It’s unknown at the moment exactly which year Laindon got its own fire station. Certainly up to 1938, fire appliances had to be called out to Laindon from Billericay. However, there may be a clue in an article that was published in the Recorder in August 1955.
A new water tender which will further increase the efficiency of the Laindon unit was delivered last week and has already been in service. The appliance replaces one that has given 14 years’ service. (That would make it 1941).
A feature of the new tender is that it is fitted with a two-way radio, which keeps the officer in charge in touch with his control. It enables assistance to be asked for immediately while attending a fire.
The vehicle carries 400 gallons of water, which can be delivered at high pressure over emergency hose reels attached to either side, or by a high powered pump up to pressures over 150 lbs per square inch. The emergency tubing is in lengths of 60 feet and can be added together to give a total length of 360 feet. Further hose in 75 feet lengths allows water to be pumped at very high pressure over hundreds of feet.
Another feature is that it carries a light-weight pump which can be detached and man-handled or wheeled into most inaccessible places, such as some of the unmade roads in the area. It is also fitted with portable searchlights, which can be detached and used hundreds of feet from the machine.
Later in October 1955, Laindon Fire Station was on exhibition to the public as part of the nation-wide drive for recruitment to the Auxiliary Fire Service. Mr Harry Wilks of Cromer Avenue, who has been a spare time fireman since 1938 was on duty and said “Young men who join the auxiliary fire service can do a really useful job for the community. Personally I enjoy my work as a fireman”.
Training for the auxiliary service includes carrying a man down a ladder, how to operate a 1,000 gallon pump and how to fight all sorts of fires. The training consists of 60 hours basic followed by 40 hours advanced, which entails not more than two hours, one evening per week. During the latter part, riding to fires is permitted so that first-hand experience can be gained.
The recruitment drive does not overlook the role of women in the fire service. They are taught how to use wireless and walkie-talkie sets for control room duties.
My first memory of Laindon Fire Station was walking passed with my mum in the early fifties and asking her why the fire engines were called ‘Dennis’ just like my older brother!
Laindon’s water appliances were often busy during the summer months due to grass and scrub fires. We had a personal experience approximately 1970 when long dry grass at the side of the unmade part of King Edward Road, close to my parent’s bungalow, caught fire. The fire brigade were sent for and they soon arrived in a Land Rover style fire tender, but upon unrolling the hose, discovered that the water tank was empty – they’d forgotten to fill it up! Luckily the fire fighters had some hand-held beaters on board so with assistance from one or two residents, including my other half, the fire was successfully beaten out before the Land Rover had returned after re-filling its tank.
A somewhat embarrassing moment there for the Fire Fighters, a story that we have recalled and told a few times over the years, with smiles on our faces.