The Fire Brigade - Cliffe History

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The Fire Brigade

A disastrous fire in Church Street in 1901, in which four   lives were lost brought home to the Parish in general and   the Parish Council in particular, the need for fire-fighting   service in the village and by 1904, the first fire engine –   a horse-drawn manual-30ft. wheeled escape and other   necessary equipment, were in the newly erected Fire Station   and a stalwart band of voluntary firemen were training ready   to be called upon if necessity arose. Mr. John Robertson, of   Manor Farm, was the Brigade’s first Chief Officer, and fate   decreed that the first fire this new equipment should attend   was at the Chief Officer’s house. The drivers in those early   days was not considered a fireman, but merely attended to   the horses and was known as the coachman. The horses were   often owned by the coachman and the story has often been   told in the village of the coachman running down to the   marsh in the middle of the night for his horse, and having a   cow half saddled before he realised his mistake!
There were various methods used in those days for calling   the firemen –call-boy, maroon, explosive rocket, pneumatic   horn and bell, and several years later, an enamelled plate   with the words ‘Fireman’ was affixed to a fireman’s house to   assist the caller or call-boy. In 1910 Mr J. Witherden   succeeded Mr. J. Robertson as Chief Fire Officer and   remained in that office for about 20 years.

During this time horses gave way to motor transport,   but the efficiency of the firemen has consistently been such   that on numerous occasions they have won cups and other   awards.

The 1938 Fire Brigade Act made the Strood Rural District   Council the Fire Authority but several years later Cliffe   firemen were absorbed into the Kent Fire Brigade under the   jurisdiction of the County Council.

By this time Mr. J. Witherden, son of a previous   Chief Officer, was in command and firemen are now called by   a large siren in the centre of the village and house bells   electrically operated by remote control from Strood or   Cliffe Fire Stations.

Cliffe has now a brand new ‘K’ type water pump, which   incorporates all the features of modern design and   technique.

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