London Fire Brigade

Modern day firefighting

Post-war changes to the fire service

At the end of World War II plans were made for a peacetime service and it was decided fire brigades would be best run by local counties and county borough councils. The London Fire Brigade resumed operation on 1 April 1948.

Sir Frederick Delve took charge of the Brigade in 1948 and began a major reshaping:

  • Pre-war and war-time vehicles were disbanded 
  • Compressed air sets were introduced 
  • The role of fire prevention received greater attention 
  • Street fire alarms were removed 
  • The 999 central control system was introduced

The formation of the Greater London Council

The area that the London Fire Brigade served grew in 1965, when the Greater London Council (GLC) was formed.

Previously the boundary of the London County Council, formed in 1889, was much smaller however, as London grew, it was decided the boundary needed to be extended to include Middlesex, Croydon, East and West Ham and 83 other boroughs.

The GLC introduced the one crown badge, which remains part of our identity today.

Although women had been part of the Auxiliary Fire Service, the GLC encouraged women to become operational firefighters for the first time. The first woman firefighter in the UK to join the London Fire Brigade as an operational firefighter was 30-year-old Sue Batten in 1982.

Changes brought about by post-war fires

Firefighting and fire prevention has changed in response to lessons learnt at large and fatal incidents.

After the 1958 Smithfield fire, the Brigade introduced a line for firefighters to follow when tackling a fire. This way they would not get lost in thick smoke and by feeling the knots on the line firefighters entering and searching a building can retrace their steps.

Breathing apparatus boards were also introduced to monitor when firefighters entered a burning building and how long they could remain inside before their air supply ran out.

A terrible explosion at Dudgeons Wharf in 1969 was caused by workers cutting away old tanks that had contained flammable substances. There was nothing to inform firefighters of what the tanks contained and no warning of the dangers.

As a result of this incident, the Hazchem Code was introduced in the 1970s. All buildings, vehicles and storage areas containing hazardous chemicals must have a coded sign that informs firefighters of the immediate steps they must take to protect themselves and the public if these areas were involved in a fire.

A large fire in Kings Cross Station in 1987 led to strict fire safety regulations being introduced two years later. Escalators must be made from metal, free from litter and heat detectors and sprinklers must be fitted. All staff must receive fire safety training.

 

 


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