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

December 27, 2017


Misha the arrdvark

Photos: London Zoo, Sky News

On Dec. 23, 2017, a fire at the London Zoo killed Misha the arrdvark.

Four meerkats were presumed dead.

Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters and officers responded to the blaze, which was reported at 6:08 a.m.

Station Manager David George said: "The fire mainly involved the cafĂ© and shop but part of a nearby animal petting area was also affected. 
When they arrived our crews were faced with a very well developed fire.''
A London Zoo statement said: ``Duty staff that live on site at the zoo were on the scene immediately, and started moving animals to safety. The London Fire Brigade were on the scene within minutes and the fire was brought under control by 9:16 a.m. A number of zoo staff have been treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and shock.''

December 22, 2017


On Oct. 16, 1834, fire ripped through the Palace of Westminster, home of British Parliament.

The first hint of disaster was a burning odor reported at 4 p.m. Flames were visible by 6 p.m. and flashed over 30 minutes later, according to Wikipedia.

Two parish pumps were the first on the scene at about 6:45 p.m.

At 7 p.m., Superintendent James Braidwood of the London Fire Engine Establishment  responded with 12 engines and 64 firefighters.

Eyewitness William Baddeley described the scene in Mechanics Magazine,  Feb. 14, 1835 edition:

I was called to the scene 
of action about seven o’clock, from observing a deep crimson hue in the sky, which pretty well indicated both the situation and magnitude of the conflagration, although there was a strong twilight at the time, and the moon was shining with great brilliancy.

arriving in Old Palace-yard, about half-past seven, I found the House of Lords, and suite of rooms facing the Yard, enveloped in one vivid mass of flame; the House of Commons soon after ignited; and the fire, fanned by a strong south-west wind, gradually extended to the Commons’ committee-room and waiting-room, &c.

Several engines had arrived, and were stationed by their foremen in Old Palace yard, as was supposed, under the idea “that they could never be wrong when they laid their engines abroadside the burning buildings.”

The water, though at first rather scant, was afterwards tolerably plentiful; the engines were well manned, and worked with great spirit, but their powers were for some time sadly misapplied.

Several of 
the firemen mounted the portico in front of the building, pouring their jets of water upon parts that were in a state of most intense combustion, while it was evident enough to all but themselves,that they were exposing themselves to great danger without a possibility of being useful.

Several engines belonging to the London
 Fire Establishment were in full work by half-past seven, when that from Watling-street station arrived, with Mr. Braidwood, the superintendent, who immediately commenced a survey of the fire, for the purpose of placing the men and engines under his command in the most advantageuos positions.

Mr. Braidwood 
was not long in forming his “line of battle,” and all the force of the combined Establishment present, became actively engaged with their elemental foe.

 after eight o'clock, the flames were advancing towards the square turret at the corner of St. Margaret-street, at the uppermost window of which several persons appeared, and in the most earnest manner implored assistance; two or three ladders were at hand, but they all proved too short to reach the window; a call was immediately raised for the brigade ladders, and it was most promptly answered.

Several lengths
 of scaling ladders were instantly brought to the spot, and the two first ladders were scarcely put together when Mr. Braidwood came up.

Length after length was
 added, until six had formed a ladder of the requisite height. The joining and raising of six ladders is a work of some minutes; while it was steadily proceeding, the most intense anxiety was depicted on the countenances of all the spectators, and when at length the ladder reached the window where the unfortunate persons were collected, a simultaneous shout of applause burst from the assembled throng.

The persons thus rescued proved
 to be Lord F. Fitzclarence and some soldiers; his lordship was the last to descend.

The promptitude with which the ladders were brought up, and the steady masterly style in which they were elevated, reflect much credit on Messrs. Adams, Carter, Elderton,
 Moore, and George and Henry Rose, who, under the direction and with the assistance of Mr. Braidwood, effected this movement.

These ladders were very
 extensively employed at this fire.

Long before eight o'clock great apprehensions
 were felt for the safety of Westminster-hall, and it at length became evident that the fire had extended so much in that direction as to place it in the utmost jeopardy.

To effect the preservation of this venerable building appeared to be a strong and universal feeling, and the most extraordinary efforts were made on its behalf.

Mr. George Colf (late foreman of the Alliance) of the Farringdon-street station, ran his engine into the body of the Hall, and was quickly followed by Mr. E. Bourne, of the Waterloo-road station; two other engines, placed in New Palace-yard, supplied the former with water.
The firemen ascended by means of a ladder to a lead flat outside the great window of the Hall, and kept up a continued deluge upon the flames.

December 19, 2017


Fighting a losing battle

Map of fire
Images: Country Life, Wikipedia

When flames devoured most of London in September 1666, the task of firefighting was left to local militias and able-bodied citizens.

The tower of parish churches were required by law to maintain a supply of firefighting gear, including long ladders, leather buckets, axes and fire hooks.

Rudimentary pumps and building demolition were also employed to halt flames.

It was a thin line of defense though and could do little to save London from the Great Fire of 1666.

