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An Abiding Fire – firefighting in the 17th century, by Nick Ezra

The burning issue of the day…?

A Sweet Disorder

So there you are, sitting in your parlour with your feet up in 1666 and you smell burning. After thinking “That idiot Farynor has left his buns in the oven too long again”, what could you expect in the way of help in protecting life and property?

Considering that most houses even in the major European cities were of timber and thatch, even if statutes said they should be of brick or stone,the answer is actually very little. London had had the forward-thinking Lord Mayor Henry Fitzalwin who, as far back as 1189, had decreed that all large houses should be equipped with long ladders and to have a barrel of water for firefighting placed nearby. Each ward was to provide a ”strong crook of iron with a wooden handle, together with two chains and two strong cords” for pulling down roofs and walls to make a fire break. Some…

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