Fire Claims 19 Glasgow Firefighters
On the night of March 28 1960 19 firefighters lost their lives in the Anderston area of Glasgow. The disaster remains the highest peacetime death toll in any such incident in Britain.
A bonded warehouse there was being used to store more than a million gallons of whisky and rum, in a district of narrow streets that epitomised the nickname ‘tinderbox city’ then given to Glasgow . A little after 7pm a worker in a neighbouring building noticed smoke, and phoned for the emergency services. Within three minutes several vehicles belonging to the Glasgow Fire Service and a tender from the Glasgow Salvage Corps (a private service, largely funded by insurance companies, which remained in existence until 1984 in the city) arrived to tackle the fire. Some of the men went into the warehouse and another building to try to find the source of the smoke.
When that source was found the firefighters deployed to deal with the blaze. But with no warning an explosion ripped through the building, blowing out the walls on both Cheapside Street and Warroch Street: 14 men of the Glasgow Fire Service and five of their Salvage Corps colleagues were crushed beneath the masonry.
Eventually, with the use of water pumped from the Clyde nearby, and thanks to the efforts of 450 firefighters, the blaze was controlled, though it continued to smoulder and burn for the best part of a week. The city united in mourning the 19 fallen firemen with thousands lining the streets on the day of their funeral service.
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