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London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade area
Area Greater London
Size 609 square miles (1,577 km2)
Population 7,517,700.
Formed 1865 (originally called the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, it was renamed the London Fire Brigade in 1904)
HQ 169 Union Street, Southwark
Staff 7000
Stations 112 (includes one independent river station)
Co-responder No
Brigade Manager Ron Dobson (known as Commissioner For Fire & Emergency Planning)
Chief Fire Officer {{{CFO}}}
Website London Fire Brigade
Fire authority London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the statutory fire and rescue service for London, England. It is run by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and is the third-largest fire service in the world with nearly 7,000 staff, of which 5,800 are operational firefighters and officers.[1] In October 2007, Ron Dobson was appointed as the Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, which includes the position of Chief Fire Officer. Mr. Dobson took over from Sir Ken Knight who had been commissioner since 2003. [2]

In 2007/08 it attended 144,753 emergency calls, including 32,886 fires of which 13,993 were of a serious nature[3], making it one of the busiest fire brigades in the world. In 2007/08, it received 9,750 hoax calls, the highest number of all the fire brigades in the United Kingdom, but only mobilised to 2,765 of them. The LFB is the fourth largest fire brigade in the world, after the Tokyo Fire Department, the New York Fire Department and the Paris Fire Brigade, but the largest dedicated fire and rescue service as the others incorporate emergency medical response teams.[4] As well as fire fighting, the LFB also responds to serious road traffic accidents, floods, 'shut in lift' releases, other various rescue operations and hazardous material incidents; it conducts emergency planning and performs fire safety inspections and education. It does not provide an ambulance service as this function is performed by the London Ambulance Service as an independent NHS Trust, however all firefighters are trained in first aid and fire engines - or 'appliances' as they are known - carry first-aid equipment including basic resuscitators.



London Fire Brigade consists of four directorates that all report to the commissioner - currently Ron Dobson [5] - they are: Fire and Emergency Planning , Operational Policy and Training, Community Safety, Resources and Corporate Services. In May 2007, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that Sir Ken had been appointed as the first Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser.[6]

The LFB's headquarters is in Union Street, Southwark, adjacent to the existing Southwark training centre


Historical organisation

In 1938, the LFB was organised into two Divisions: Northern and Southern, divided in most places by the River Thames. Each was commanded by a Divisional Officer. Each division was divided into three Districts, each under a Superintendent, with his headquarters at a "superintendent station". The superintendent stations themselves were commanded by District Officers, with the other stations under Station Officers.[7]

Legislative powers

Old LFB Headquarters Until 2007

Fire and rescue authorities in England come under the government department that used to be known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). This department was responsible for legislation covering fire authorities. However, in 2006, a structural change to central government led to the creation of the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is now responsible for fire and resilience in England and therefore London [8].

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 changed many working practises [9], it was brought in to replace the Fire Services Act 1947 (amended 1959).

The new act was drafted in response to the Independent Review of the Fire Service [10], often referred to as the Bain Report, after its author Professor Sir George Bain. It recommended radical changes to many fire brigade working procedures and led to a national fire strike in 2002.

Further changes to the legislative, organisational and structural fabric of the brigade, which could include varying the attendance time, the location of front line pumps (fire engines) and number of personnel, plus mandatory performance targets, priorities and objectives are set by the DCLG in the form of a document called the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework. The framework is set annually by the government and applies to all brigades in England. Responsibility for the rest of the UK fire service is devolved to the various parliaments and assemblies. On UK wide issues, the Chief Fire Officers Association provides the collective voice on fire, rescue and resilience issues.[11] Membership is made up from senior officers above the rank of assistant chief officer, to chief officer or the new title of brigade manager.

  • The Fire and Rescue Act 2004 repealed several acts, many going back fifty years. The full list of acts repealed can be found at:[2]


Following a multitude of ad-hoc firefighting arrangements and the 1666 Great Fire of London, various insurance companies established fire fighting units to fight fires that occurred in buildings that their respective companies had insured. As the demands grew on the primitive fire brigades they began to co-operate with each other until, on January 1, 1833, the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed under the leadership of James Braidwood [12]. With eighty firefighters and thirteen fire stations, the unit was still a private enterprise, funded by the insurance companies and as such was responsible mainly for saving material goods from fire.

