The Fire Station at the corner of Eglinton Street and Sandhill Drive, dating from the 1960s, is part of a network of fire stations belonging to the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service. Previously the Fire Station was located on Dunluce Avenue and before that in Main Street, opposite the Presbyterian Church in c.1900.
Fire engines have developed greatly from earlier times, and one of Portrush’s former fire engines, the iconic 1936 Denis “Ace” Fire Engine fitted with an escape ladder, is believed to be in a private collection. Early Portrush firefighters were volunteers, one of whom, Section Leader John Logan was awarded the King’s Police & Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service in 1946, having served for 42 years. Portrush Fire Brigade took part in fighting the fires caused by the Nazi bombing of Belfast – “The Belfast Blitz” – during World War 2. The current Fire Station also serves as the control centre for operations in the local area.
Firefighting began in Ancient Egypt, and there is evidence of the first known firefighters in Rome in the 3rd Century CE. It was a band of 500 firefighters under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus, who would rush to the building at the first alarm. However, when they got there, the firefighters would stand and wait while Crassus negotiated a suitable price from the homeowner. If an agreement was reached, the firefighters would line up and pass water in buckets along the line to the fire. If the price was unsatisfactory, they simply let the building burn! In Britain, firefighting was never considered a necessity until the Great Fire of London in 1666. A number of Fire Fighting Companies were established, many of whom have evolved into major insurance companies, and the residents of the city subscribed to a certain brigade. Often, the buildings were left to burn until the right brigade arrived! This practise continued until the 1800s, when a more organised and quicker response was demanded. Thankfully, our brigade of full-time staff and retained firefighters are a lot more organised and helpful, being able to put out a number of large fires safely in Portrush. Some famous volunteer firefighters include George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in America, and Winston Churchill, who greatly admired firefighters for their efforts during the London Blitz in World War 2, calling them, “Angels with Grimy Faces”.