London Fire Brigade

LFB150: Looking back at the Leinster Towers Hotel fire in 1969

06 June 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.

On this day 47 years ago, firefighters were commended for the "excellence of the firefighting" after not a single life was lost when 50 people were rescued from a blaze at a 200-bedroom hotel near to Hyde Park.

It was in the early hours of the morning of 6 June 1969 when the Brigade was called to a fire at the six-storey Leinster Towers Hotel, Leinster Gardens.

The fire began on the first floor and quickly spread. When crews arrived, firefighters saw smoke billowing from the upper-floor windows and the scale of the operation quickly escalated.

"People were screaming from every window," A Division Divisional Commander, Arthur Nicholls, told a newspaper at the time.

All rescues complete within 25 minutes

Around 120 people were in the hotel at the time of the fire and firefighters used various ladders and lowering lines to help bring people to safety from windows at the front and rear of the building.

Despite the blaze destroying a significant part of the building, only 16 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Thirty fire engines and around 150 firefighters tackled the blaze and, although parked cars had caused access problems for crews, all rescues were completed within 25 minutes of the first call.

Following the fire, Station Officer Alex Pilbro, of the newly opened Paddington fire station, was commended by Chief Fire Officer Leslie Leete for "outstanding officership in organising firefighting and multiple rescues in the early stages of the fire."

As a result of the work of crews, Leete issued his first ever special order that described the fire as being "without parallel in the Brigade's history for the magnitude of the task...and the excellence of the firefighting work performed".

The escalation of the firefighting operation

  • 0454: Initial call received by Brigade reporting the fire.
  • 0459: The number of fire engines requested to attend was increased to six.
  • 0503: This figure increased to ten.
  • 0511: Further increase to 20 engines.
  • 0517: Final increase to 30 fire engines.