Frozen fire at Butlers Wharf…

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On the 7th of March 1931, one of the most unique fires in history broke out. The fires’ location was at a warehouse at Butlers Wharf near London bridge. The Fire brigade were called shortly after 10am and arrived at the scene with 70 fire engines and 1,100 individual firefighters to tackle the wild blaze. The warehouse consisted of 7 floors and contained large stocks of tea and rubber and as the fire spread through the building, the distasteful smell of burning rubber increased in the cold air. They battled to confine the blaze to only one of the warehouses and where successful, but even then, the fire still took its time to be extinguished completely. 

As the fire fighters battled the clouds of fumes and the blaze with their fire hoses, it still felt impossible for them to extinguish the entirety of the fire within the next few days. An officer at the scene has been quoted to have said it was “one of the biggest fires the brigade had had” as well as his opinions on how they felt it wouldn’t be “completely extinguished for several days”. But, even with the roaring fire, the weather was not on their side. 

The water that ran off the walls would freeze almost instantly and water running over the street turned to sheets of ice, making any movement a hazard to injury. The temperatures were below freezing from the snow showers and icy winds that they had to wrap cloth around the hose handle, just to be able to hold on to them even slightly. Numerous fire fighters suffered from the overwhelming fumes coming from the burning stock and the rest were suffering from the intense cold conditions. Some were even unlucky enough to have to pick away at ice and hold on to the still freezing hoses with bare hands.

At this time, it wasn’t common for the general public to have televisions because they were still quite new in the making. Instead, people travelled to the cinema to watch what was called a ‘newsreel’. This is how people found out about the fire as it showed the snowy streets of London, the frozen walls of the warehouse and the firefighters doing their best to extinguish the outburst of flames. 

It took an entire two days for the fire to be completely extinguished with the cost of the damages coming to a total of £250,000. Also, it must be known that the weather had a huge contribution to the damages of both the warehouse and the firefighter’s equipment. 

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