London Fire Brigade

"LFB" redirects here. For other uses, see LFB (disambiguation).
London Fire Brigade
Operational area
Country United Kingdom
City London
Address Union Street, SE1
Agency overview[1]
Established 1865 (1865)
Employees 5,992
Commissioner Ron Dobson
Facilities and equipment[1]
Divisions 5
Stations 102
Engines 157
Trucks 11
Ladders 11
Rescues 15
Fireboats 1
Official website

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the statutory fire and rescue service for London. It was formed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act of 1865 under the leadership of Superintendent Eyre Massey Shaw.

It is the second-largest of all the fire services in the United Kingdom, after the national Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and it is the fourth-largest in the world, after the Tokyo Fire Department, New York City Fire Department and Paris Fire Brigade, with 5,992 staff, including 5,096 operational firefighters and officers based at 102 fire stations.[1][2]

Ron Dobson is the current Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, which includes the position of Chief Fire Officer; he replaced Ken Knight in 2007.[3] Statutory responsibility for the running of the brigade lies with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

In 2013/14 the LFB handled 171,067 999 emergency calls. Of the calls it actually mobilised to, 20,934 were fires, including 10,992 that were of a serious nature, making it one of the busiest fire brigades in the world. In the same 12-month period, it received 3,172 hoax calls, the highest number of any UK fire service, but crews were mobilised to only 1,424 of them.[4] In 2015/16 the LFB received 171,488 emergency calls.[5]

As well as firefighting, the LFB also responds to road traffic collisions, floods, trapped-in-lift releases, and other incidents such as those involving hazardous materials or major transport accidents. It also conducts emergency planning and performs fire safety inspections and education. It does not provide an ambulance service as this function is performed by the London Ambulance Service as an independent NHS trust, although all LFB firefighters are trained in first aid and all of its fire engines carry first aid equipment, including basic resuscitators.


The 1861 Tooley Street fire from Billingsgate

Following a multitude of ad-hoc firefighting arrangements and the Great Fire of London, various insurance companies established firefighting units to fight fires that occurred in buildings that their respective companies insured. As demands grew on the primitive firefighting units they began to co-operate with each other until, on 1 January 1833, the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed under the leadership of James Braidwood.[6] With 80 firefighters and 13 fire stations, the unit was still a private enterprise, funded by the insurance companies and as such was responsible mainly for saving material goods from fire.

Several large fires, most notably at the Palace of Westminster in 1834[7] and warehouses on Tooley Street in 1861,[6][8] spurred the insurance companies to lobby the British government to provide the brigade at public expense and management. After due consideration, in 1865 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed,[6] creating the Metropolitan Fire Brigade under the leadership of Eyre Massey Shaw. In 1904 it was renamed as the London Fire Brigade.[6] The LFB moved into a new headquarters built by Higgs and Hill[9] on the Albert Embankment in Lambeth in 1937, where it remained until 2007.[10]

LFB firefighters at a warehouse in south London after a major fire in 1980

During the Second World War the country's brigades were amalgamated into a single National Fire Service. The separate London Fire Brigade for the County of London was re-established in 1948.[6] With the formation of Greater London in 1965, this absorbed most of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, the borough brigades for West Ham, East Ham and Croydon and parts of the Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent brigades.[6]

In 1986 the Greater London Council (GLC) was disbanded and a new statutory authority, the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority (LFCDA), was formed to take responsibility for the LFB.[6] The LFCDA was replaced in 2000 by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA).[11] At the same time, the Greater London Authority (GLA) was established to administer the LFEPA and coordinate emergency planning for London. Consisting of the Mayor of London and other elected members, the GLA also takes responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Authority, Transport for London and other functions.

In 2007 the LFB vacated its Lambeth headquarters and moved to a site in Union Street, Southwark. In the same year, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that Ken Knight had been appointed as the first Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser to the government.[12] Knight was succeeded as LFB Commissioner at that time by Ron Dobson.

Commissioners and chief officers

Ron Dobson is the current Commissioner, having taken up the role in 2007. Dobson has served in the LFB since 1979 and was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal in 2005, and in 2011 a CBE for his distinguished contribution to the fire and rescue service.[13]


London Fire Brigade headquarters from 1937 to 2007, in Lambeth.
The LFB's current headquarters since 2007, in Southwark.

Historically, the London Fire Brigade was organised into two divisions: Northern and Southern, divided in most places by the River Thames and each commanded by a Divisional Officer. Both divisions were divided into three districts, each under a Superintendent with his headquarters at a "superintendent station". The superintendent stations themselves were commanded by District Officers, with the other stations under Station Officers.[15]

On the creation of the Greater London Council in 1965, the brigade was enlarged and took over almost all of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, part of North Kent, North Surrey and South West Essex, together with the small County Borough brigades of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham.

The internal LFB organisation consists of four directorates that all report to the Commissioner. They are:[16]

The LFB's headquarters since 2007 is located at 169 Union Street in Southwark, adjacent to the brigade's training centre, which is both the original headquarters of the Massey Shaw fire brigade and his home, Winchester House, as well as the London Fire Brigade Museum.[17] The brigade was previously headquartered in Lambeth between 1937 and 2007.

Legislative powers

Fire and rescue authorities in England come under the government department formerly known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). This department was responsible for legislation covering fire authorities; however, in 2006, a structural change to central government led to the creation of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). It is now responsible for fire and resilience in England, including London.[18]

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 changed many working practices;[19] it was brought in to replace the Fire Services Act 1947 and repealed several existing acts, many going back fifty years. The full list of acts repealed can be found here:[20]

The 2004 Act was drafted in response to the Independent Review of the Fire Service,[21] often referred to as the Bain Report, after its author Professor Sir George Bain. It recommended radical changes to many working procedures and led to a national firefighter strike in 2002–2003.

