London Fire Brigade

Advances in Victorian firefighting technology

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Horse steam pump

Horsed steam pump

A horsed steam pump dated 1891.

During Shaw’s service he used new technology to improve firefighting. He bought steam fire engines which could pump on average 300 gallons of water a minute. They were well equipped for putting out fires, as long as the boilers were kept warm enough to raise the steam.

Before 1879 a messenger was the only way to inform stations of fires. Shaw had 40 fire alarms erected throughout London and started using the telegraph system, which speeded up the response to fires.

Basic breathing apparatus was also introduced allowing firemen to enter fires without inhaling the smoke. It relied on bellows, an air pump and a filter but was dangerous because the air pipes could accidentally get caught or cut.

Life as a Victorian fireman Next arrow

Did you know

Sloping floors allowed engines to move out more easily, this was called 'on the run', a term still used today.