London Fire Brigade

LFB 150: One year on since the Battersea Arts Centre fire

13 March 2016

As we celebrate our 150th anniversary we're looking back at some of the most significant and some of the more unusual incidents that have taken place since we were formed in 1866.

A year ago today, more than 80 firefighters and officers tackled a large fire in the Grade II-listed Battersea Arts Centre on Lavender Hill, SW11.

The fire completely destroyed the centre's Grand Hall, which had been under refurbishment at the time of the blaze, as well as large parts of the roof.

Station Manager John Snelgrove, who attended the incident, said: "It was quite a dramatic fire; there was a lot of visible flame and it could be seen from some distance away."

Smoke could be seen for miles around and, as a precaution, people living and working nearby were advised to keep doors and windows closed.

At the outbreak of the blaze, the Brigade's control officers dealt with more than fifty 999 calls from members of the public

'Nine out of 10 times'

Station Manager Snelgrove said: "It was a large, challenging fire and the crews did an amazing job to stop it spreading to the historic area of the building.

"We always try to protect as much of a building as we can, but you do have to be realistic.

"If you concentrate too much on what is lost, you can lose focus on what you can save.

"It is about being able to say 'we are not going to be able to save that, however, we can employ our tactics and, by using our skills and knowledge, we can stop this fire here'.

"You obviously have a back-up plan but nine out of 10 times, you are able to stop it this way."

Twelve fire engines and two aerial appliances helped firefighters tackle the blaze from all angles.

No one was injured in the blaze and the Brigade managed to save the front of the building, as well as the centre's historic glass dome in the roof, after crews worked throughout the night.

David Jubb, the centre's artistic director and CEO, praised firefighters efforts.

At the time of the fire, he said: "Our heartfelt thanks go out to the brilliant fire brigade who limited the damage caused."

Video clips of the fire

A funding raising appeal was set-up by National Funding Scheme and raised more than £52,000 in just 48 hours.

Remarkably, thanks in part to the tactics used by firefighters, the centre reopened the next day and two scheduled shows went ahead as planned.