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.

July 14, 2021


Photo: Liverpool Ambulance

On June 22, 1960, fire destroyed Henderson's department store in Liverpool, claiming 11 lives.

The blaze led to reforms granting fire brigades legal authority conduct safety inspections of stores and offices and implement escape plans, similar to the requirements of the Factories Act.

One of the rescuers, Firefighter George Taylor, recalled the fire in a BBC interview in 2010:

"When we got to the incident the driver of the turntable ladder had seen the situation, there were people on the ledge about 100 feet up on the fourth floor of the building.

"They'd obviously managed to get out of the windows on to that ledge. A lot of heat and smoke [was] coming out of the building, flames on different levels.

"When the ladder was extended my boss was about to go up but he didn't have what we call a hook belt which was a security device.

"I'd managed to put one of those on so I called to him to let me go past him, which I did.

"As I'm going up the ladder about halfway up the people on the left hand side of the head of the ladder, two of them had been placed by Colin Murphy on to the roof of the building next door which was Bunneys department store.

"Unfortunately when I was about halfway up the ladder the heat and flame from inside the building blew him off the ledge and he went past me and he was killed. He dropped down on to the canopy outside.

"The people on the ledge, having seen what had happened to him they started to move away from where our ladder was positioned and so we had to call to them to stay where they were.

"Eventually I got to the top of the ladder and managed to get five people on to the ladder with me and as were coming down, with the blast of flame coming out of the windows, the two ladies who were amongst the group received burns to their arms and faces. It was only than I realised I didn't have a helmet on."

July 13, 2021


Image: Illustrated London News

On Jan. 27, 1903, a blaze at London's 
Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum - a fire trap with temporary wards made of lumber - killed 52 women.



 Fire at Royal Princess's Theatre, at 73 Oxford Street in London, in 19th Century.

July 12, 2021


On May 6, 1913, fire gutted St. Catherine's Church in London and contemporary reports suggested the fire was set by suffragettes. The suffragettes were responsible for a series of blazes across London meant to protest government policy.

April 20, 2021


Photo: Wiki Commons

Queen Elizabeth II meeting London Fire Brigade members who responded to 1974's wave of IRA bombings. She is escorted by Chief Officer Joseph Milnerin at London Fire Brigade headquarters in Lambeth.


The Luftwaffe dropped thousands of bombs on London from 1939 to 1945, killing almost 30,000 people and demolishing more than than 70,000 buildings. Additionally, 1.7 million structures sustained bomb damage.

October 16, 2019


According to website Rescue 1: "The wartime casualties to the fire service during raid firefighting in England and Wales amounted to roughly 700 fireman and 20 firewomen killed in action and 6,000 seriously injured. In one raid alone, 91 firemen died and several hundred were injured protecting London."

September 20, 2019


Photos: Institution of Fire Engineers

Firefighters from London's old Clerkenwell fire station paid dearly in life and flesh at a warehouse blaze at Covent Garden on May 11, 1954.

The five-story building, constructed of steel frame and brick with wooden floors, suffered  structural failure, according to the Institution of Fire Engineers.

The alarm was received at 3 p.m.

"While fighting a fire in a warehouse containing fruit and vegetables, adjacent to Covent Garden, London, Station Officer Fred Hawkins and Fireman A E J Batt-Rawden, both of Clerkenwell Fire Station, lost their lives,'' according to Fire magazine.

"Sub Officer Sidney Peen, Leading Fireman Ernest Datlin, Fireman Kenneth Aylward, Fireman Charles Gadd, Fireman Frederick Parr and Fireman Daniel Stocking were all sent to hospital. Three of the injured required plastic surgery treatment.''

Covent Garden was a hub for fruit and vegetable businesses, staring with a small open-air market in 1654, according to Wikipedia.

On Dec. 21, 1949, fire broke out in stacks of Christmas trees stored in catacombs beneath a Covent Garden market, claiming a fireman's life.


In January 1958, a major fire led to historic changes at the London Fire Brigade.



"The most serious fire which has as yet taken place in the network of the tube railways under London broke out recently about 25 yds. from the Moorgate st. station of the City & South London railway," the magazine Fire Engineering reported in 1908.

"Contrary to the inactive proceedings of our Interborough company, either on its subway or elevated lines, managers were at once dispatched along the line; the trains were stopped and the passengers sent to the surface.

"The electric current was at once cut off, so that no live wires or rails handicapped the firemen (wearing) smoke-helmets. Even with these on, they could not enter at Moorgate, the flame and smoke being so severe, and engines and men were dispatched to the stations at the Bank and Old street.

"The firemen soon had the blaze under control. There was a big crowd at Moorgate street station awaiting transportation: but no panic ensued and all the expectant passengers were taken up to the street by the elevators."

August 21, 2019


Photo: LFB Twitter
Fire crews turn out from London Fire Brigade's old headquarters at Lambeth along the Thames, circa 1930.   

July 16, 2018



On Oct. 6, 1854, a fire and explosion ravaged the neighboring towns of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne, killing 53 people and causing scores of injuries. The fire started in a mill in Gateshead and burning debris crossed the River Tyne into Newcastle.


Photo: Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

Drought led to an outbreak of grass fires from Manchester to London during the summer of 2018.

In London, more than 200 firefighters battled a peat fire on Wanstead Flats, one of the largest ever in fire brigade history, on July 15, 2018.

``Peat fires are complex because they burn underground and travel before reappearing above the surface somewhere different,'' Allen Perez, deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said.


Photo: London Fire Brigade 

A picture is worth a thousand words and this image illustrates, in the words of a London Fire Brigade officer,
``how important it is to ensure your cigarette is completely out when you've finished smoking it.''