Several large fires, most notably at the Palace of Westminster in 1834 [12] and warehouses by the River Thames in 1861 [12], spurred the insurance companies to lobby the government to provide the Brigade at public expense and management. After due consideration, in 1865 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed[12], creating the Metropolitan Fire Brigade under the leadership of Captain (later Sir) Eyre Massey Shaw. In 1904 the Brigade was officially renamed as the London Fire Brigade[12].

During the Second World War, fire brigades were amalgamated into a single National Fire Service. The separate London Fire Brigade for the county of London was re-established in 1948[12]. With the formation of Greater London in 1965, this absorbed most of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, the borough brigades for West Ham, East Ham and Croydon and parts of the Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent brigades[12].

In 1986 the Greater London Council - or GLC - was disbanded and replaced by a new statutory authority, called the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority or more simply, the LFCDA[12]. On July 3, 2000, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, took over statutory responsibility from the LFCDA.

At the same time, the Greater London Authority was established to administer the LFEPA and in turn the LFB, and coordinate emergency planning for London. Consisting of the Mayor of London and other elected members; the GLA also takes responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Authority, Transport for London and other functions.

In 2008 the UK Media reportedly widely on the high profile, London Fire Brigade, racial discrimination and harassment case. Fireman Jason Toal claimed colleagues mocked his accent and filled his helmet with urine, and his boots with eggs, during a campaign of racist bullying, harassment and victimisation at 3 fire stations.[13][14][15]

Former Commissioners and Chief Officers

  • 2007 to present Ron Dobson
  • 2003 to 2007 Sir Ken Knight
  • 1991 to 2003 Brian Robinson(first commissioner)
  • 1987 to 1991 Gerald Clarkson
  • 1980 to 1987 Ronald Bullers
  • 1976 to 1980 Peter Darby
  • 1970 to 1976 Joseph Milner
  • 1962 to 1970 Leslie Leete
  • 1948 to 1962 Sir Frederick Delve
  • 1941 to 1948 All fire brigades nationalised
  • 1939 to 1941 DCO Jackson (Firebrace seconded to the Home Office)
  • 1938 to 1941 Aylmer Firebrace
  • 1933 to 1938 Major Cyril Morris
  • 1918 to 1933 Arthur Dyer
  • 1909 to 1918 Lieutenant Commander Sampson Sladen RN
  • 1903 to 1909 Rear Admiral Hamilton
  • 1896 to 1903 Captain Wells
  • 1891 to 1896 James Sexton Simmonds (resigned)
  • 1861 to 1891 Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw Superintendent of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade
  • 1833 to 1861 James Braidwood Director of the London Fire Engine Establishment (died in action)

Extract from: London Fire Brigade - key dates[16]


Role structure

The London Fire Brigade, along with many UK fire and rescue services has adopted a change in rank structure. The traditional ranks - to the left of the column below have been replaced in the LFB, by new titles more descriptive to the job function.[17][18]

The old titles are still in use in many of the UK's other brigades and fire authorities. [19]

Old title Modern title
Firefighter Firefighter
Leading Firefighter Crew Manager
Sub-Officer Watch Manager A
Station Officer Watch Manager B
Assistant Divisional Officer Station Manager
Divisional Officer Group/Borough Manager
Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Area Manager
Assistant Chief Officer Assistant Commissioner (LFB)
Brigade Manager (outside London)
Deputy Chief Officer Deputy Commissioner (LFB)
Brigade Manager (outside London)
Chief Fire Officer Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning (LFB).
County Fire Officer, Brigade Manager (outside London)

Historical Ranks

1833–1938 1938–1965 1965–1992 1992–2001 2001–2003
Fireman 4th Class Fireman Fireman/Firewoman Fire fighter Fire fighter
Fireman 3rd Class Senior Fireman Leading Fireman/Firewoman Leading Fire fighter Crew Commander (A)
Fireman 2nd Class Sub Officer Sub Officer Sub Officer Crew Commander (B)
(or Watch Commander A [1 Pump Stations Only])
Fireman 1st Class Station Officer Station Officer Station Officer Watch Commander (B)
Junior Fireman Assistant District Officer Assistant Divisional Officer
(Station Commander from 1986)
Assistant Divisional Officer (or Station Commander) Station Commander
(or Deputy Group Commander)
Senior Fireman District Officer Divisional Officer Divisional Officer Divisional Officer
(or Group Commander)
Senior District Officer Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Assistant Chief Officer (or Area Commander) Assistant Chief Officer
(or Area Commander)
Deputy Superintendent Deputy Chief Officer Deputy Chief Fire Officer Deputy Chief Officer Deputy Chief Officer
Assistant Chief Fire Officer
(or Area Commander)
Superintendent Chief Officer Chief Fire Officer Chief Fire Officer Chief Fire Officer

