1947 Rubber Dump Fire

BIG SURREY RUBBER FIRE ATTRIBUTED TO HEAT

200 Firemen Fight Worst Blaze Since Blitzes

INTENSE heat in London — the temperature in the afternoon rising to 90 degrees — was thought responsible for the outbreak of one of the worst fires for many months. The great fire broke out in a Government rubber dump near Mitcham Common. Thousands of tons of rubber blazed and 200 firemen were faced with an all-night task. The scene was reminiscent of blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F. in the war.

More than 30 fire engines were rushed from all parts of South London to cope with the blaze, the fire assuming alarming proportions.

The fire spread rapidly and quickly reached a factory. Heavy smoke clouds drifted across Mitcham Common toward Streatham, and surrounding property was threatened by the blaze.

Thousands tons of scrap rubber blazed while firemen were trying to get a hose working. They were handicapped by the distance the nearest available water supply — the River Wandle — and were trying to prevent the fire from reaching two builders’ yards. The dump is controlled the Board Trade.

“AMAZING SIGHT.”

Gangs of men worked to clear fire ” break” between the dump and surrounding houses. The N.F.S. later said the fire was the biggest this year and for quite some time previously.” One eyewitness said: “It is an amazing sight—like the pictures blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F.”

There was a “general call out” to fire brigades. Over 200 firemen using “walkie-talkie” apparatus fought the fire and four hoselaying lorries ran hoses from the Wandle.

At the dump were 10,000 tons rubber, including 3,000 tons of tyres worth about £40,000 to £50,000.

SUN BLOTTED OUT

About 120 employees of the adjoining factory of Bryans Aeroquipment, Ltd., formed a bucket chain, and the factory girls provided water, lemonade, and biscuits to firemen exhausted by the heat. One of the firemen, overcome by the heat and fumes, was removed to hospital.

Firemen were at work all night. Some of them said they expected the dump to smoulder for a week.

Smoke from the fire blacked out the sun in Central London, ten miles away. Some onlookers likened a mushroom-like column of smoke stretching from the heart of the fire to pictures of the atom bomb explosions.

Source: Western Morning News – Tuesday 03 June 1947 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

There are 9 photos on Merton Memories.

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