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After the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies started their own fire brigades. Three of these private brigades were listed in Chesham in 1835, belonging to the Crown, the Imperial and the Norwich Union insurance companies. But these private fire brigades would only attend a fire if their company insured the property. Thus, in 1846 a meeting was called by Squire Lowndes at which it was decided to start a volunteer fire brigade which would serve everyone in the entire civil parish.
The first engine was a hand pump pulled by horses which was kept in a shed in Wey Lane and it wasn’t long before they attended their first fire which was at Nathaniel Reynolds’ workshop in Townfield in 1846. Chesham’s first official fire brigade came into being in 1868. This “new” brigade kept their appliance in the Town Hall in the Market Square.
The appliance used by this official fire brigade was pulled by horses until 1923, when the Chesham Fire Brigade acquired their first motor fire engine. Between the two world wars, the engine was kept in the Upper High Street (roughly where the entrance is to Sainsburys) and after the end of the Second World War, they moved to their present home in Bellingdon Road.
Chesham has always been a part-time station with retained firemen being alerted to fires through an alarm system. This was originally a bell, then electric bells were installed in the firemen’s homes. Following the 2nd World War, the air-raid sirens on The Moor and Pond Park were used until the late 1960s. Today the firemen have personal pagers.
At one time, the Chesham Fire Brigade boasted two tenders (fire engines) but today has a specialised rescue tender. Over the years, the nature of call-outs has changed. With the advent of central heating and loss of coal fires, the once common chimney fire has all but vanished and today’s prevalent trend is towards more road traffic accidents.