Recruitment and training

Professional firefighter training lasts about four months and takes places at the LFB's specialist training centre in Southwark. On successful completion, the newly-qualified firefighter is posted to one of the fire stations within the London area to work on a shift pattern - currently two day shifts (nine hours), followed by two night shifts (15 hours), followed by four days off. Working patterns were the subject of scrutiny in Professor Bain's Independent Review of the Fire Service.[20]

After training school, firefighters serve a one year period when they are on probation, and many choose to take formal promotion exams. Qualification and full pay are not reached until the candidate completes their LGV driving course as well as their development folder which usually takes around 12–18 months. Ongoing training - both theoretical and practical continues throughout the firefighter's career.[21]


Firefighters gain promotion by taking examinations. Until July 2006, these were administered by the Fire Services Examinations Board who set national written exams for promotion to the rank of Leading firefighter, Sub-officer and Station officer (see above). [22]

Some promotion exams can be substituted by qualifications from the Institution of Fire Engineers. Firefighters and civilians - for example building inspectors, scientists, surveyors and other practising professionals take these qualifications either by written test or research.

Future promotion exams will be set using the Integrated Personal Development System or IPDS. [23]

Firefighting, special services and fire prevention

Firefighters respond to fires[24] and special services. A special service is defined as every other non-fire related emergency and includes:

  • Persons shut in lifts (14,416 in 2007/08),
  • Road traffic accidents (5,228 in 2007/08),
  • Flooding (6,024 in 2007/08),
  • Effecting entry (6,850 in 2007/08),
  • Hazardous material incidents (511 in 2007/08),
  • 'Making safe' operations (2,922 in 2007/08),

and a variety of other rescue operations such as persons under trains, train derailments, plane crashes, waterborne rescues (most notably the Marchioness disaster). The full scope of a brigade's duties and powers are enshrined in The Fire and Rescue Act 2004. Firefighters and, in some cases, specialist teams from the brigade's Fire Investigation Unit also investigate arson incidents, work alongside the police and provide evidence in court.

The other core duty of the brigade is to 'prevent damage', and day-to-day fire prevention duties.

Firefighting cover

The London Fire Brigade provides fire cover according to a system of four risk categories, these have traditionally been used across the UK, where every building is rated from "A" risk to "D" risk.[25] The risk category determines the minimum number of appliances to be sent to an incident:

"A" risk

Areas with high density of large buildings and/or population, for example office blocks or factories.

Three fire engines to be sent within eight minutes, the first two to arrive within five minutes.

"B" risk

Areas with medium density of large buildings and/or population, for example multi-storey residential blocks.

Two engines deployed, one within five minutes, the second within eight minutes.

"C" risk

Low density suburban areas and detached properties.

One fire engine to be sent within ten minutes.

"D" risk

More rural areas not covered by bands A-C.

One fire engine to be sent within 20 minutes.

In 2007/08 the first fire engine to respond to a 999 call arrived within five minutes on 58.8% of the time, and within eight minutes on 90% of the time. The second fire engine deployed arrived within eight minutes on 81.9% of the time, and within ten minutes on 92.4% of the time.

Mutual assistance

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, gives brigades the power to assist other brigades or fire authorities in what is known as mutual assistance.[26] The LFB played a comprehensive role in assisting Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service with the Buncefield oil fire in 2005.

The brigades that adjoin the LFB are as follows:

Determining the size of an incident

The LFB, along with all UK fire and rescue services determines the size of a fire or special service by the final number of appliances despatched to deal with it. For example, two appliances are despatched to a "B" risk area in response to a fire call in a residential house. The officer-in-charge can request additional appliances by transmitting the radio message, "Make pumps 4" or if persons are believed involved, "Make pumps 4, persons reported".[27] The control room will then despatch a further two appliances making the total up to four. Informally firefighters refer to such fires as 'a make up' or 'a 4-pumper' [28]; when the fire is out, if no other pumping appliances were despatched, this would be recorded as a 4-pump fire.

