Works Fire Brigades

Non-Local Authority Fire Brigades, often referred to as ‘Private’, ‘Industrial’ Commercial’ or ‘Works’ Brigades, served to protect the owners of commercial or private enterprise by providing on-site fire protection resources. Some were whole-time and very well equipped, who provided on-site fire protection and able to offer their services to Local Authority Fire Brigades or provide full cover for a Fire Authority. The number grew rapidly, from the early 20th century and was at their peak during the 1930s and into the Word War 2 years. They covered many types of risk, from large Country Estates to the Manufacturing Industry, Breweries, the Petro-Chemical industry, large Shops and Stores etc. Many Railway Companies had their own Brigades, (and here, the term ‘Fireman’ can cause researchers many a headache with ‘Firemen’ working on the foot-plate of steam engines!)   

During the air raids of World War 2, many Works Fire Brigades fought fires alongside Regular and Auxiliary Firemen. Coventry, for instance, had 55 separate Works Fire Brigades with some 3000 personnel at this time.  A number of Works Firemen lost their lives fighting fires resulting from air raids. At the end of 1942, a Scheme was prepared by the Ministry of Home Security to embody Works Fire Brigades into the NFS as part of the national scheme for fire defence, having originally been omitted from the ‘Emergency Fire Service Organisation Scheme’ in 1937. The new Scheme left works managements with full control of their respective Fire Brigades, whist at the same time making provision for special training facilities, cooperation liaison and in some cases the free issue of equipment. 

After World War 2, these Fire Brigades continued to protect the interests of the owners of the various commercial companies, working to bring the nation back to where it needed to be, following the wide-ranging impacts of the long years of the war. Things stabilised through the 1950s and 1960s, but with the 1970s and beyond the number of these independent Fire Brigades have gradually greatly reduced in number and although a some remain in being, they are few in number and not of the scale of the past.