westminster Motor Pump and 6 men were ordered and I attended with No.80. Motor Car and 2 men.
On my arrival I found the upper floors of abuilding of three floors about 45 x 30 ft. (used as cattle food manufacturers) well alight, and part of roof and upper floor had fallen in. The fire was practically extinquished by the use of two hydrants and 1 Motor Pump and the stop sent back accordingly.
At 5-34 a.m., owing to a considerable amount of turning over to be done, a message was dispatched to the effect that appliances would be detained for a time and a few minutes later another message asking for a Sub-officer and four men to be sent on with a view to the appliances and myself returning home.
At about 5-45 a.m. I was on the ground floor and in consequence of hearing a cracking noise, cleared everyone out of the building. Owing to the ground mist and smoke, the front of the building was hardly discernible, a hydrant was still being used up the Escape, I went to the front of the building with the men with a view of making up and removing the Escape, when suddenly I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out "Look out Sir" and saw the building collapsing. I called out "drop everything and run", but was knocked down by the falling debris and part of the Escape, being subsequently extricated by our men from amongst the debris. On making enquiry, I found that a message to the effect that the building had collapsed and that several of our men were buried and ambulances were requires had been sent back. I gave instructions for the debris to be searched for the bodies of our men, then saw the Divisional Officer South who, on hearing of the nature of my injuries ordered me home. I have since been examined by the District Medical Officer, and placed on the sick list, nature of illness "Injury to Legs".
I regret to have to report the undermentioned casualties:
No.100. Sub-officer W.E.Cornford - No.80 Clapham.
No.616. Fireman K.J.Fairbrother - No.87 Kennington.
No.718. " W.E.Nash - No.87 Kennington.
No.944. " J.W.C.Johnson - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1087. " A.A.Page - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1174.Temp.Fireman J.E.Fay - No.87 Kennington
No.151. Sub-Officer W.W.Hall - No.94 Vauxhall.
Superintedent J.Barrows. - "E" District.
Station-Officer E.Partner - No.87. Kennington.