Further changes to the legislative, organisational and structural fabric of the brigade, which could include varying the attendance time, the location of front line appliances and number of personnel, plus mandatory performance targets, priorities and objectives are set by the DCLG in the form of a document called the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework. The framework is set annually by the government and applies to all brigades in England. Responsibility for the rest of the UK fire service is devolved to the various parliaments and assemblies. On country-wide issues, the Chief Fire Officers Association provides the collective voice on fire, rescue and resilience issues.[22] Membership is made up from senior officers above the rank of Assistant Chief Officer, to Chief Fire Officer (or the new title of Brigade Manager).


Role structure

Two firefighters in red "LFB PRIDE" tshirts walk in a parade alongside a fire engine. The fire engine is decorated with at least five rainbow flags.
Staff of the London Fire Brigade as part of the Pride in London 2016 parade.

The London Fire Brigade, along with many UK fire and rescue services has adopted a change in rank structure. The traditional ranks – to the left of the column below – have been replaced in the LFB, by new titles more descriptive to the job function.[23][24]

The old titles are still in use in many of the UK's other brigades and fire authorities.[25]

Former titleModern title
Leading FirefighterCrew Manager
Sub-OfficerWatch Manager A
Station OfficerWatch Manager B
Assistant Divisional OfficerStation Manager
Divisional OfficerGroup Manager
Senior Divisional Officer Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assistant Chief OfficerAssistant Commissioner
Deputy Chief OfficerDeputy Commissioner
Chief Fire OfficerCommissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning

Historical ranks

Fireman 4th ClassFiremanFireman/FirewomanFirefighterFirefighter
Fireman 3rd ClassSenior FiremanLeading Fireman/FirewomanLeading FirefighterCrew Commander (A)
Fireman 2nd ClassSub-OfficerSub-OfficerSub-OfficerCrew Commander (B)
(or Watch Commander A [one-pump stations only])
Fireman 1st ClassStation OfficerStation OfficerStation OfficerWatch Commander (B)
Junior FiremanAssistant District OfficerAssistant Divisional Officer
(Station Commander from 1986)
Assistant Divisional Officer (or Station Commander)Station Commander
(or Deputy Group Commander)
Senior FiremanDistrict OfficerDivisional OfficerDivisional OfficerDivisional Officer
(or Group Commander)
Senior District OfficerDeputy Assistant Chief OfficerAssistant Chief Officer (or Area Commander)Assistant Chief Officer
(or Area Commander)
Deputy SuperintendentDeputy Chief OfficerDeputy Chief Fire OfficerDeputy Chief OfficerDeputy Chief Officer
Assistant Chief Fire Officer
(or Area Commander)
SuperintendentChief OfficerChief Fire OfficerChief Fire OfficerChief Fire Officer

Recruitment and training

Professional firefighter training usually takes place at various London venues. On successful completion, the newly qualified firefighter is posted to a fire station to work on a shift pattern – currently two day shifts (ten and half hours), followed by two night shifts (thirteen and half hours), followed by four days off. Working patterns were the subject of scrutiny in Professor Bain's Independent Review of the Fire Service.[26]

After training school, firefighters serve a one-year period of probation; qualification and full pay are not reached until the candidate completes a development folder which usually takes around 12–18 months. Ongoing training – both theoretical and practical – continues throughout the firefighter's career.[27]

Shift pattern

In December 2010 the LFB and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) agreed on a new shift pattern for front-line firefighters: two 10½-hour day shifts then two 13½-hour night shifts followed by four days off.[28]

The agreement followed two 8-hour daytime strikes by the FBU[29] in protest at the LFB's intention to change the shift pattern from two 9-hour day shifts then two 15-hour night shifts followed by three days off, to two 12-hour day shifts then two 12-hour night shifts followed by four days off.[30]

A London Fire Brigade report published in March 2012 stated that the shift changes have improved safety in the city. Compared with the 12 months prior to the shift changes, the 12 months following them saw firefighters able to spend more time on training, community safety work, and home safety visits (including the free fitting of smoke alarms).[31]


In order for a firefighter to gain promotion he or she must go through an assessment centre and reach the required standard set out by the Brigade. This process will be followed for each subsequent role the individual applies for, up to and including Assistant Commissioner. Appointments above the role of Assistant Commissioner are overseen by elected members of The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.[32]

Some promotion exams can be substituted by qualifications from the Institution of Fire Engineers. Firefighters and civilians such as building inspectors, scientists, surveyors and other practising professionals, take these qualifications either by written test or research.

Future promotion exams will be set using the Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS).[33]

Firefighting, special services and fire prevention

In 2010/11, the LFB handled a total of 212,657 emergency calls, including 5,241 hoax calls (although it only mobilised to 2,248 of those malicious false alarms). During the same period, it dealt with 13,367 major fires. There were 6,731 dwelling fires, including 748 that had been started deliberately; 73 people died in 58 fatal fires.

In addition to conflagrations, LFB firefighters respond to "special services".[34]

LFB firefighters at a building fire; one uses an axe (right) to gain entry

A special service is defined as every other non-fire related emergency, such as:[35]

The full scope of the brigade's duties and powers is enshrined in the Fire and Rescue Act 2004.

Firefighters and, in some cases, specialist teams from the brigade's fire investigation unit, based at Dowgate, also investigate arson incidents, often working alongside the police and providing evidence in court. In 2008/09, deliberate fires accounted for 28% of all those attended by the LFB, a 28% reduction on the previous year.[4]

The other core duty of the brigade is to "prevent damage", and day-to-day fire prevention duties.

