STREET FIRE PARTIES: United Kingdom. 1941. Defense Regulations 26A, 27A, and 27B mandated widespread participation in civil defense activity by members of the general public. Announced in early 1941, these policies required male members of the general public from ages 16 to 60 - women and youths were encouraged - to perform 48 hours of fire precautions work a month. One of the suggested forms of service was to be through Street Fire Parties, local volunteer fire teams equipped at the incipient firefighting level. Loosely organized, they appear not to have operated under central control, being called out by their leaders in response to fires the members detected. Street Fire Parties were identified by an armband marked SFP worn with civilian clothing and a standard military pattern helmet. Equipment issued to the parties included stirrup pumps and sandbags. Parties were required to supply their own water containers, and publicity pictures of one party showed the group using a handcart with a length of hose, an obsolete copper nozzle, a hydrant key, a ladder slung under the cart, and other firefighting supplies. The pictured party was based in an annex to a public shelter and stowed its equipment in a carriage yard in Wapping. Based on some level of citizen avoidance of registration for service, the widespread exemptions from the fire precautions service obligations, approaching 75 percent of those registered, and the general lack of seriousness with which the problem was approached by employers and the public, the number of Street Fire Parties organized may have been small and their effectiveness questionable.
Sources: Ramsey, Winston G., editor, The Blitz: Then and Now, Volume 2, London, United Kingdom, Battle of Britain Prints International, 1988. Whiting, Charles, Britain Under Fire: The Bombing of Britain's Cities, 1940-1945, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Leo Cooper, 1999.
Entry 0384 - posted 10 August 2003