If an incident is more serious, it can be escalated straight to a 6-, 8- or 10-pump fire and beyond - in London this is usually completed in even numbers. But it's not uncommon for a 10-pump fire to be 'made up' to 15 if necessary. A call to a large warehouse ablaze could be escalated straight to a 10-pump fire; the 2007 Cutty Sark fire required 8 pumps[29]; as a serious incident escalates, the brigade deploys senior officers, Command Units and any specialist appliances required.

Examples of 25-pump fires include the blaze at Alexandra Palace in 1980[30], and at the Royal Marsden Hospital on 2 January 2008, involving 2 turntable ladders and 2 aerial ladder platforms as well. The King's Cross fire was a 30-pump fire[31] as was the blaze at Oxford Street shops on 26 April 2007. Pumping appliances can only operate with a minimum crew of four, and a maximum of six (although this is rare) so it is possible, as a rule-of-thumb, to work out the number of firefighters attending an incident by multiplying the number of pumps by five. The Cutty Sark fire was described as "an 8-pump fire attended by 40 firefighters".[29]

Special services

Core services are paid for by London's council tax payers and through central government funding - known as a grant settlement; and each council tax payer's bill will include what is known as a precept - a specific part of their bill that contributes to the funding of the FRS. Those in need of the LFB's services in an emergency do not pay. But the brigade can provide additional special services for which it may charge where there is no immediate threat to life or imminent risk of injury.

Examples of these special services which may be charged for are:

  • Clearing of flooded commercial premises
  • Use of Brigade equipment for supplying or removing water
  • Making structures safe in cases where there is no risk of personal injury to the public

Safety and fire prevention

LFB firefighters and 'watch officers' visit residential and commercial premises to advise on hazard risk assessment and fire prevention. They also provide safety education to schools and youth groups. Each of the London boroughs has a central fire safety office that collates and coordinates fire prevention work in accordance with legislation, and they are supported by a dedicated team of specialist officers.

In 2007/08, the LFB made 44,620 home fire safety visits, up 21% from the previous 12 months. 48% of all fires attended occurred in the home, and in 67.8% of house fires attended, no smoke alarm had been fitted, despite over 70,000 being installed by LFB staff and partner agencies. This figure was however an improvement on the previous year, due to a massive drive by the brigade on home fire safety.

Fire stations

The LFB today

LFB station at Dowgate, City of London

The LFB has 112 fire stations, including one completely independent river station, across the 33 London boroughs.[32] They are staffed 24 hours per day by full-time members of the brigade, and are linked to a command and control centre located in Docklands [33]. This centre was opened in 2004; calls to it are fed from 999 operators at BT.

Some UK fire authorities use part time, or retained firefighters who live and work near their local station and are on-call, but the LFB is one of only two UK fire services where all operational staff are full-time employees. Each Station has four shifts, known as watches: red, white, blue and green; with a watch commander (Station Officer or Sub Officer) in charge. The overall management of the station is carried out by the Station Commander (Assistant Divisional Officer), who will also attend serious incidents, as well as spending time on call.

A group of one (City of London) to six (Tower Hamlets) stations within a borough are managed by a Borough Commander (Divisional Officer) who interacts strategically on a local level with the Borough Commander for the police and the chief executive of the local authority.


More than half of the LFB's fire stations have two fire appliances, also known as Pumps and Pump Ladders. These are generally the busier stations receiving over 2,000 emergency calls (known colloquially by firefighters as "shouts") per year. They may also be stations of strategic importance, or those located in areas considered high risk. The remaining stations have a single Pump and generally attend fewer than 2,000 calls per year. Many stations also have other specialist vehicles allocated to them.