Firefighting cover

The LFB tackles a fire at an electrical substation in Sydenham.[36]

The LFB provides fire cover according to a system of four risk categories which have traditionally been used across the UK, where every building is rated for its risk on a scale from "A" down to "D". The risk category determines the minimum number of appliances to be sent in a pre-determined mobilisation.

Category "A" includes areas with a high density of large buildings and/or population, such as offices or factories. Three fire engines are to arrive at "A" risks within eight minutes, the first two within five minutes.

Areas with a medium density of large buildings and/or population, such as multi-storey residential blocks, will generally be classified "B" risk. Two fire engines will be deployed, with one to arrive within five minutes and the second within eight minutes.

Category "C" covers lower density, suburban areas and detached properties. One fire engine should arrive at a "C" risk incident within ten minutes. More rural areas not covered by the first three categories will be considered "D" risk. One fire engine should arrive at "D" risks within 20 minutes.

Response times

Damping down using an aerial ladder platform after a fire in Camden

In 2007/08, the first fire engine mobilised to a 999 call arrived within five minutes 58.8% of the time, and within eight minutes 90% of the time. The second fire engine deployed arrived within eight minutes 81.9% of the time, and within ten minutes 92.4% of the time.

In 2010/11, the average response time of the first appliance to the scene was 5 minutes 34 seconds (6 minute target), and the second appliance was 6 minutes 53 seconds (8 minute target).[35] In 2015/16, the average response time for the first engine was 5 minutes 33 seconds, and the second was 6 minutes 55 seconds (same targets).[37]

Mutual assistance

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 gives the UK fire services the ability to call upon other services or fire authorities in what is known as mutual assistance.[38] For example, the LFB played a comprehensive role in assisting Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service at the Buncefield fire in 2005. In 2010/11 the LFB assisted at 424 "over the border" incidents.[35]

The other fire services that adjoin the LFB are:

The LFB also mobilises to support BAA firefighters at London Heathrow Airport, and firefighters at London City Airport.

Determining the size of an incident

London Fire Brigade attending an incident in St. Giles in December 2011.

The LFB, along with all other UK fire and rescue services, determines the size of a fire or special service by the final number of appliances mobilised to deal with it. For example, two appliances are despatched to a "B" risk area in response to a fire call in a residential house. The officer-in-charge can request additional appliances by transmitting a radio message such as, "make pumps 4", or if persons are believed to be involved or trapped, "make pumps 4, persons reported".[39] The control room will then deploy a further two appliances making a total of four. Informally, firefighters refer to such fires as 'a make up' or 'a 4-pumper'; [40] when the fire is out, if no other pumping appliances were despatched, this would be recorded as a '4-pump fire'.

If an incident is more serious, it can be escalated straight to a 6-, 8- or 10-pump fire and beyond – in London this is usually completed in even numbers, though it is not uncommon for a 10-pump fire to be 'made up' to 15 if necessary. A call to, say, a large warehouse ablaze could be escalated straight to a 10-pump fire. The 2007 Cutty Sark fire required 8 pumps;[41] as a serious incident escalates, the brigade deploys senior officers, Command Units and any specialist appliances required.

Examples of 25-pump fires include the blaze at Alexandra Palace in 1980,[42] and at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea in 2008, the latter also involving four aerial appliances. The King's Cross fire in 1987 was a 30-pump fire,[43] as was the blaze in numerous shops on Oxford Street in April 2007. Pumping appliances can only operate with a minimum crew of four, and a maximum of six (although this is rare) so it is possible to estimate the number of firefighters attending an incident by multiplying the number of pumps by five. For example, the Cutty Sark fire was described as "an 8-pump fire attended by 40 firefighters".[41]

Special services

Core services are paid for by London's council tax payers and through central government funding known as a grant settlement; each council tax payer's bill will include a precept – a specific part of their bill that contributes to the funding of the fire brigade. Those in need of the LFB's services in an emergency do not pay, but the brigade can provide additional special services for which it may charge where there is no immediate threat to life or imminent risk of injury.

Examples of these special services which may be charged for include the clearing of flooded commercial premises, the use of brigade equipment for supplying or removing water, and making structures safe in cases where there is no risk of personal injury to the public.

Safety and fire prevention

LFB firefighters and watch officers often visit residential and commercial premises to advise on hazard risk assessment and fire prevention. They also provide safety education to schools and youth groups. Each of the London boroughs has a central fire safety office that collates and coordinates fire prevention work in accordance with legislation, and they are supported by a dedicated team of specialist officers.

In 2010/11, the LFB made 70,016 home fire safety visits. Over 100,000 children are seen each year by the brigade's schools team. Around half of all serious fires occur in the home, and many house fires attended by the LFB no smoke alarm was fitted, despite the LFB fitting tens of thousands in homes every year.

Stations and equipment

Dowgate fire station in the City of London is home to the fire investigation team
Romford fire station

As of 2014, the LFB has 102 fire stations, including one independent river station, across the 32 London boroughs and the City of London.[44] They are staffed 24 hours a day by full-time employees of the brigade, and are linked to a control centre in Merton.[45] This centre was opened in 2012; calls to it are fed from 999 operators at BT, Cable & Wireless and Global Crossing.

Central London stations can attend up to 8,000 calls per year, inner-city stations about 3,000 to 4,000 calls per year (these tend to be the stations that are busy serving the densely populated areas), and outlying or suburban fire stations may attend around 1,500 calls which include road traffic accidents, grass fires and house fires.[46]

Some UK fire authorities use retained (part-time) firefighters who live and work near their local station and are on-call, but the LFB is one of only two UK fire services where all operational staff are full-time employees.

Each station has four shifts, or 'watches': red, white, blue and green, with a Watch Manager in charge of each. The overall management of the station falls to the Station Manager, who will also attend serious incidents, as well as spending time on call.

