Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies provided their own fire cover for businesses they had insured. Insured premises were issued with a plaque to display outside the building. This would indicate which insurance company would use its resources if a fire started in the building. However, this privatisation of the service meant that it was not uncommon for more than one brigade to show up at an incident – and if the fire mark did not belong to those first on the scene, the building might be left to burn until the relevant brigade arrived.
This continued until the 1800s, when towns and cities formed their own fire brigades. Each brigade was small, and large fires would require several services to attend.
The inefficiency of this was highlighted during World War 2, when these small brigades found they couldn't cope with the large fires started by enemy bombing. As a result, the individual brigades were merged into one for the duration of the war, forming the National Fire Service.
After the war, fire fighting became the responsibility of local authorities. For many years firefighting in our area came under the remit of the County of Avon, and the fire service was known as Avon Fire Brigade. In 2004, the name changed to Avon Fire & Rescue Service.
Over time, firefighting equipment has progressed from buckets to hand-drawn hand pumps, horse-drawn hand pumps, horse-drawn steam-powered pumps and finally to the modern pump, powered by a diesel or petrol engine.