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In history there have been some particularly devastating fires – here are just three fires which have occurred in London…
The Great Fire of London – This is probably the most well-known fire in the history of the UK. In 1666, buildings were made of timber frames, with thatched roofs which made them much more susceptible to fire. That summer had been long and dry, making conditions for a fire much more likely. On the 2nd of September, a fire started in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane. A strong wind helped it to spread quickly across the road and before long much of the area was ablaze. People were evacuated and many buried the precious possessions that they couldn’t carry with them. In order to stop the fire continuing its spread, the navy had to blow up the buildings in the way of the fire. Even the king himself helped with putting the fire out, according to the diary of Samuel Pepys.
The Frozen Fire of Butlers Wharf – In March 1931 the ground was freezing, snow had fallen, and more was on the way. Easterly winds made Britain feel more like the arctic. However, in a warehouse in Southwark, things were getting warmer as early that morning a fire had broken out. Just after 10am the London fire brigade arrived at the scene. The warehouse contained a lot of rubber, so the stench in the air was strong, and the building was billowing out clouds of thick black acrid smoke. As well as fighting the fire from the ground, the fire brigade, who were struggling to work in the freezing temperatures, had two boats on the river who were also trying to contain the blaze. Eventually after 24 hours of battling both the raging fire and the freezing temperatures, they managed to put the fire out.
1987 Kings Cross Station Fire – This deadly fire was one of the worst fires ever seen on the underground and it killed 31 people, including one of the firefighters attending the blaze, before it was put out. It started around 7.30 in the evening on 18th November 1987 and was started by a lit match which fell and landed underneath a wooden escalator. The litter underneath helped the fire to grow, and it grew quickly. Sadly, one of the firefighters who helped to fight the blaze, station officer Colin Townsley lost his life trying to get people to safety. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people paying tribute to him, and at Soho fire station, a space remains empty in his memory.