An early fire engine
covered in today’s world of rolling news and instant online updates.
The fact that, nowadays, every week seems to brings news of a new disaster and that the Great Fire shares many of the same cast of characters—victims, refugees, profiteers and looters, scapegoats, and leaders both competent and incompetent—gives this fine exhibition an extra currency. ‘Fire! Fire!’ is at the Museum of London, London EC2, until April 17, 2017 (020–7001 9844; www.museumoflondon. org.uk) One of the exhibition highlights is a restored 17th-century fire engine (right). At the time, these were the very latest addition to the firefighters’ arsenal; a pump operated by long handles squirted water from a large barrel. It was claimed that, with 10 men working the engine, it was more effective than 500 men using buckets and ladders. However, when it came to the test, the engines failed. Very heavy and awkward to manoeuvre on the narrow, cobbled streets, they got stuck in the crowds fleeing the fire. When they finally did arrive on the scene, the fire was too fierce and the engines’ range too short to be effective.