This is the LFB's current full operational fleet:

  • Around 170 Dual-Purpose Pump Ladders (plus 40 reserves and 25 for various training purposes) (PL)
  • 16 Fire Rescue Units (plus 3 reserves and 1 for training) (FRU)
  • 14 Urban Search & Rescue vehicles (with five different types of equipment pods) (USAR)
  • 11 Aerial Ladder Platforms / Turntable Ladders (ALP/TL)
  • 10 Incident Response Units (IRU)
  • 9 High-Volume Pumps (HVP)
  • 8 Command Units (plus 1 reserve) (CSU)
  • 7 Fire Investigation Units (FIU)
  • 6 Operational Support Units (plus 1 reserve) (OSU)
  • 4 Hose Layer Units (HLU)
  • 3 Bulk Foam Units (BFU)
  • 2 Detection, Identification & Monitoring Units (DIM)
  • 2 Scientific Support Units (SSU)
  • 1 Fire Investigation Dog Unit (FID)
  • 1 Media Resource Unit (MRS)
  • 1 Fireboat (plus 1 for training and exercises) (FBt)


The programme of improvements in staffing and equipment undertaken by the LFB since 9/11 to improve the capital's resilience and its capability to deal with major emergencies, including the threat of terrorism has included: 10 Incident Response Units; two Scientific Support Units; four different types of Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) vehicles and ten USAR personnel carriers; three mass decontamination resilience units; ten personnel carriers; and six equipment carriers known as Operational Support Units.[34]

Central London stations can attend up to 8,000 calls in a year, inner city stations about 3,000 to 4,000 calls per year (these tend to be the stations that are busy serving the poorer densely-populated areas), and outlying or suburban fire stations may attend around 1,500 calls which include road traffic accidents, grass fires and house fires.[35]

Architecturally, fire stations vary in age and design from Edwardian red-brick fire houses to modern spacious blocks complete with additional specialist facilities [36]. Early fire stations were originally built with horse-drawn appliances in mind and with traditional features such as the firemen's pole, used by firefighters to gain rapid access from their upstairs accommodation quarters to the fire engine garages below when summoned. The oldest working station in London is at Clerkenwell between the City and the West End.

More modern fire stations, though constructed without such features, often have more spacious accommodation and facilities for staff of both sexes, public visitor areas such as community safety offices and other amenities. An example of these is the new fire station in Hammersmith which opened in 2003 [37], just a few hundred yards along the Shepherd's Bush Road from the previous local fire station which had been constructed in 1913 [38].

Fire station closures

The creation of the Greater London Council in 1965 saw the number of LFB stations increase. The LFB absorbed some stations from the county brigades. At the time there were a handful of smaller brigades: Middlesex, Croydon, West Ham and East Ham - they were all incorporated into the LFB.[39] By 1965 the LFB had 115 stations, plus two river stations. The LFB has an on-going policy of upgrading existing fire stations, and building new stations to replace those that are no longer suitable for the requirements of a modern day fire service.[40] It has gained one new station at Heathrow Airport, but in recent years, the total number of stations has reduced very slightly with some permanent closures:

  • 2008 Lambeth Headquarters is moved to 169 Union Street in Southwark making Lambeth a normal Fire Station.
  • 2005 Manchester Square, in London's West End was closed[41]
  • 1999 Barbican, in the City of London was closed [42]
  • 1998 Heathrow Airport, new station opened when the central terminal area of the airport was re-classified as 'A risk'[43]
  • 1998 Shooters Hill, in south London was closed[44]
  • 1993 Sanderstead, originally a Surrey Fire Brigade station closed[45]

In November 2007, the brigade announced plans to build a new fire station in Harold Hill, Havering, taking the number of stations in this borough to four. If construction goes to time, the new station will be operational in early 2010.[46]

Regional control centre

In October 2007, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that the location for the new regional control centre, dedicated to the capital, and part of the FiReControl project, would be at the Merton Industrial Estate in the London Borough of Merton. [47]

Major and notable incidents

The geographical area covered by the LFB along with the major transport infrastructure and the political, business and administrative bases typical of a capital city has seen the brigade involved in several major incidents. A major incident requires the implementation of an inter-agency response to a pre-determined contingency plan.

Any of the emergency services can initiate Major Incident Procedure usually from an officer on the ground. In legislative terms, in the UK the most senior fire officer is in charge of any incident involving fire, any other is the responsibility of the police, however as in the case of the 2005 London bombings multiple major incidents were declared by the fire service for the Aldgate and Edgware Road bombs, and by the London Ambulance Service for the Tavistock Square bus bomb. When a major incident is declared the services along with civilian agencies use a structural system known as gold command that allows them to follow a set procedure for incident management. Put simply gold command relates to strategic control of an incident, silver command tactical and bronze operational. The term gold command can also relate to an emergency service building, mobile control unit or other base that becomes the focal point (often remotely) for the incident's management.

Additionally, a major incident can lead to the government activating its coordination facility, known as COBR.

