THERE are many reasons why Glasgow earned the nickname, Tinderbox City.

In the 17th century, houses were built with large quantities of wood. Water could only be obtained from streams, wells or pumps, which made extinguishing problematic.

Firemen were originally volunteers and responded from home, summoned by the sound of a drum to raise the alarm.

The Great Fire of Glasgow was one of the city’s worst fire disasters. The fire, which occurred on 17 June 1652, raged throughout the Saltmarket, Briggait, Gallowgate and Trongate consuming one third of the town.

Houses, shops and warehouses were burnt to the ground and almost a thousand families were left homeless. Consequently, from 1656, every property owner was ordered to keep a ladder attached to their premises.

The city continued to suffer from fires throughout subsequent years but the development of an effective fire service was in progress. The city appointed its first part-time paid superintendent in 1747 and in 1807 all public fire extinguishing duties were transferred to the Police Board.

Glasgow Times:

Thereafter, the fire service had its own superintendent and the Central Fire Station opened in 1851. The introduction of Loch Katrine water to Glasgow in 1858 greatly improved the city’s fire-extinguishing capabilities. Additionally, the city’s first steam fire-engine was obtained in 1870 and in 1878 a system of electrical fire alarms was devised.

Firemen were eventually housed by the department, usually in lodgings next to the station and on call at all times. The Fire Brigade passed with the police to Glasgow Corporation in 1895 and later became a separate department.

It was known as the Glasgow Fire Brigade until the National Fire Service was formed in 1941. Under the Fire Services Act of 1947, responsibility was returned to local government.

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In addition, the Glasgow Salvage Corps was established in November 1873 after local insurance companies became concerned about financial losses in serious fires in the city.

Its officers were responsible for inspecting buildings to identify fire risks, and they worked in harmony with the fire service in order to salvage the contents of buildings damaged by fire.

However, on 28 March 1960 disaster struck. The Cheapside Street whisky bond fire was Britain’s worst peacetime fire services disaster, killing 14 fire service and five Salvage Corps personnel.

The fire was fuelled by more than a million gallons of whisky and rum. At its peak, 450 firefighters were involved.

The Glasgow Fire Memorial was erected in the Necropolis and a service is held every year to commemorate those who died in the blaze.