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The London Fire Brigade

The London Fire Brigade now (January, 1861) consists of one superintendent, four foremen, each being appointed to a district consisting of a fourth part of London, which he never leaves except on some very pressing emergency, and who, in the absence of the superintendent,

The London Fire Brigade now (January, 1861) consists of one superintendent, four foremen, each being appointed to a district consisting of a fourth part of London, which he never leaves except on some very pressing emergency, and who, in the absence of the superintendent, has the sole command of all engines, or firemen, within, or who may come within, his district; twelve engineers, ten sub-engineers, forty-seven senior firemen, and forty-three junior firemen: in all, one hundred and seventeen individuals. In addition, there are fifteen drivers and thirty-seven horses, all living at the several stations, and ready when required.

There is also a supplementary force of four extra firemen, four drivers, and eight horses living at the stations, pursuing their usual avocations, and only paid by the Committee when required. The mechanical appliances consist of twentyseven large engines drawn by horses, eight small engines drawn by hand, two floating-engines worked by steam, one of forty-horse power, and the other of eighty-horse power, one land steam fire-engine, and twenty-eight hand-pumps, one of the latter being carried on each engine. When an engine is sent to a fire, only four firemen and one driver accompany it. The levers are worked by the bystanders, who are paid one shilling for the first hour, and sixpence for each succeeding hour, besides refreshments. Upwards of six hundred assistants have been thus employed at one time. The principal protection of London against fire is entirely voluntary on the part of the insurance companies, to whom the above establishment belongs; there being no law in any shape whatever to control or sustain the brigade; and with the exception of some fifteen or twenty, the parishengines are comparatively useless at a serious fire. It must not be omitted, that the greatest possible assistance is given to the firemen by the police, of whom there are about 7000, in keeping back the crowd, &c. The fire-offices look upon the whole as a matter of private business, so that the brigade is proportioned quite as must to the amount which the offices think it prudent to spend as to the size of the place. Paris, which is not half the size of London, and the buildings of which are much more substantial, has upwards of 800 firemen. It appears to me that any success which the brigade may have attained depends, in a great measure, on the liberal pay given, by which the best men for the purpose can be obtained, the favourable view in which the brigade is regarded by the public, and the willing and able assistance given by a numerous and perhaps the best police in existence.

The firemen in London being constantly employed on weekly wages, give their whole time to their employers, and are much more under command than where men are only occasionally employed. The wages and treatment being liberal, although the discipline is severe, there are generally a considerable number of candidates for each vacancy. Thus good men are obtained, seamen being preferred, as they are taught to obey orders, and the night and day watches and the uncertainty of the occupation are more similar to their former habits, than to those of other men of the same rank in life. The large number of fires is, however, the principal cause of any advantage the London firemen may possess over those of smaller places; and it is hardly fair to compare firemen who have only an opportunity of attending one or two fires in a week, to those who attend nearly three fires a day.

The firemen are drilled first daily, and then two or three times a week, for some months; and this, with an average of three calls a day, soon makes them acquainted with the routine of their business; but it takes years of constant work to make a thoroughly good fireman.

The management of the London Fire Brigade is confided to a Committee, consisting of one of the directors or secretaries from each of the fire-offices in London.

The superintendent has the command of the whole force.

The town is divided into four districts, in each of which there are stationed a sufficient number of engines, under the charge of a foreman, with engines and firemen under him.

Reference book: Fire prevention

Tags: Fire, Fire fighter, safety, Fire brigades,

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