A Brief History of the Fire Brigade in West Sussex

There has been evidence of organised fire fighting in Britain since the Roman invasion AD43, but it took the Great Fire of London in 1666 to move things forward. Insurance companies offering the first type of fire cover were formed, enabling citizens to pay to protect their homes or business in the event of a fire. These same firms also formed fire brigades to respond to emergency calls specifically from their customers. Nine years after the Edinburgh Fire Engine establishment was formed in 1824, several London Insurance companies merged to form the first London Fire Brigade laying the foundations for the modern service.
 
Until the Watching and Lighting Act was passed in 1835 there was no legal requirement for towns and villages to provide a fire service; this did not, however, stop many towns in West Sussex providing their own 'parish pumps' or small manual fire engines which would be rushed to the scene of a fire by a team of willing volunteers.
 
The Towns Police Clauses Act of 1847 gave provisions for the purchase of fire appliances, fire stations and the payment for firemen to crew them, all to be provided for out of the Poor Rates. By the turn of the 20th century there were town Brigades in Arundel, Bognor, Burgess Hill, Crawley, East Grinstead, Hassocks, Haywards Heath, Henfield, Hurstpierpoint, Littlehampton, Midhurst, Steyning and Worthing.
 
Up until the mid-1930s the town Brigades continued to give sterling service, but the looming clouds of war caused the Government to create the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1937. On 1st September, 1941 the National Fire Service was born, and West Sussex became part of Region 12. However, the Government promised that this was only a wartime situation and that control of the Brigades would be returned to local councils once the war was over.
 
At war's end the town councils agitated for the return of their Fire Brigades. The Government, however, had seen the advantage of a large well organised fire service and was reluctant to return to the pre-war situation. As a compromise it was decided in 1946 that the control of Fire Brigades would become a County Council responsibility.
 
The date chosen for the formation of West Sussex Fire Brigade was the 1st April, 1948.

above includes part extract from: - FIFTY YEARS OF THE WEST SUSSEX FIRE BRIGADE written by Steve Jordan