Some notable major incidents where the LFB has played a significant role are:

The LFB sent six fire engines to assist airport fire crews at the scene of a light aircraft crash in Farnborough in the London Borough of Bromley, on 30 March 2008. All five people onboard were killed as the Cessna 501 struck two houses in a quiet residential street.

  • Camden Market fire of 2008 (20 pumps)

Fire ravaged the stalls at the popular and historic Camden Market on 9 February 2008, forcing the evacuation of 450 people from the area, and 100 from their homes. 20 fire engines and over 100 firefighters helped bring the blaze under control after six hours and prevent any loss of life.

Although no lives were endangered and a major incident procedure was not initiated, the fire at the historic clipper ship on 21 May 2007 attracted the interest of national news media, and the unusual circumstances made this a notable incident.[48]

The UK's biggest peacetime blaze broke out on 11 December 2005. Although the major incident at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal was attended by the LFB, it was assisting neighbouring brigade Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to the north of London, whose area (or 'ground') the incident took place in.[49]

Multiple major incidents across London in which firefighters worked to MIP after close assessment enabled by the LFB's specialist equipment. Total of 34 pumps and 9 fire rescue units mobilised to the four bomb sites.[50]

  • Buckingham Palace 2002 fire (20 pumps)

Fire broke out on 2 June 2002 in the west terrace of Buckingham Palace. At its peak, 20 fire engines were on the scene, and in the course of firefighting operations four people were rescued from the roof. The Royal Family were away at the time.

Often referred to as the Ladbroke Grove rail crash due to it occurring on the stretch of line in that area, two trains collided a short distance outside of Paddington Station on 5 October 1999, killing 31 people.[51]

Two people were killed and over 500 injured in the crash on 8 January 1991.[52]

The pleasure boat Marchioness was struck by the gravel dredger Bowbelle and sunk, killing 51 people on 20 August 1989. Initial confusion over which bridge the ship had sunk next to meant fireboats and fire engines were sent in the wrong direction. It wasn't until half an hour later that the station officer at Southwark radioed: "Marchioness sunk, believed downstream of Blackfrairs Bridge with unknown number of people in river and Met Police searching river between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges."[53]

On 12 December 1988, a packed commuter train passed a defective signal and ran into the back of a second train, derailing it into the path of a third coming the other way, killing 35 people and seriously injuring 69 others.[54]

Fire broke out on 18 November 1987 under a wooden escalator leading from one of the King's Cross Underground Station platforms to the surface. The blaze and resulting smoke claimed 31 lives, including that of a Station Officer from Soho fire station, Colin Townsley. Investigation and research of the fire resulted in the discovery of the Trench effect.[55]

  • Granary warehouse 1978 (35 pumps, 6 turntable ladders)

1 October 1978 saw of London's largest post-World War II fires at The Granary warehouse on St. Pancras Way. At the first call, 2.58am, three fire engines and a turntable ladder were sent to the scene. The scale of the blaze is evidenced by the rapid development of the LFB's mobilisation: 3.05am make pumps 4, 3.07am make pumps 6, 3.12am make pumps 10, 3.19am make pumps 15 and turntable ladders 2, 3.39am make turntable ladders 4, 3.51am make pumps 20 and turntable ladders 6, 4.19am make pumps 25, 4.30am make hose layers 2, 5.13am make pumps 35. At 4.50am, the structure suffered a major collapse, killing Firefighter Stephen Neil of Barbican station, seriously injuring three others, and destroying one fire engine and one turntable ladder.

A London Underground train failed to stop and crashed into the buffers at the end of a tunnel. The driver and 42 passengers were killed.[56]

Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century, several major bombings were carried out in London by the Provisional IRA, including at the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, and Harrod's department store. A list of these and other bombings in London to which the LFB responded can be found under London bombings.

  • Bishopsgate Goods Depot 1964 (60 pumps)

London's main freight terminal was gutted by a spectacular fire on 5 December 1964. 60 fire engines and 300 firefighters battled the blaze which killed two customs officials and destroyed millions of dollars of goods. The site remained derelict for the next 30 years but is now under construction as the new Shoreditch High Street railway station.