On June 22, 2018, flames broke out at the historic Somers Town Coffee House, a popular pub near the 
Euston, St Pancras and King's Cross rail stations, while customers were watching the World Cup match between Serbia and Switzerland. 

Everyone evacuated safely but half of the roof and second floor of the pub, which 
dates back to 18th century, sustained damage.


Grenfell Tower disaster, June 14, 2017 - 72 dead, 70 injured, 223 escaped

David Badillo, front, and watch manager Michael Dowden at Grenfell Tower

Daily Telegraph - June 29, 2018

With the plea of a young girl’s sister ringing in his ears a firefighter at Grenfell Tower undertook a desperate “personal mission” to rescue a 12-year-old from the flames.

David Badillo effectively ignored London Fire Brigade instructions to residents of the tower to stay in their homes by going up to the 20th floor to try and find Jessica Urbano Ramirez and bring her down to safety.

But to this day he remains haunted by his failure to find the young girl, who had fled her flat and climbed to the 23rd floor, where she later died.

Recalling how he was unable to save Jessica, Mr Badillo broke down on Friday as he gave evidence at the public inquiry into the disaster, which claimed 72 lives in June last year.

He had set out to find the Jessica after bumping into her sister on the ground floor of Grenfell Tower, as the fire began to take hold above them.

Mr Badillo, part of the North Kensington crew which was first to arrive at the scene, said in his written statement: "She said that her sister was 12 years old and called Jessica and that she was in the flat alone. She looked very distressed - panicked and anxious.

"I told her not to worry and that I would go and get Jessica on my own as I didn't want to endanger her."

Asked by Richard Millett QC, the lead counsel to the inquiry, why he felt it was necessary to rescue her, given the stay-put policy , Mr Badillo said: "She was on her own and there is obviously a fire in the tower."

Pressed on the policy, he continued: "I didn't think about that, no, I just wanted to go up - it was a young, 12-year-old girl on her own, I just wanted to go and get her out."

Residents and fire safety experts have criticised the decision by London Fire Brigade commanders not to abandon the stay put policy until 2.47am , more than an hour after it had become obvious the fire had spread out of control.

After making his promise to Jessica’s sister, and taking the keys to their flat, Mr Badillo decided to break "normal procedure" and head above the floor where the fire had broken out.

He said: "I just wanted to go and get the little girl out of the flat, as she was alone. I risk assessed the situation and did not think that I was in danger.

"I didn't tell anyone what I was doing as there was so much going on. I also thought that I would be told no, but I was worried for the girl's safety"

The 20-year LFB veteran took the lift to the 20th floor without breathing apparatus, but was swamped with "thick, black smoke" when it stopped on floor 15.

He groped his way to the stairwell and headed outside, where he realised the blaze was looking more dangerous.

Enlisting the help of crew manager Chris Secrett and Chris Dorgu he went back up in the lift, which this time stopped at the eighth floor, forcing the trio to battle on foot through smoke filled corridors to the 20th.

Here they found the door to flat 176 ajar and Jessica nowhere to be seen.

He wrote: "I checked all of the typical hiding places, under the bed and in the cupboards, but did not find anyone. We were shouting out and searching by stamping and sweeping to feel our way round, using our torches.

"I felt that with the front door being found ajar and us searching the rooms twice that Jessica must have gotten out."

Mr Badillo - who said the radios fitted to the firefighters’ breathing apparatus suffered from poor reception and hampered communications - compared the unfolding horror to a "disaster movie", with material "exploding overhead" and "fireballs coming down all over the place".

He said: "I could clearly see people, still inside, at their windows, waving for help whilst holding their phones which were lit up. I looked to where we had just been on the 20th floor and it was glowing orange - it was a raging inferno and the fire was up to the 23rd floor. I knew in my heart of hearts that not everyone was going to make it out."

Mr Badillo added: "It has deeply affected me and it is never far from my thoughts. I am angry that this fire happened and feel that there are many factors that made things worse."

On hearing for the first time that 999 operators had spoken to Jessica and knew she was on the 23rd floor - not the 20th - Mr Badillo began to sob in the witness box.

"I would have gone up,” he said.

February 28, 2018


Tragedy at Vernon Mills

The Manchester Evening News - in an article dated July 4, 2017 - reports retired journalist and broadcaster Dave Hulme is attempting to locate descendants of victims of the deadly Vernon Mills fire.

The Nov. 5, 1902 blaze - which 
broke out in a cotton spinning machine on the third floor of the No. 1 mill - killed nine men, including Hulme's great grandfather, Issac Peet. 

They were 
Thomas Hipwell, Joseph Beard, George Rowarth, Thomas Ashton, John Cotton, William Wright, Richard Jones and Robert Hunt.

Additionally, Joseph Adshead, who suffered burns, died three years later.

If you can help, Hulme's e-mail is, according to the Evening News.

February 03, 2018

PIER FIRE - 2008

On July 28, 2008, flames engulfed the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service deployed 13 engines, special units and 60 firefighters.

Wikipedia said:

``Robert Tinker, a Grand Pier employee, was later praised by the fire brigade as he braved the extreme intensity of the heat from the flames to rush around the side of the building to remove several gas canisters which had been stored within the premises, had these not been removed the fire brigade claimed that the blaze could have been much worse, with the possibility of local residents and traders needing to be evacuated.''

The pier, which opened in 1904, was rebuilt and opened again in 2010. 
It was also the scene of a major fire in 1930.

January 29, 2018

January 09, 2018


Photos: London Fire Brigade
On Jan. 8, 2018,  15 engines responded to a fire at a paint factory on Waterloo Road, Staples Corner, London.

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."