December 18, 2017


On Aug. 24, 1940, the Luftwaffe bombed the Thames Haven Oil Wharf on the Thames Estuary at Thurrock, Essex. The blaze was one of the first tests for the wartime Auxiliary Fire Service. Firefighters waded through pools of crude to apply foam.

December 15, 2017


Photo: Hartlepool Borough Council

``The Match Factory fire began in the late afternoon on August 30th, 1954. It showed as a column of black smoke gushing from the north corner of the roof,took hold and continued late into the night gutting the building. On a lighter note it is said that the insurance company when viewing the claims is reported to have said that the girls who worked there must have been the best dressed in the country. ''

- Hartlepool History Then and Now 

December 07, 2017


On Oct. 28, 2016, fire destroyed the timber-framed Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter - said to be 
England’s oldest hotel.

Flames started in an art gallery and spread to the hotel, The Guardian reported.

At the height of the blaze, the Devon and Somerset fire service said: 
 “Because of the complex structure of the old buildings here we haven’t been able to put firefighters on the inside, so we’re fighting it from the outside.

“We’ve got the aerial ladder platforms so we are pouring water on top of it. We are trying to contain it but there are signs now of damage to the bedroom floors of the hotel.”

The hotel - which escaped damage during World War II - was built in 1769 as the Assembly Rooms and in 1827 renamed the Royal Clarence after a visit by Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, The Guardian said.

November 21, 2017


Click on photo to read story

November 07, 2017


"Thought this may be of interest. It was awarded as you can see to Sonning Fire Brigade in 1926. My connection is this would of been given to my great grandfather as he was station officer Edwards. I’m not sure why it was given.’’ - Gordon Houchen

September 20, 2017


Lewis's department store ablaze

September 19, 2017


Photo: Instagram
London Fire Brigade aerial platform, Maida Vale, 1997


Photo: Instagram
London firefighters at Sheepcote Road, Harrow, August 1995


Photos: LFB Twitter
On Sept. 18, 2017, fire gutted a warehouse at White Hart Lane, Tottenham. Twenty-five engines answered the alarm. Flames were visible across North London. Part of the structure collapsed. The brigade's response included four aerials and five rescue units.  

Photos: LFB Twitter
On Sept. 14, 2017, fire destroyed a warehouse at Chantry Place, Harrow. Propane cylinders were involved. Traffic was stopped as a precaution at the nearby Headstone Lane train station. Eight engines responded to the fire.

September 15, 2017


Photo: LFB via Twitter

On Sept. 15, 2017, an improvised bomb exploded on a train at London's Parsons Green station, injuring at least 22 people.

The London Fire Brigade dispatched six fire engines and two fire rescue units.

LFB Director of Operations Tom George said:

``The Brigade was called at 0821 and firefighters were on the scene within three minutes. Fire crews assisted the London Ambulance Service in treating casualties on the affected train.

``Firefighters also helped evacuate 253 people from a train not involved in the incident.''

July 25, 2017


Photos: Metro, BBC, London Fire Brigade

BBC Newsnight - July 7, 2017

A series of failings that hampered the efforts of firefighters to tackle the Grenfell Tower fire and rescue the building's residents have been identified by a BBC investigation.

Crews cited low water pressure, radio problems and equipment that was either lacking or did not arrive before the fire on 14 June got out of control.

Newsnight has learned a high ladder did not arrive for more than 30 minutes.

The London Fire Brigade says it has changed its procedures since the fire.

A high ladder will now automatically be sent to a fire in a tower.

An independent fire expert said having the high ladder, which is also known as an "aerial", available earlier would have given firefighters a better chance of stopping the blaze when it jumped from a fourth floor flat in the tower block and began to race up the side of the building.

More than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were involved in battling the blaze that engulfed the block in North Kensington, west London.

About 300 people are believed to have lived in Grenfell Tower and most got out on their own.

The fire brigade rescued 65 people but at least 80 people are thought to have died.

An independent fire expert said having the high ladder, which is also known as an "aerial", available earlier would have given firefighters a better chance of stopping the blaze when it jumped from a fourth floor flat in the tower block and began to race up the side of the building.

More than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were involved in battling the blaze that engulfed the block in North Kensington, west London.

About 300 people are believed to have lived in Grenfell Tower and most got out on their own.

The fire brigade rescued 65 people but at least 80 people are thought to have died.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "I have spoken to aerial appliance operators in London... who attended that incident, who think that having that on the first attendance might have made a difference, because it allows you to operate a very powerful water tower from outside the building onto the building."

A London Fire Brigade (LFB) spokesman confirmed the so-called "pre-determined attendance" for a tower fire - the list of appliances which are automatically dispatched - has been changed from four engines to five engines plus an aerial.

The spokesman said: "An 'interim' change to pre-determined attendance for high rise buildings was introduced in direct response to the government's action to address concerns of cladding on buildings.

"The Brigade's pre-determined attendance to high rise buildings had already been increased in June 2015 from three fire engines to four as part of our ongoing review of high rise firefighting.