A group of one (City of London) to five (Tower Hamlets) stations within a borough are managed by a Borough Commander (Group Manager) who interacts strategically on a local level with the Borough Commander for the police and the chief executive of the local authority.

Stations and districts

Upon the founding of the London County Council in 1965, the new authority was organised into 11 divisions, of roughly 10 to 12 stations each, designated 'A' Division through to 'L' Division, based around three 999 mobilising control rooms. 'A' (West End), 'D' (West London), 'G' (North West London) and 'J' (North London) mobilised from Wembley (the former Middlesex headquarters); 'B' (Central London south of the river), 'E' (South East London and Kent), 'H' (South London and Surrey) and 'K' (South West London south of the river and Surrey) mobilised from Croydon (the former Croydon County Borough headquarters); finally, 'C' (City and Inner East London), 'F' (East London including Docklands) and 'L' (North East London and South West Essex), mobilised from Stratford (the former West Ham County Borough headquarters). Each of these divisions were, to a degree, autonomous of each other and had their own divisional management hierarchy. This arrangement lasted until the early 1990s when the brigade was re-organised into the current arrangement.

The LFB is currently formed into five divisions: Northern, Eastern, Western, Southeastern and Southwestern. As of 2013, 21 fire stations were located in the Northern Division and have call signs prefixed "A"; 26 were in the Eastern Division with call signs prefixed "F"; Western Division consisted of 21 stations with "G"-prefixed call signs; 22 were under the Southeastern Division with an "E" prefix; and the remaining 22 were based in the Southwestern Division, call signs prefixed "H".[47] As part of this organisation, many stations were re-coded.

Below is a complete listing, as of 2014, of the 102 fire stations of the London Fire Brigade according to district and station radio callsign. The LFB is divided into five districts, each designated by a letter of the alphabet: the Northern District Command is designated as "A"; the Southeastern District Command is designated as "E"; the Eastern District Command is designated as "F"; the Western District Command is designated as "G"; the Southwestern District Command is designated as "H".[47]

Northern District

The Northern District Command is designated as "A" or "Alpha". There are currently 17 fire stations in the Northern District. The Northern District serves the following boroughs of London: Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, Islington, the City of Westminster and the City of London.

Southeastern District

The Southeastern District Command is designated as "E". There are currently 19 fire stations in the Southeastern District. The Southeastern District serves the following boroughs of London: Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham, and Southwark.

Eastern District

The Eastern District Command is designated as "F". There are currently 23 fire stations in the Eastern District. The Eastern District serves the following boroughs of London: Barking and Dagenham, Hackney , Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest.

Western District

The Western District Command is designated as "G". There are currently 21 fire stations in the Western District. The Western District serves the following boroughs of London: Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Kensington and Chelsea.

Southwestern District

The Southwestern District Command is designated as "H". There are currently 22 fire stations in the Southwestern District, including the independent River Station, the quarters of the Fireboat. The Southwestern District serves the following boroughs of London: Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, and Wandsworth.


A 1995-registered pump ladder appliance pictured in 2011.
Fireflash, registered in 1999, is one of London's two fireboats.

All 102 LFB stations have a conventional fire appliance known as a pump ladder. Around 55 stations are also assigned an additional pump appliance. Additionally, 11 stations are assigned turnable ladders or aerial ladder platforms, 15 are assigned fire rescue units, 8 stations have command units, and several others are home to a range of other specialist vehicles.

The stations that are assigned both a pump ladder and a pump are generally the busier stations receiving over 2,000 emergency calls (known colloquially by firefighters as "shouts") per year. They may also be stations of strategic importance, or those located in areas considered to be high risk. The remaining stations equipped with a single pump ladder generally attend fewer than 2,000 calls per year.

The previous fleet of mostly Volvo vehicles was phased out, though with some retained for training and reserve purposes, and replaced between 2002 and 2011 with new Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

In 2012 the LFB purchased five Mini Countrymans for conversion into instant response vehicles. The two-seat cars are fitted with six extinguishers (two each of water, foam and powder), plus a first-aid kit and defibrillator, and may be deployed to investigate automatic alarms actuating and smaller fires such as those in rubbish bins which do not require a full-sized engine and crew. The brigade has indicated a wish to add more smaller vehicles to its fleet, including crossover utility vehicles like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 which could be fitted with water pumps, breathing apparatus and pull-out equipment drawers, and with enough space for four firefighters.[48]

As of 2016, the LFB's frontline operational fleet consists of:

  • 102 Dual Pump Ladders (DPL) (plus 25 utilised for training)
  • 55 Pumps (P)
  • 15 Fire Rescue Units (FRU) (plus 1 for training)
  • 14 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) multi-purpose vehicles
  • 8 Incident Response Units (IRU)
  • 8 Command Units (CU)
  • 7 Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALP)
  • 6 Operational Support Units (OSU)
  • 6 High-volume Pumps (HVP)
  • 6 Fire Investigation Units (FIU)
  • 5 Instant Response Vehicles (IRV)
  • 4 Turntable Ladders (TL)
  • 4 Hose Laying Units (HLU)
  • 3 Bulk Foam Units (BFU)
  • 3 Mass Decontamination Resilience Vehicles
  • 2 Scientific Support Units (SSU)
  • 2 Detection, Identification, and Monitoring Units (DIM)
  • 1 All-Wheel-Drive Pump
  • 1 Heavy Distribution Unit (HDU)
  • 1 Fire Investigation Dog Unit (FID)
  • 1 Fireboat (plus 1 used as a reserve and for training)

The reserve fleet consists of:

