The Great Fire of London
As the focus of our school education programme is targetted on prevention and safe behaviour around fire, we no longer support the delivery of this Great Fire of London topic with standalone visits nor with a visit by operational crews and fire engines nor with a school group visit to the local station.
An important safety note: As with most fire services across the country, we strongly discourage any sort of re-enactment of the Great Fire of London involving burning models. These active displays are not only a fire risk, but they also promote dangerous fire setting behaviour to children.
Read the National Fire Chiefs Council position statement about re-enactments.
Our videos and worksheets will help your class to understand:
- how the Great Fire of London started
- why the fire spread
- what equipment people used to fight the fire
- how effective the equipment was
- how the fire service works today and how this affects fighting fires now
- how we can prevent a fire starting.
There are also adaptable resources available from the tes.com website.
The Great Fire of London
An educational video for children.
The Great Fire of London - Primary Education
We have put together some information and tasks to help you learn about the Great Fire of London.
It will also help you understand the difference between what was used for fighting fire in 1666 and what we use now.
You will also learn: what is needed to warn us that a fire has started, what number to call in an emergency, how you can help the fire service.
The Great Fire of London 1666.
On what date did the fire start?
Where did it start?
What was the name of the person who owned the place where the fire started? What was his job?
How did the fire start?
- The fire started on 2 September 1666
- It started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane, London
- The baker was called Thomas Farriner
- It started because the oven was not cleaned properly. Hot ash from the bread oven fell out and set light to some firewood.
If this happened today, what would Thomas Farriner have in his house to warn him that the fire had started?
A smoke alarm.
How many? At least one on each level of your house.
Where? On the ceiling in the hall and at the top of the stairs.
Look after your smoke alarms.
If there is a battery, change the battery every year.
Test your smoke alarms once a month. They should beep if they are working.
Vaccuum your smoke alarms once every six months to remove dust.
Smoke alarm checklist:
All smoke alarms work. There is at least one smoke alarm on each level of your house. The smoke alarms are on the ceiling. The smoke alarms are tested every month.
If one of the answers is no, ask your grownups to call the fire service on 0800 05 02 999. We can arrange a home safety visit where we can fit any smoke alarms you may need and have a chat with you about fire safety.
Where did the fire spread?
The streets were narrow as the houses were built close together.
The buildings were made of wood.
[music plays as a CGI recreation of the London skyline of 1666 is shown]
[the scene changes and we see how narrow the streets were]
[music continues in the background]
[the recreation of London moves in and out of streets and buildings]
Why did the fire spread?
There had been no rain and the weather had been hot. The strong wind meant the fire got bigger and quickly spread from building to building.
Houses and buildings did not have smoke alarms to warn that a fire had started. People did not have the right equipment to tackle and fight the fire.
People didn't know anything about fire safety because there was no fire service to give them advice.
How did they try to put out the fire?
Fire hooks. These were long poles with a metal hook on the end and were used to pull the straw off the roof.
Water pumps. These were made of wood and needed several people to make them work.
The stirrup pump. This is piece of equipment used by firefighters today but is like the pumps used in 1666. [see a modern firefighter using a stirrup pump to put out a fire in a bucket]
Buckets. people used buckets to carry water from the River Thames. The buckets were made of leather. People stood in a line and passed the full buckets of water to each other.
[see our modern firefighters demonstrating how the buckets were passed along the line of people]
After the Great Fire of London, fire brigades were set up to help people if they had a fire.
Your fire brigade is now called Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
[music starts as the fire station bay doors open at Honiton Fire Station]
[the doors open and there are three fire engines of different sizes in the station]
[the camera zooms in on one of the fire engine doors and then the screen cuts away]
We do more than put out fires. [a series of photos showing the fire service at flood rescues, road traffic collisions, home safety visits, fire control, medical assistance and animal rescues]
We have the people.
We have the vehicles.
We have the equipment.
[A firefighter stands next to a fire engine and talks to the camera]
So, fire engines need to be huge. They need to be massive because we need to carry lots of types of equipment on board.
We don't just get called to one type of incident. We get called to many.
Such as house fires, RTCs, people stuck in flood water and sometimes we even have to rescue large animals such as horses and cows out ditches.
So we need lots of different equipment and some of it is really heavy.
So you know I said we go to house fires. Well, how do we put out a house fire? What do we need? Yes, indeed we need water!
How much water do you think is on this fire engine?
Your bath at home carries about 80 litres. This fire engine carries the same amount of water as 20 of your baths! That's a lot of water and that's why they need to be so big.
Let's take a quick look round and see what other equipment we've got.
[music plays as the camera moves around the fire engine. A firefighter opens the cab door to show where they sit and some of the equipment in there]
[the camera goes along the side of the fire engine. A firefighter pulls a variety of equipment out from the side compartments on the engine]
[equipment includes pumps, tools, hoses, connectors and chocks]
[at the rear of the engine is where all the hose connectors fit]
[the camera now goes along the other side of the fire engine and the firefighter opens more compartments]
[the equipment includes cutters, more hoses, several positive pressure ventilation fans, water rescue equipment]
[the camera reaches the front of the fire engine and the firefighter opens the drivers door to show the cab and the music fades]
Ok troops, so you've had a look at our big fire engine but let me tell you, they're not all this big.
That is dependant on where you live. If you live in the city then you might see a big fire engine like this.
If you live in the country, with smaller roads, then you might see a fire engine like this...
[photographs of a medium rescue pump, a light rescue pump, and a 4x4 vehicle]
Those smaller fire engines are really important because we know the roads are a lot narrower and this big engine wouldn't be able to gt down them.
So, no matter where you live, you know you are safe because we can get to you one way or another.
You have an emergency number you can call; 9 9 9
[music starts again and we watch two firefighters changing into their protective clothing. Boots, trousers, tunics and helmets]
[now we have a view from outside the fire station. The fire engine pulls out of the bay doors and the siren sounds before it turns on to the road with blue light flashing]
How you can help the fire service.
Can you think of ways that we can stop small fires starting and becoming bigger fires? Or stop fires starting?
This is called prevention and it's an important job of the fire service.
Did you guess any of these fire safety tips? Well done! Don't forget to remind your grown-ups too.
Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Turn off or unplug things not being used. Use the correct charger and switch off once fully charged. Never play with matches or lighters. Always put candles and tealights out properly.
Stay safe. We hope to see you in your school sometime soon.
For fire safety advice call 0800 05 02 999. For education enquiries email email@example.com
A brief history lesson
The fire started on 2 September 1666, in a bakery on Pudding Lane. It started because a baker, Thomas Farriner, had not cleaned the oven properly. Due to a lack of rain and the blazing hot summer, all the houses in the city were bone dry. As they were all made of wood, and fanned by strong winds, the fire spread rapidly. People tried to control the spread using buckets of water and fire breaks but to no avail.
The fire spread through the capital, destroying over 13,000 homes and leaving 100,000 people homeless.
It was as a result of the Great Fire that fire brigades were formed, as insurance to protect houses from burning to the ground.
Watch a video of a brief history of the Great Fire of London.