"It is important to understand that fires in high rise buildings are nearly always dealt with internally, not usually needing an aerial appliance.

"The fundamental issue of high rise safety remains that buildings are maintained to stop fires spreading."

The spokesman added: "The Brigade has a fleet of specialist aerial firefighting appliances and these attend a variety of incidents across the capital."

Newsnight's investigation also heard that firefighters had struggled with water pressure problems and the fire service had to call Thames Water to ask the company to increase pressure in the area.

One firefighter said: "The fire floors we went in were helmet-meltingly hot… when we were clearing flats, it was a case of a quick look and closing doors because the water pressure wasn't up to firefighting."

A Thames Water spokesman said:

 "We've been supporting the emergency services' response in every way possible… any suggestion there was low pressure or that Thames Water did not supply enough water to fire services during this appalling tragedy is categorically false."

Firefighters also described problems with radio reception inside the building and said they lacked enough of the "extended duration" breathing apparatus they needed, especially when reaching the higher floors of the building.

All fire engines have basic breathing apparatus that provides firefighters with oxygen for around 30 minutes.

The extended duration apparatus enables them to breathe for a theoretical 45 minutes - but working in dense smoke and intense heat 20 storeys up uses up the compressed air in the equipment more quickly.

The LFB said all of its rescue units carry extended duration apparatus and "all of the fire brigade's rescue units attended the incident".

The LFB said the police investigation into the fire would examine the brigade's response "including all of the issues Newsnight has raised".

Questions have also been raised about why a 42m firefighting platform had to be called in from Surrey to fight the fire at Grenfell - itself 67m high - because the LFB does not have one of its own.

The LFB spokesman said it had never responded to a fire on the scale of Grenfell Tower before.

He said: "The commissioner has made clear her intention to fully review the brigade's resources and seek funding for any additional requirements."

January 13, 2017

RIPLEY - 1969

On Feb. 10, 1969, a fire and explosion at a hardware rocked the village of Ripley in Surrey.

"The explosions sent shattered roof tiling across the High Street, windows on the opposite side of the road were cracked by the heat, properties rocked, and a gas cylinder was thrown 150 yards across the village green into trees," the Guilford Times and Advertiser reported.

Firefighters from Guildford, Woking, Esher and Camberley responded to the alarm.

"The fire began while a tanker was pumping paraffin into the store; a store which sold everything from bicycles, television sets and crockery to furniture, paraffin, gas and petrol," the newspaper said. "Large-scale evacuation procedures were pursued because of the fear that petrol tanks would explode, the tanks being under the forecourt, and under the garden of an adjacent cottage of Mr and Mrs Charles Shoesmith, who were on holiday in Majorca."

January 12, 2017


Emergency services at London Southend Airport, about 1958. 

EALING - 1973

Photo: Cultural Community Solutions
On Dec. 19, 1973, an express train traveling at 70 mph derailed at Ealing in West London, killing 10 people and injuring almost 100 more. Investigators determined the accident was caused by an open door on the locomotive's battery box.

January 11, 2017


Photo: Birmingham Mail

On Jan. 23, 1955, an express train plowed into the platform at Sutton Coldfield station in Birmingham, killing 17 people and injuring 25 others.

"The first carriage was crushed between the engine and the second carriage," The Birmingham Mail recalled on the 60th anniversary. "Another was knocked into the air, causing it to drag along the station roof."

The train from York to Bristol was traveling at twice the speed limit, the BBC said.

It had been diverted from its normal route.


On June 9, 1902, fire claimed nine lives on Queen Victoria Street in the City of London. Escape ladders were too short to rescue people from the top floors, prompting pubic outrage.

The Spectator reported:

A great and fatal fire took place at a warehouse in Queen Victoria Street in broad daylight on Monday evening.

The building, which is close to the Mansion House Station of the District Railway and only three hundred yards from the chief City fire-station, is used as workshops, offices, and stores by the General Electric Lighting Company.

When the alarm was given at five o'clock a number of girls were at work on the fourth floor, which the Watling Street fire-escape proved too short to reach.

Many of the girls leaped into a tarpaulin held out in the street, but when the fire had been got under and the fourth floor entered the bodies of eight girls and one boy were found in the ruins.

The firemen appear to have worked with the utmost gallantry, and in particular two women were rescued by splendid efforts on the part of the men of the Salvage Corps.

But the fact that the longest fire- escape available at the chief City fire-station was unable to reach the fourth floor of a London warehouse has created a very painful impression.

We do not wish to make any criticism in regard to individuals till after the inquest, but it is clear that the life-saving apparatus available at short notice in the City, with its lofty buildings, is at present by no means adequate, and must be made so without delay, —if, indeed, the whole Fire Brigade does not require reorganization.


Photo: London Fire Brigade
On the evening of Oct. 7, 1940, Soho fire station in central London took a direct hit during the Blitz, killing Station Officer William Wilson and Auxiliary Firefighter Frederick Mitchell as well as two passersby. The station's fire apparatus sustained damage.