  • 45 Dual Pump Ladders
  • 5 Turnable / Aerial Ladder Platforms
  • 3 Fire Rescue Units
  • 1 Command Unit
  • 1 Operational Support Unit
  • 1 Hose Laying Unit
  • 1 Fire Investigation Unit


The programme of improvements in staffing and equipment undertaken by the LFB since the September 11 attacks to improve London's resilience and its capability to deal with major emergencies, including the threat of terrorism has included: ten Incident Response Units; two Scientific Support Units; four different types of urban search and rescue (USAR) vehicles and ten USAR personnel carriers; three mass decontamination resilience units; and six equipment carriers known as Operational Support Units.[49]

Architecturally, fire stations vary in age and design from Edwardian era red-brick fire houses to modern spacious blocks complete with additional specialist facilities.[50] Early fire stations were originally built with horse-drawn appliances in mind and with traditional features such as the fireman's pole, used by firefighters to gain rapid access from their upstairs quarters to the fire engine garages below when summoned.

More modern fire stations, though constructed without such features, often have more spacious accommodation and facilities for staff of both sexes, public visitor areas such as community safety offices and other amenities. An example of these is the new fire station in Hammersmith which opened in 2003,[51] just a few hundred yards along Shepherd's Bush Road from the previous local fire station which had been constructed in 1913.[52]


In 2008, existing LFB facilities were deemed unsuitable to meet the demands of modern firefighting and training. The LFB has been training firefighters at its current Grade 2 listed building in Southwark since 1878.[53]

In response, the LFB signed a partnership contract with Babcock International Group PLC to provide firefighter training over the course of 25 years beginning in 2012.[53] Babcock is also the number one training provider to the Royal Navy, which includes firefighter training. The improvement program for firefighting training will introduce two new dedicated training centres and upgrades to 10 regional training centres. There will also be further improvements through additional computers and training facilities across many of the capital’s 113 fire stations. The new firefighting training systems, supplied by Process Combustion Ltd, will have low environmental impact and will allow firefighter training to take place at night under simulated extreme conditions that firefighters will face on incident ground.[54] In addition to improving training facilities, Babcock's proposals will increase the amount of time available for firefighter training and save the LFB an estimated £66m over the next 25 years.[55]

Fire station closures

Sign in the window of Clerkenwell fire station reads "This fire station is now closed".

The creation of the Greater London Council in 1965 saw the number of LFB stations increase. The LFB absorbed some stations from the county brigades. At the time there were a handful of smaller brigades: Middlesex, Croydon, West Ham and East Ham – they were all incorporated into the LFB.[56] By 1965 the LFB had 115 stations, plus two river stations.

The LFB has an ongoing policy of upgrading existing fire stations, and building new stations to replace those that are no longer suitable for the requirements of a modern-day fire service.[57] In February 2010, Boris Johnson officially opened the LFB's first new station in four years, at Harold Hill. The mayor hailed the station's exceptional environmental sustainability, calling it the "greenest station in the capital".[58] In the past two decades the total number of stations has reduced slightly, with the following permanent closures, including 10 in January 2014 as part of budget cuts:

Regional control centre

Main article: FiReControl

In October 2007, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that the location for the new regional control centre, dedicated to the capital and part of the FiReControl project, would be at the Merton industrial estate in the London Borough of Merton.[65]

Major or notable incidents

The geographical area covered by the LFB along with the major transport infrastructure and the political, business and administrative bases typical of a capital city has seen the brigade involved in many significant incidents.

Major incident procedure

A "major incident" is defined as any emergency that requires the implementation of special arrangements by one or more of London's emergency services and will generally include the involvement, either directly or indirectly, of large numbers of people.[66]

Any member of any of the emergency services can initiate a major incident. Responsibility for the rescue of persons involved lies with the LFB. The care and transportation of casualties to hospital is the responsibility of the London Ambulance Service. Police will ease these operations by co-ordinating the emergency services, local authorities and other agencies.[66]

When a major incident is declared the services, along with civilian agencies, use a structural system known as gold-silver-bronze command that allows them to follow a set procedure for incident management. Put simply, gold relates to strategic control of an incident, silver to tactical command, and bronze to operational control. The term gold command can also relate to an emergency service building, mobile control unit or other base that becomes the focal point (often remotely) for the incident's management.[66]

Additionally, a major incident can lead to the government activating its coordination facility, known as COBR.

Notable incidents

Notable incidents, some declared "major incidents" and some in which firefighters lost their lives, where the LFB has played a significant role include:

