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Auxillary Fire Service: Fire engine in the Blitz

Recording of an AFS vehicle

One of the preparations Britain made for war was to create an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS).

The service had 25,000 members who were trained to fight fires alongside the regular fire brigade.

The bombardment that began on 7 September 1940 caused the biggest fires seen in London since the Great Fire of 1666.

Many members of the AFS had never fought any major fires before.

Now found themselves expected to deal with major incidents on an unprecedented scale.

Many of the bombs dropped on London and other major cities were incendiary devices intended to start fires. These bombs had the dual effect of spreading destruction and lighting up the city to make it easier as a target.

Fire-fighters worked in very demanding conditions. They worked during raids, while the bombs were falling. They were at risk from collapsing buildings and falling shrapnel from anti-aircraft guns. They often worked 15 hours at a time, in clothes that were soaked through.

The fire service played a key role in ensuring that some cities were not totally destroyed during the War.

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