  • Smithfield Market 1958 (50 pumps)

Over the course of operations at Smithfield market in January/February 1958, there had been a total attendance of 450 pumps with more than 2,000 men from 58 fire stations who worked in shifts at this fire. After the initial call, LFB sent three pumps, a turntable ladder and emergency tender at 2.18am. A station officer and firefighter headed down into the basement where it was apparent a major fire had broken out. Neither men came out alive. Excessive heat, dense smoke and worsening conditions meant crews had to be rotated every 15 minutes maximum, as firefighters suffered from severe heat exhaustion. 24 hours later, with 800 oxygen cylinders used, the fire in the basement suddenly broke up into the first floor of the market, with flames 100ft in the air, engulfing the entire market. The fire, although brought under control and reduced, was not fully extinguished resolved for two weeks. Valuable lessons were learnt after the Smithfield blaze, including a tally system of firefighters' locations and quantity of breathing apparatus.

  • London Blitz

On 7 September 1940, a sub-officer at West Ham witnessed the start of the Blitz by Nazi Germany on London. He reported three miles of waterfront on the Thames became a continuous blaze, and ordered 500 pumps to be mobilised. The Commander thought this an exaggeration and sent someone to investigate the situation, who reported back that 1,000 engines were required! More than 300 firefighters perished in the widespread and sustained bombing campaign, including two in a direct hit on Soho fire station and six in a direct hit on Wandsworth fire station.

  • Colonial Wharf 1935 (60 pumps)

An eight-storey rubber warehouse in Wapping High Street burned for four days from 27 September 1935, with 60 fire engines in attendance. It was the first major shout for one of the LFB's most famous fireboats, the Massey Shaw, which greatly assisted operations as land crews were hampered by inaccessibility by supplying a vast water jet to allow the land crews to regroup and prevent the fire from spreading to adjoining warehouses.

  • Houses of Parliament 1834 (12 pumps)

Records show the 1834 Burning of Parliament was attended by 64 men in 12 fire engines.

80% of London was destroyed between 2 and 5 September 1666. Firefighting operations, which at the time were primarily the use of 'firebreaks' were delayed by the indecisiveness of the Mayor.

The LFB and popular culture

  • Fire Wars: In 2003, the BBC followed the arson investigators of the LFB's Fire Investigation Unit (FIU). The two-part series, broadcast in July 2003, looked at how the LFB investigated '4000 fires where the cause was unknown'. The second programme Fire Wars: Murder Most Foul centred on one investigation.[57]
  • London's Burning: The television series London's Burning, shown on ITV was based on the fictional LFB 'Blackwall' fire station. The series centred on characters on the Blue Watch. It was originally a 1986 television film, written by Jack Rosenthal. The fire station used as the principal location in the drama was the LFB's Dockhead near London Bridge, before moving to Leyton fire station in East London late in the series.[58]. The television series that followed the film ran from 1988 to 2002. [59]
  • Fire!: The LFB's Kingsland Road fire station in Hackney, east London was the focus of a documentary series by Thames Television for ITV, broadcast in the spring of 1991. Fire! [60] The documentary caused an internal inquiry by the LFB after scenes were shown of firefighters having a food fight at a Christmas party in one of the programmes. Several watch members from Kingsland Road were suspended after the programme was broadcast on 27 June 1991.[61]
  • Fireman! A Personal Account: Former London firefighter Neil Wallington wrote an account of his experience in the LFB called "Fireman! A Personal Account", it was published in 1979.[28] He chronicled his transition from a firefighter in the Croydon Fire Brigade through to his reaching the rank of Station Officer in the LFB. He went on to become the Chief Fire Officer of Devon fire service, (now known asDevon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service) and has written several books about the fire service all over the world. Fireman!... outlined the change in working conditions in the LFB in the 1970s, a time that saw the working hours of firefighters drastically reduced, and conditions improved.
  • Red Watch: The former ITN newsreader Gordon Honeycombe became friendly with Neil Wallington while he was a Station Officer at Paddington fire station. In 1976, Honeycombe published an account of the Worsley Hotel fire, a serious fatal fire at a hostel in Maida Vale, in 1974 that claimed the lives of seven people including one firefighter. The resulting book was called "Red Watch", [62] it provided a graphic account of a single incident, and outlined some of the changes to working practises that resulted from it.

