The Village of London

With a village so largely constructed of wood, it was but natural that fires should be of frequent occurrence, especially in the earlier Forties; and the first village by-laws were passed with a view to protecting the people from this very dangerous enemy. There were no fire limits as in these latter days; but there were regulations for the construction of fire-places and chimneys, the location of stove-pipes, handling of ashes, etc. And an official called a fire-inspector was expected to see that these regulations were carried out. So far as fighting a fire once started was concerned, the arrangements could not be considered very effective. Every householder was required to have at least one leather bucket, with his name painted thereon, hung in a conspicuous and accessible place. When the inspector came around, if the bucket was not in sight, there was a police court case, and the offender duly warned and fined. On the out-break of a fire a trumpet or bugle called out the citizens, every man with his bucket; a line was formed from the nearest well or cistern to throwing distance from the fire, and the buckets of water were passed from hand to hand till they reached the last man, who emptied it on the flames if he were near enough. As a matter of fact, the efforts of the bucket brigade were not usually wasted in trying to put out the fire, but to keep it from spreading.

As the village grew the dangers from fire became greater; once started the fire had more material upon which to feed, and if there was much of a wind the bucket business was not much good. [...]

Source: T. Campbell, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Historical Society (London: London and Middlesex Historical Society, ca. 1918). Notes: J.J. Talman Regional Collection, University of Western Ontario Archives, Reaney Papers, Box 27 (B1313), File 16.

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