Scottish fact of the week: James Braidwood, the “Father of Firefighting”

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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It’s said that out of everything bad, something good comes. And this certainly rings true for the spate of terrible blazes which afflicted Edinburgh in 1824.

The unprecedented number of large fires which took place that year threatened to destroy Scotland’s capital, leading 24-year-old pioneer James Braidwood to launch the world’s very first municipal fire service.

As Master of Fire Engines, Braidwood drew up principles of firefighting that are still in use today.

The former Royal High School pupil pioneered the idea of entering a burning building to fight fire at its source.

His officers would be trained under the cover of darkness to help them become familiar with working in the dark and they practised their climbing skills on Edinburgh’s North Bridge.

In 1833, Braidwood left Edinburgh to lead the London Fire Engine Establishment and while down south went he invented the first form of breathing apparatus.

Sadly, Braidwood was killed by a falling wall while fighting London’s ‘Great Fire of Tooley Street’ in 1861.

In 2008, a seven-foot bronze statue of Braidwood was erected in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square.