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History of Chirk Fire Station

Chirk Fire Station The story of Chirk’s history, as far as fire fighting goes, started way back on 1st December 1940 when, due to the dependency of fire cover placed upon the Oswestry Town, Llangollen Borough and/or Wrexham Borough Fire Brigade respectively, the first band of volunteers were enrolled by the Ceiriog Rural District Council as part of the war time auxiliary fire service.

The first headquarters were in the old stables at the ‘Mount’. Many people may know it better nowadays as ‘Richmond Upholstery’, Trevor Road, Nr. St. Mary’s Church. On these premises were sleeping quarters combined with a mess and lecture room, which was once the harness room. The adjoining room which had double doors housed a government issued Beresford Light Trailer Pump. This was primarily towed by section leader Mr A. Stoke’s fruit and veg lorry (when available), otherwise for village calls it was man handled to the incident.

Under the Officer in Charge the Rev Meirion Owen of Tregeiriog, volunteers including Section Leader Stokes, Leading Fireman Jack Rogers, Mr. Moss Edwards (waterman of Chirk Castle Brigade), Mr Ted Matthews, Mr John Twigg and others attended Oswestry Fire Station and knowledge gained by them was passed on during the following week to the rest of the personnel Sunday drills could not take place because St. Mary’s Church organ ran on mains water pressure and if the firemen tapped into the mains supply this would mean no organ accompaniment to the church singing; so drills were strictly week days only.

Up to this time there was no standard in equipment so great difficulty was found when a Brigade went to assist in another area. Such downfalls showed up when Chirk personnel witnessed a house fire across the valley from the ‘Mount’ and were unable to assist because it was across the border in England. With unacceptable incidents like this the government decided to nationalise the fire brigades, hence on 18th October 1941 the National Fire Service was founded.

In 1943 with the increase in the number of volunteers at the ‘Mount’ Station it was decided that a site should be found for a new station. A piece of land to the rear of the Welsh Chapel at Longfield, Collier Road was found to be an ideal patch. Immediately the Officers from Wrexham gave the go ahead, wheels were put in motion and erection of a new station began. The first construction was to be that of a tarran hut. This semi-circular concrete hut covered in roofing felt housed the office, equipment room, lecture room, toilet and coal store. Along side was built a brick building consisting of a two bay appliance room with control room and firewomans quarters at the rear. This building built by full time firemen from Mold, used many materials from Chirk Green Colliery in its construction. Even a length of railway track from the abandoned Glyn Valley Railway system was used as a lintel above the fire doors. Along with the hand made windows and doors these can still all be seen intact today.

Chirk Firemen 1943Photo Call at the Opening of the Longfield Fire Station 1943

During these early days at Longfleld Fire Station there were as many as 60 volunteers on station. These consisted of Officer, Fire Fighters, Firewomen and Messengers. They had various equipment, namely an Austin Auxiliary Towing Vehicle; a NFS Portable Pump, a Scammel Major Pump, later they received customised vehicles, e.g. a furniture truck with one mile of hose, a Ford Thames Truck with a canvas dam built on the top which held 1,000 gallons of water and a portable pump, with this idea being used nowadays on every water tender appliance.

Night time duty during the war was carried out by volunteers who despite being in full time employment stayed on station two nights each, per month. For this they received a small food ration allowance, and every 6 weeks or so they would collect the rations from each member together and shared a large fried breakfast.

During the 60’s the fire service in general went from strength to strength as equipment developed more and became available for standard issue. One such example was radio equipment. Today we take this for granted, along with such items as pocket alerters, whereas in early days these were not available. Such advancements enabled retained crews to respond to emergency calls and be mobile within 3 minutes so saving vital seconds which may be needed at the incident, possibly meaning the difference between life and death.

Old Fire Station As Chirk has grown in size so to have the number of emergency calls, for example.

Between 1948 - 1960 average number of calls per annum = 28
Between 1960-1973 average number of calls per annum = 62
Between Jan - December 1986 number of calls per annum = 211

This is compared with 100 calls for Llangollen and 57 for Corwen during 1986.

Many of the locals around the Longfield Fire Station know when there has been a fire call, for they recognize the unmistakable sound of the Rolls Royce engine of the ERF Water Tender Ladder returning to station.

With the acquisition of the new Fire Station, the ERF will be replaced by the new modern Volvo fire fighting appliance. This has all the latest specifications such as power  steering, automatic transmission, easily accessible equipment and a 207 bhp turbo charged diesel engine.

Finally with the opening of the new station we come to the end of the story ‘so far’ in what might be said to have been the period in which the fire service grew up. In that sense it might be likened to a period of adolescence from a stage of limited ability and resources to one of greater strength and increasing responsibility.

In writing this history of Chirk Fire Station and talking to past members, families of past members and present officers and men, one thing became very clear in all the years from 1941 to the present day the enthusiasm to serve as a member of the fire service and help the community of Chirk is unequivocal.

Incidents of Interest.

The personnel of Chirk Fire Station have attended numerous incidents over the years, and have, for instance, been awarded certificates by the R.S.P.C.A. for rescuing animals in dangerous situations. It is difficult to pick a few of these incidents to give a flavour of the dangerous and varied work carried out by Firemen, but there are some that spring readily to mind and may be of interest to the reader.

Once such incident occurred a few years ago on a winters evening, when a call was received to a country cottage in Llanrhaeadr, sited on a lonely country road with a stream running past the door. The Welsh Free Army had visited the property and placed two bombs, only one of which had gone off, the second was found by the area bomb disposal team and made safe, meanwhile Firemen had tackled the blaze caused by the first.

In another incident a call was received to a crashed aircraft. An airfield was constructed in Chirk on the land attached to Ley Farm, Black Park. Not long after it was opened a light aircraft had stalled on takeoff and nose dived into an adjacent field killing the two occupants.

An incident that is difficult for a previous Officer in Charge, Sub 0. Cranshaw, to forget did not occur in Chirk but in the Oswestry area about 10 years ago when he was a Leading Fireman. A large fire occurred at Lloyds Animal Feeds, Llynclys to which Chirk’s appliances attended. The fire involved large quantities of processed animal fats. Whilst manning a jet inside the building he fell into a pit of molten fat and luckily was quickly rescued by colleagues, to whom he knows he owes his life thanks to their prompt actions.

Finally an incident that occurred in February 1980 at Cadburys factory in Chirk. On arrival the Chirk crew found the premises extensively smoke logged by a fire involving filters. Once extinguished it was discovered damage caused was estimated at over 1 million.


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