Auxiliary Fire Service
The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was first formed in 1938 in
Great Britainas part of Civil Defence Air raid precautions. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades - most importantly the lack of a standard size of hydrant valve. The Auxiliary Fire Service and the local brigades were superseded in August 1941 by the National Fire Service.
Members of the AFS were unpaid part-time volunteers, but could be called up for whole-time paid service if necessary. This was very similar to the wartime establishment of the
police Special Constabulary. Men and women could join, the latter mainly in an administrative role.
An AFS was formed in every
county borough, boroughand urban district, and there was also one in the London County Councilarea. Each AFS was commanded by a Commandant, with Deputy and/or Assistant Commandants in the larger services. The services operated their own fire stations, each commanded by a Section Officer, and station areas were divided into Fire Beats, each under the command of a Patrol Officer. Services with five or more stations divided them into Divisions, each under the command of a Divisional Officer. These ranks were not laid down by the government, and some services used different systems. [The basic system is set out in Home OfficeFB Circular No.58/1939, 2 September 1939]
The Auxiliary Fire Service was reformed in 1948 alongside the
Civil Defence Corps. It was equipped with 1,000 Green Goddess(Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump) fire engines. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/4266381.stm "Green Goddesses reach end of road", BBC News Website] , 15 February 2005] It was disbanded in 1968.
During peacetime, AFS crews frequently attended fires and accidents alongside their regular colleagues. They provided significant assistance at some of the worst fires, such as that at
Billingsgate Marketand at Barkingwood yard. AFS personnel were trained in firefighting by their own officers and with assistance from full-time fire officers. Many were trained to the St John AmbulanceHigher First Aider Certificate standard - often proving invaluable at major incidents involving injury.
The Green Goddesses were used in two forms, a 4x4 version fitted with a 900 gpm Sigmund centrifugal pump and a 2x4 version (the most common type issued) fitted with the 1000 gpm pump. These latter could combine to provide a pipe relay over great distances when connected using 6-inch hose, supplying 1000 gpm from one location to another, often the seat of a major fire. An inflatable dam was often used as the source for the relay, usually fed by using several Light Portable Pumps powered by Coventry Climax FWP engines. These were sometimes floated on a 'bikini' raft so they could draw directly from a water supply such as a river.
The AFS has never had any connection whatever with any of the British Armed Forces. It is a pure coincidence that the Government used Army personnel to man and operate fire appliances during the Firemen's strikes. The appliances used were former AFS equipment brought out of mothball for the purpose. Many have since been sold at public auction.
The Auxiliary Fire Service is still active as part of Civil Defence in the
Republic of Ireland.
Auxiliary fire department
Volunteer fire department
* [http://www.fireservice.co.uk/history/ Brief details]
* [http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/homefront/badges/badfs.html Badges of the Auxiliary Fire Service and National Fire Service]
* [http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/ConNarrative.54/chapterId/820/Defending-the-East-End.html Its role in the London Blitz]
* [http://www.civildefence.ie Irish Civil Defence Website]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/4266381.stm Green Goddess Cold War fire engines of the Auxiliary Fire Service]
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