Ten fire engines and over 70 firefighters and officers were called to a fire at Stables Market on Chalk Farm Road, Camden, in May 2014. A number of railway arches used as shops were damaged by the blaze. Around 600 people were evacuated from the area. Crews were first mobilised at around 8 pm and the fire was under control by 10:50 pm. Crews from Kentish Town, Euston, West Hampstead, Lambeth, Holloway, Islington and Soho stations attended the incident. Early indications suggested that the cause of the fire was an accidental electrical issue.
Nearly 150 firefighters were involved in operations following a helicopter crash in Vauxhall in misty conditions during the morning rush-hour on 16 January 2013. Several specialist vehicles, including heavy rescue and urban search and rescue, were mobilised to the scene where the wreckage fell onto a street, damaging five cars and two motorbikes and two adjacent buildings, after the aircraft's rotor blades struck a construction crane attached to St George Wharf Tower. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed in the incident. Fire crews also attended the tower block where the crane was left in a precarious position, and evacuated hundreds of workers and dozens of homes. A fireboat also carried out a precautionary search of the nearby River Thames.[67][68]
Over 200 firefighters attended what was described by the LFB commissioner as the largest fire in London "for several years". The LFB took just over four hours to bring under control the one-storey Dagenham recycling plant the size of a football pitch which was completely alight, sending a plume of smoke over east London. In addition to 40 fire engines, an aerial ladder platform, command unit, hose layer and three operational support vehicles attended.[69]
Fire ravaged the stalls at the historic Camden Market in February 2008, forcing the evacuation of 450 people from the area, including 100 from their homes.[71] Twenty fire engines and over 100 firefighters fought to bring the blaze under control within six hours and prevent any loss of life.[72]
Although no lives were endangered and a major incident was not initiated, the fire at the historic tea clipper Cutty Sark in May 2007 became a notable incident for the widespread interest of national media and the unusual circumstances – having been caused by an industrial vacuum cleaner inadvertently left switched on by renovation workers for 48 hours.[73][74] Two fire appliances and an aerial appliance arrived at the scene within six minutes of the initial call to emergency services, and the commanding officer immediately requested an additional four appliances; firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour.[75]
From 27 to 28 April 2007 London's busiest shopping area was closed whilst more than 100 firefighters tackled a large fire in a flat above a department store on Oxford Street.[76] The clothing retailer New Look was later fined a record £400,000 for fire safety breaches.[77]
The UK's largest peacetime fire broke out on 11 December 2005 at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal at Buncefield. Although the major incident was attended by the LFB, its role was assisting and providing additional foam supplies to the neighbouring Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to the north of London, whose "ground" the incident took place in.[78]
Multiple major incidents were declared across London in response to the 7/7 terrorist attacks. A total of 34 pumps and nine fire-rescue units were mobilised to the four bomb sites.[79]
A fire in shops and flats in Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green in July 2004 gained coverage in the national media due to the deaths of two LFB firefighters. The first LFB fatalities since 1993 were two of the 50 mobilised to the scene.[80]
Fire broke out on 2 June 2002 in the west terrace of Buckingham Palace. At its peak, 20 fire engines and 100 firefighters were on the scene, and in the course of firefighting operations four people were rescued from the roof. The Royal Family were away at the time.[81][82]
Also known as the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, two trains collided a short distance outside of Paddington station in October 1999, killing 31 people.[70][83]
Two people were killed and over 500 injured in the Cannon Street station rail crash in January 1991.[84]
The Marchioness disaster of August 1989 involved a collision on the River Thames between a pleasure boat, the Marchioness, and a gravel dredger, the Bowbelle, resulting in the sinking of the Marchioness and the deaths of 51 people. Initial confusion over which bridge the ship had sunk near meant fireboats and fire engines were sent in the wrong direction. It was not until half an hour later that a station officer from Southwark radioed: "Marchioness sunk, believed downstream of Blackfrairs Bridge with unknown number of people in river and Met Police searching river between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges."[85]
The Clapham Junction rail crash occurred on 12 December 1988 when a busy commuter train passed a defective signal and ran into the back of a second train, derailing it into the path of an oncoming third train. Thirty-five people died and 69 others suffered serious injury.[86]
The King's Cross fire broke out on 18 November 1987 under a wooden escalator leading from one of the King's Cross tube station platforms to the surface. The blaze and smoke claimed 31 lives, including that of Soho station officer Colin Townsley while he rescued a woman from a ticket office.[87] Investigation and research of the fire resulted in the discovery of the trench effect.[88]
The infamous New Cross house fire of 18 January 1981 claimed the lives of 13 people, all aged between 14 and 22, attending a birthday party.[89] The exact and true cause has never been established.[90]
In the early hours of 15 August 1980, a man who was earlier ejected from an illegal drinking and gambling club in Soho returned with gasoline and started a fire that killed 37 people and injured 23 others.[91]
