Fire Service

The fire service has been an important part of the emergency services for some time, although in the past it had a different structure. Rather than one large company, each town had a separate fire brigade - this meant rules were sometimes different and no one person oversaw the whole service. There was a different Firemaster for each town and no coherent training programme.  

The Second World War changed a lot of things concerning everyday life, and the fire service was included in that.  It had become apparent that a more united fire service would be beneficial to communities; pooled resources available to every place would mean more efficient firefighting and rescue operations.  This led to the establishment of the National Fire Service, which took control until the late 1940s.

Thereafter, various areas combined their means and various local authorities amalgamated to form smaller units - Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire's service became known as the  South Western Area Fire Brigade.  As further changes in local councils occurred, the boundaries shifted and eventually the fire service settled into groups such as Strathclyde Fire Brigade - still called this even though Strathclyde Regional Council as such no longer exists. 

Fire fighting equipment has not changed much over the years - there has been no great need for redesign, but the most obvious difference is the  fire engine itself.

The first engines were more like chariots, being pulled by horses, and they were worked manually, with a team of men on either side to work the pump.  This must have been very strenuous work and sometimes a spare team was on standby to take over if necessary.  Not all towns had a fully functional underground water supply with pipes at the time (later 19th century) and until a pipe system and hydrant was installed, these types of places had to make do with a fire engine which brought a supply of water with them, worked manually - if the water was insufficient to quell the flames, a new supply would have to be fetched, wasting precious time.

The service was further streamlined by the installation of an alarm system, which was connected to all the fire officers' homes throughout the town, although some fire stations included accommodation for the men so that they were on site at all times.  However, they did not just sit around waiting for calls; they had to have training in rescuing animals as well as people, first aid, equipment handling.

The fire brigade no longer charges for callouts within the locality, but at one time they did.  A fixed charge was implemented, at least in Ayrshire, and extra payment was requested if the engine was taken out of its 'home' area.   Fire marks could be fixed to a building exterior to show that the occupants had insurance against fire; these were usually made of metal and bore the emblem of the relevant insurance company.

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