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Fires and Firemen: from the Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science and Art, Vol XXXV No. 1, May 1855   By:

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This eBook was prepared by Gordon Keener.

The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art Vol XXXV. No. I May, 1855.

1: Fires and Firemen Annual Reports of Mr. Braidwood to the Committee of the Fire Brigade [From the Quarterly Review]

Among the more salient features of the Metropolis which instantly strike the attention of the stranger are the stations of the Fire Brigade. Whenever he happens to pass them, he finds the sentinel on duty, he sees the "red artillery" of the force; and the polished axle, the gleaming branch, and the shining chain, testify to the beautiful condition of the instrument, ready for active service at a moment's notice. Ensconced in the shadow of the station, the liveried watchmen look like hunters waiting for their prey nor does the hunter move quicker to his quarry at the rustle of a leaf, than the Firemen dash for the first ruddy glow in the sky. No sooner comes the alarm than one sees with a shudder the rush of one of these engines through the crowded streets the tearing horses covered with foam the heavy vehicle swerving from side to side, and the black helmeted attendants swaying to and fro. The wonder is that horses or men ever get safely to their destination; the wonder is still greater that no one is ridden over in their furious drive.

Arrived at the place of action, the hunter's spirit which animates the fireman and makes him attack an element as determinedly as he would a wild beast, becomes evident to the spectator. The scene which a London fire presents can never be forgotten: the shouts of the crowd as it opens to let the engines dart through it, the foaming head of water springing out of the ground, and spreading over the road until it becomes a broad mirror reflecting the glowing blaze the black, snake like coils of the leather hose rising and falling like things of life, whilst a hundred arms work at the pump, their central heart the applause that rings out clear above the roaring flame as the adventurous band throw the first hissing jet cheer following cheer, as stream after stream shoots against the burning mass, now flying into the socket holes of fire set in the black face of the house front, now dashing with a loud shir r against the window frame and wall, and falling off in broken showers. Suddenly there is a loud shrill cry and the bank of human faces is upturned to where a shrieking wretch hangs frantically to an upper window sill. A deafening shout goes forth, as the huge fire escape comes full swing upon the scene: a moment's pause, and all is still, save the beat, beat, of the great water pulses, whilst every eye is strained towards the fluttering garments flapping against the wall. Will the ladder reach, and not dislodge those weary hands clutching so convulsively to the hot stone? Will the nimble figure gain the topmost rung ere nature fails? The blood in a thousand hearts runs cold, and then again break forth a thousand cheers to celebrate a daring rescue. Such scenes as this are of almost nightly occurrence in the Great Metropolis. A still more imposing yet dreadful sight is often exhibited in the conflagrations of those vast piles of buildings in the City filled with inflammable merchandise. Here the most powerful engines seem reduced to mere squirts; and the efforts of the adventurous Brigade men are confined to keeping the mischief within its own bounds.

When we recollect that London presents an area of 36 square miles, covered with 21,600 square acres of bricks and mortar, and numbers more than 380,000 houses; that all the riches it contains are nightly threatened in every direction by an ever present enemy; that the secret match, the spontaneous fire, and the hand of the drunkard, are busily at work, it is evident that nothing but a force the most disciplined, and implements the most effective, can be competent to cope with so sudden and persevering a foe.

As late as twenty two years ago there was no proper fire police to protect the Metropolis against what is commonly called the "all devouring element... Continue reading book >>

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