1 October 1978 saw one of London's largest post-World War II fires, at The Granary warehouse on St. Pancras Way. At the first call at 2.58am, three fire engines and a turntable ladder were sent to the scene. The scale of the blaze is evidenced by the rapid development of the LFB's mobilisation: make pumps four at 3:05am; make pumps six at 3:07am; make pumps 10 at 3:12am; make pumps 15 and turntable ladders 2 at 3:19am; make turntable ladders 4 at 3:39am; make pumps 20 and turntable ladders 6 at 3:51am; make pumps 25 at 4:19am; make hose layers 2 at 4:30am; and make pumps 35 at 5:13am. At 4.50am, the structure suffered a major collapse, killing firefighter Stephen Neil from Barbican station, seriously injuring three others, and destroying two fire engines.[70]
The Moorgate tube crash was a disaster on the London Underground in February 1975 when a train failed to stop and crashed into the buffers at the end of a tunnel. The driver and 42 passengers were killed.[92]
The Worsley Hotel fire of December 1974 was an arson attack that killed seven people, including probationary firefighter Hamish Petit of Paddington station. Four fire engines, a turntable ladder and emergency tender were initially mobilised to the scene, gradually increased to 30 pumps with three turntable ladders, three emergency tenders, and hose layers. A 41-year-old kitchen porter was convicted of the attack and seven counts of manslaughter and was jailed for life.[70][93]
During the 1970s–90s IRA bombing campaign throughout the last quarter of the 20th century, several major bombings were carried out in London by the Provisional IRA, including at the Palace of Westminster, Tower of London, and Harrods. A list of these and other bombings in London to which the LFB responded can be found here.
Dudgeons Wharf on the Isle of Dogs contained a site of over 100 tanks of various capacities up to 20,000 gallons[94] used for storing oils and spirits. A fire started when workmen were cutting up old oil tanks. The LFB was called – six pumps, a foam tender and the fireboat Massey Shaw – and while firefighters tackled the fire an oil tank exploded. Five firefighters from Millwall and Poplar stations were killed, the largest single loss of life in the LFB since the Second World War.[93][95][96]
London's main railway goods terminal at Bishopsgate was gutted by a spectacular fire in December 1964. Within 37 minutes of the first crews arriving on scene, the scale of the blaze was so intense and widespread that 40 fire engines had been mobilised. In addition, 12 turntable ladders, two hose layers, two emergency tenders, and 235 firefighters battled the fire which killed two customs officials and destroyed hundreds of railway wagons, dozens of motor vehicles and millions of pounds worth of goods. The site remained derelict for the next 30 years until being rebuilt as Shoreditch High Street railway station.[70][97]
Over the course of firefighting operations at London's central meat market in January 1958, a total of 389 fire engines with more than 1,700 firefighters from 58 fire stations worked in shifts to tackle a fire of exceptional proportions.[70]
After the initial call, the LFB mobilised three pumps, a turntable ladder and emergency tender at 2.18am. Upon arrival, a station officer and firefighter from Clerkenwell station headed down into the basement where it was apparent a major fire had broken out. Both became trapped in the basement cellars and suffocated to death. Excessive heat, dense smoke and worsening conditions meant crews had to be rotated as frequently as every 15 minutes, as firefighters suffered from severe heat exhaustion.
Twenty-four hours later, with 800 oxygen cylinders used, the fire in the basement suddenly broke up into the first floor of the market, with flames seeping 100 ft in the air, engulfing the entire market. The fire, although brought under control and reduced, was not fully extinguished for two weeks. Valuable lessons were learnt after the Smithfield blaze, including introducing a tally system of firefighters' locations and quantity of breathing apparatus.
On the 50th anniversary of the Smithfield blaze, in 2008, the then Deputy Commissioner of the LFB said: "This was a landmark fire in the history of London and its fire brigade. It is important that we remember this tragic fire and honour the memory of the two London firefighters who lost their lives."[98]
While fighting a fire in a five-storey warehouse adjacent to Covent Garden, a station officer and firefighter, both of Clerkenwell station, were killed. Six more were hospitalised, with three requiring plastic surgery treatment.[98]
On 7 September 1940, a sub-officer at West Ham fire station witnessed the start of the Blitz by Nazi Germany on London. He reported that three miles of waterfront buildings had become a continuous blaze, and ordered 500 fire engines to be mobilised. The commander thought this an exaggeration and sent someone to investigate the situation, who reported back that 1,000 were required. More than 300 firefighters perished in the widespread and sustained bombing campaign, including two in a direct hit on Soho fire station and six in a direct hit on Wandsworth fire station.[70]
An eight-storey rubber warehouse in Wapping High Street burned for four days from 27 September 1935, with 60 fire engines in attendance. It was the first major incident for one of the LFB's most famous fireboats, the Massey Shaw, which greatly assisted land crews, who were hampered by inaccessibility, by supplying a vast water jet to allow the land crews to regroup and prevent the fire from spreading to adjoining warehouses.[70]
A fire on 30 January 1918 claimed the lives of seven London firefighters.[70] Staff at Vauxhall fire station were alerted to the incident by a passer-by, and upon arrival found a three-storey private house well alight, with the roof and upper floor partially collapsed. The fire was extinguished within two hours but firefighters remained in the building dampening down. It was then, while the men were on the ground floor, that the building suffered a total structural collapse. Six firefighters died on scene, one later from severe injury, and two suffered lesser injuries.[99]
Records show the 1834 Burning of Parliament was attended by 64 men in 12 fire engines.[70]

