London Fire Brigade

Fire Chief: “Riots one of busiest and most unpleasant period in Brigade’s 150 year history”

05 August 2016

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said today that the riots that swept the capital five years ago marked one of the “busiest and most unpleasant periods in the Brigade’s 150 year history.”

Our firefighters in London dealt with over 100 serious fires where lives were deemed to be at risk during the course of the riots.

Fire crews were also called to hundreds of other fires affecting cars, bins and parks. Firefighters battled, on average, one fire every nine minutes for four consecutive days.

An average of one call every 48 seconds received over four days

The Brigade’s 999 control officers received more than 5,000 emergency calls from Saturday 6 August 2011 to Tuesday 9 August – meaning they were handling, on average, one call every 48 seconds.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We hadn’t experienced anything like the 2011 riots in London for a great number of years. The levels of crime, and that included arson, were truly alarming.

The riots swept across the capital and it was a miracle that no one was killed in a fire, and that is due in no small part to the hard work of the firefighters protecting Londoners throughout.

“I was, and still am, extremely proud of the firefighters, control officers and other members of Brigade staff who went far above and beyond the call of duty and acted in a calm, professional manner during this hectic and challenging time.”

Group Manager, Tim Frost, was a watch manager at Enfield fire station during the night of Saturday 6 August and experienced the riots first hand.

He said: “I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career and I’ve been in the fire service for almost 30 years, it was like Armageddon. It was one of the most challenging nights I have ever had."

Station Manager Gary Thompson was a crew manager at Stoke Newington fire station, he said:  “It was the most intense work I’ve ever done. The riots, along with the Olympics a year later were the most memorable things I’ve ever worked on and were both real career defining moments for me.”

Monday 8 August 2011 - one of the busiest nights on record

Over the course of four days, the rioting became widespread across the capital, with the busiest night for the Brigade being Monday 8 August.

Trouble began in Hackney, quickly spreading to other areas including Croydon with a now-infamous fire at the Reeves furniture store, which had been on the site for 140 years and was gutted by fire.

Trouble spread throughout the night, affecting several areas with a major fire starting at a Sony warehouse in Enfield which burnt for several days.

Nine fire engines and three Brigade cars were damaged during the riots and three staff members were injured.

In the following days, Brigade staff were visited and thanked for their work by several notable figures, including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cambridge at Croydon fire station, Prime Minister David Cameron thanking staff at Tottenham fire station, and then Home Secretary, Theresa May paying tribute to crews at the Sony warehouse fire in Enfield.

The Brigade has produced a detailed report about its work during the riots