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The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the statutory fire and rescue service for London. The LFB was formed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act of 1865, which replaced the previous piecemeal firefighting measures in the city. Today, it is the largest fire and rescue service in the United Kingdom and the fourth largest in the world, with nearly 7,000 staff, including 5,800 operational firefighters based at 102 fire stations.

In 2010/11 the LFB handled 212,657 999 calls. Of the calls it mobilised to, 27,563 were fires, including 13,367 of a serious nature. The LFB also handles a variety of other emergencies and incidents, including lift releases, traffic accidents, train crashes, floods, trapped persons and animals, general evacuations, and chemical spills. It conducts emergency planning and performs fire safety inspections and education. All firefighters are trained in first aid and all fire engines carry first aid equipment including basic resuscitators.

London's Burning was always made with the co-operation of the London Fire Brigade, which extended to the loaning of fire appliances, the use of an operational fire station, the use of the Brigade's training centre at Southwark for cast members, and the appointment of a Brigade liason to advise on authenticity and act as safety officer during filming. Serving members of the LFB were often used as extras in the show.

History[]

Organised firefighting is traceable back to Ancient Egypt. The Roman emperor Augustus established the Vigiles (Vigiles Urbani; "Watchmen of the City"), a fire brigade for the city of Rome, and it is probable that a similar establishment existed for the Roman town of Londinium. The Vigiles fell into disuse after the last Roman legions left Britain in the fifth century and firefighting measures in London were ad hoc for the next millennium.

William the Conqueror issued a law ordering the dousing of fires at night time, to guard against the fire menace posed by thatched roofs. Nevertheless, serious blazes swept through London in 1135 and 1212, and the latter is believed to have killed 3000 people. These were known as the Great Fires of London until that of 1666, which destroyed most of medieval London, including St Paul's Cathedral and 13,200 houses. It proved a watershed and led to the establishment of private fire brigades by insurance companies.

The growing demands on these brigades led to the formation of the London Fire Engine Establishment in 1833, with 13 stations and 80 firefighters. However, fires at the Palace of Westminster and Tooley Street exposed the LFEE's limitations, and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed in 1865 under superintendent Eyre Massey Shaw. In 1904 it was renamed the London Fire Brigade. The London Fire Brigade was amalgamated into the National Fire Service during World War II. London's firefighters distinguished themselves during the Blitz, leading Winston Churchill to describe them as "the heroes with grimy faces".

Today[]

The past half century has seen increased use of technology, more sophisticated firefighting techniques and improved fire safety awareness, aimed at increasing the safety of both officers and the public. Major fires tackled by the Brigade in recent years include Alexandra Palace (1980), King's Cross (1987), Momart (2004), the Cutty Sark (2007) and Dagenham (2012). A Fire Investigation Unit investigates suspected cases of arson. As of 2012, the London Fire Brigade employs 5,800 operational firefighters in 102 stations, all manned 24 hours a day and divided into four watches (blue, white, red and green).

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