Notable exercises

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
London Fire Brigade led the planning and staging of a large, multi-agency exercise at multiple sites in London, simulating the collapse of Waterloo station onto an underground train.[100]

In popular culture

'London's Firefighters'. Edited by David C Pike and published by <Austin Macualey Publishers><ISBN 978-1-78455-541-2> in 2015.[101] A wonderfully readable, lavishly illustrated anthology of articles, fiction and verse about the London Fire Brigade, much of it drawn from the award winning in-house magazine 'London Fireman' (1966–82) and 'London Firefighter' (1982–2005). The book celebrates the forthcoming 150th anniversary of London's fire brigade's (1866–2016) by delivering both a comprehensive history of the London Fire Brigade and provides a fascinating portrait of individual firemen and firewomen at work and (occasionally) at play. The numerous, often highly dramatic illustrations, many from the London Fire Brigade and the Mary Evans Picture Library [102] offer a lively commentary on the text.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Who we are". London Fire Brigade. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  2. "Who we are". Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Retrieved 22 June 2014. any of our 8,000 firefighters
  3. "London Fire Brigade". 1 October 2007.
  4. 1 2 "Our Performance 2013/2014" (pdf). Retrieved 9 April 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 London Fire Brigade: Key dates
  7. London Fire Brigade | History, key dates (Our history)
  8. Tooley Street Fire
  9. General introduction', Survey of London: volume 26: Lambeth: Southern area (1956), pp. 1–17. Date accessed: 27 March 2010.
  10. Nigel Cox. "Lambeth: London Fire Brigade... (C) Nigel Cox :: Geograph Britain and Ireland".
  11. "London Fire Brigade".
  12. Communities and Local Government News Release 099, 24 May 2007, New Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Appointed
  14. London Fire Brigade: key dates, (accessed 23 October 2007)
  15. London Fire Brigade, The London Fire Brigade: Information for Intending Candidates, December 1938.
  16. "London Fire Brigade".
  17. "London Fire Brigade".
  18. "Fire prevention and rescue".
  19. "Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004".
  20. "Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004".
  21. "". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  22. Chief Fire Officers Association
  23. The Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS) (accessed 8 October 2007) Archived 7 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. London Fire Brigade: Rank structure
  25. FireNet: UK fire service ranks Archived 23 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. Independent Review of the Fire Service, Prof Sir George Bain Pub: 16 Dec 2002 Archived 1 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. London Fire Brigade: Training
  28. "London firefighters row over shift patterns resolved". BBC News. 22 December 2010.
  29. London Fire Brigade – Error Page
  30. "Firefighters to begin industrial action in dispute over shift patterns". Personnel Today.
  32. "London Fire Brigade".
  33. Integrated Personal Development System Booklet, (PDF download) Archived 1 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, published online the Office of Public Sector Information, (accessed 6 Nov 07) Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. 1 2 3
  36. London Fire Brigade – Upper Sydenham – electrical sub-station fire
  38. Fire and Rescue Act 2004 Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  39. Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Operational Note 3 (in the public domain, accessed 22 May 2007) Archived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. 1 2 Fireman! A Personal Account, by Neil Wallington, Pub David & Charles, 22 February 1979, ISBN 0-7153-7723-X
  41. 1 2 London Fire Brigade: Latest information on incidents in London, 21 May 2007 (accessed 22 May 2007)
  42. London Fire Brigade press release pr149/02 24 September 2002 (accessed 22 May 07)
  43. Dept of Transport, Investigation into the King's Cross fire: Desmond Fennell OBE, QC, Nov 1988 (accessed 25 October 2007)
  44. London Fire Brigade: Our Organisation (accessed 16 Jan 07)
  45. "London Fire Brigade". 1 February 2012.
  46. London Fire Brigade: A-Z of fire stations
  48. "Little squirts to the rescue – The Sunday Times".
  49. Better preparation for major emergencies and terrorist attacks
  50. gallery of London fire stations Archived 1 January 1970 at the Wayback Machine.
  51. New £7.7m fire station at Hammersmith, 2003
  52. "Hammersmith Old Fire Station Set to be a Pub".
  53. 1 2 LFB works with Babcock to deliver change to firefighter training" Training. April/May 2012 MMC Publications. P.31
  54. "Fire Training Systems – Bespoke Fire Training System". Process Combustion.
  55. "London Fire Brigade chooses Babcock to deliver biggest changes to firefighting training for 130 years".
  56. London Fire Brigade Key Dates (1965), (accessed 24 October 2007)
  57. LFB Press Release P039/06, 23 June 06, (accessed 24 October 2007)
  58. London Fire Brigade – Error Page
  59. "Protests at London fire stations over closures as union says Boris Johnson has 'blood on his hands'". London 24.
  60. Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 October 2007)
  61. Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 October 2007)
  62. Heathrow Fire Station – Taking of new lease 15 Sep 05 (accessed 24 October 2007) Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  63. Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 October 2007)
  64. Firefleet gallery (accessed 24 October 2007)
  65. Dept of Communities and Local Government: News Release 193, Site of London's New Fire Control Centre Announced, 17 October 07
  66. 1 2 3
  67. "London Fire Brigade". 27 October 2011.
  68. "London helicopter crash: Pilot's death 'devastating'". BBC News. 16 January 2013.
  69. "Biggest fire 'for years' in Dagenham, London". BBC News. 12 August 2012.
  70. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 LONDON FIRE JOURNAL. "LONDON FIRE JOURNAL".
  71. Carter, Lewis (11 February 2008). "Camden Market fire damage 'will cost millions'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  72. "Blaze ravages London market area". BBC News. 9 February 2008.
  73. "BBC NEWS – UK – England – London – Blaze ravages historic Cutty Sark".
  74. Edwards, Richard (30 September 2008). "Cutty Sark fire: Security guards 'put their feet up' as blaze ravaged ship". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  76. "Crews tackle Oxford Street fire". BBC News. 26 April 2007.
  77. New Look fined Ł40,000 after Oxford Street fire | News
  78. "BBC – Beds Herts and Bucks – Read This – Depot explosion".
  79. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 7 – 2005: Bomb attacks on London".
  80. "Two firefighters killed in blaze". BBC News. 20 July 2004.
  81. "Buckingham Palace blaze out". BBC News. 2 June 2002.
  82. Allison, Rebecca; Branigan, Tania (3 June 2002). "Thousands evacuated in fire". The Guardian. London.
  83. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 5 – 1999: Death toll rising in Paddington crash".
  84. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 8 – 1991: One dead as train crashes into buffers".
  85. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 20 – 1989: Marchioness river crash 'kills 30'".
  86. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 12 – 1988: 35 dead in Clapham rail collision".
  88. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 18 – 1987: King's Cross station fire 'kills 27'".
  89. "Eyewitnesses describe killer fire". BBC News. 11 February 2004.
  90. "Did the New Cross fire create a black British identity?". BBC News. 18 January 2011.
  92. "BBC ON THIS DAY – 28 – 1975: Horror underground".
  94. "5 firemen killed in explosion". The Times (57615). 18 July 1969. p. 1.
  95. "The Dudgeons Wharf Explosion.... 17th July 1969". Firehouse.
  96. Gray, Richard (4 November 2007). "The toll of duty". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  97. "Bishopsgate Goods Depot".
  100. "Exercise Unified Response". Retrieved 2016-07-18.
  103. David C. Pike, Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd, 2014
  104. Fire Wars, Produced by Folio/Mentorn for BBC Television transmitted on 1 July 2003 & 8 July 2003
  105. London's Burning: The Movie, (IMDB)
  106. "London's Burning" TV series, (IMDB)
  107. Fire! Produced & directed by Chris Oxley/Laurel Productions for Thames Television/ITV transmitted in 1991
  108. Ban on Party Firemen, Another TV Row, Pub Daily Mail, 28 June 1991
  109. Red Watch: The best seller about a fire and the men who fought it, by Gordon Honeycombe, Pub Arrow, 17 May 1976, ISBN 0-09-126310-7

External links

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