See also

Fire related

Other emergency services


  1. ^ "Who we are". London Fire Brigade. Retrieved 2009-08-25.  
  2. ^ London Fire Brigade appoints new Commissioner Press release: PR062/07, 01 Oct 07, (accessed 08 Oct 07)
  3. ^ London Fire Brigade Performance
  4. ^ BT: Hoax calls cost fire service £230,000 every day
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Communities and Local Government News Release 099, 24 May 2007, New Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Appointed
  7. ^ London Fire Brigade, The London Fire Brigade: Information for Intending Candidates, December 1938.
  8. ^ Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website
  9. ^ Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  10. ^ Independent Review of the Fire Service
  11. ^ Chief Fire Officers Association
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h London Fire Brigade: Key dates
  13. ^
  14. ^'s+colleagues+'put+eggs+in+his+boots'/standard/article-23661365-details/The+real+priorities+of+child+protection/
  15. ^
  16. ^ London Fire Brigade: key dates, (accessed 23 Oct 07)
  17. ^ The Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS) (accessed 08 Oct 07)
  18. ^ London Fire Brigade: Rank structure
  19. ^ FireNet: UK fire service ranks
  20. ^ Independent Review of the Fire Service, Prof Sir George Bain Pub: 16 Dec 2002
  21. ^ London Fire Brigade: Training
  22. ^ Fire Services Examinations Board
  23. ^ Integrated Personal Development System Booklet, (PDF download)
  24. ^ Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, published online the Office of Public Sector Information, (accessed 06 Nov 07)
  25. ^ London Fire Brigade: Fire cover
  26. ^ Fire and Rescue Act 2004
  27. ^ Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Operational Note 3 (in the public domain, accessed 22 May 2007)
  28. ^ a b Fireman! A Personal Account, by Neil Wallington, Pub David & Charles, 22 Feb 1979, ISBN 0-7153-7723-X
  29. ^ a b London Fire Brigade: Latest information on incidents in London, 21 May 2007 (accessed 22 May 2007)
  30. ^ London Fire Brigade press release pr149/02 24 September 2002 (accessed 22 May 07)
  31. ^ Dept of Transport, Investigation into the King's Cross fire: Desmond Fennell OBE, QC, Nov 1988 (accessed 25 Oct 07)
  32. ^ London Fire Brigade: Our Organisation (accessed 16 Jan 07)
  33. ^ PR Newswire: London Fire Authority's New Command and Control System Goes Live
  34. ^ Better preparation for major emergencies and terrorist attacks
  35. ^ London Fire Brigade: A-Z of fire stations
  36. ^ gallery of London fire stations
  37. ^ New £7.7m fire station at Hammersmith, 2003
  38. ^ Hammersmith Today: Old fire station set to be a pub
  39. ^ London Fire Brigade Key Dates (1965), (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  40. ^ LFB Press Release P039/06, 23 June 06, (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  41. ^ Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  42. ^ Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  43. ^ Heathrow Fire Station – Taking of new lease 15 Sep 05 (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  44. ^ Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  45. ^ Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 Oct 07)
  46. ^ Press release about new fire station in Harold Hill, borough of Havering
  47. ^ Dept of Communities and Local Government: News Release 193, Site of London's New Fire Control Centre Announced, 17 Oct 07
  48. ^ BBC News website: Blaze ravages historic Cutty Sark
  49. ^ BBC News website: Beds, Herts and Bucks
  50. ^ BBC News wesbsite: on this day 7 July 2005
  51. ^ BBC News website: on this day 5 October 1990
  52. ^ BBC News website: on this day 8 January 1991
  53. ^ BBC news website on this day 20 August 1989
  54. ^ BBC News website: on this day 12 December 1988
  55. ^ BBC News website: on this day 18 November 1987
  56. ^ BBC News website: on this day 28 February 1975
  57. ^ Fire Wars, Produced by Folio/Mentorn for BBC Television transmitted on 1 July 2003 & 8 July 2003
  58. ^ London's Burning: The Movie, (IMDB)
  59. ^ "London's Burning" TV series, (IMDB)
  60. ^ Fire! Produced & directed by Chris Oxley/Laurel Productions for Thames Television/ITV transmitted in 1991
  61. ^ Ban on Party Firemen, Another TV Row, Pub Daily Mail, 28 June 1991
  62. ^ Red Watch: The best seller about a fire and the men who fought it, by Gordon Honeycombe, Pub Arrow, 17 May 1976, ISBN 0-09-126310-7

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′12″N 0°05′55″W / 51.50335°N 0.09862°W / 51.50335; -0.09862


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