It's around one hundred and twenty years since the first fire brigade was established in Broadway. During that time the changes in methods and equipment have been enormous. One can only imagine what the men who formed Broadway's first brigade in 1897 would make of the modern fire appliance, and of the way fire fighting is organised today.

There are, though, some aspects of rural fire fighting which have changed little, and would be recognised by a 19th century fireman. The crew members are still part-time and, when needed, are called from their homes or from work to rush to the fire station. They still don their fire kit, hurry to the fire and squirt water at it, just as they did when the brigade was formed in 1897. This, of course, is where the similarity ends. The demands placed on the modern part-time fire-fighter are tremendous. They are expected to be conversant with a wide range of complex equipment; and in addition to fighting fires, be able to deal with almost any emergency. They have to keep up with the never-ending changes in the rules and methods of working and, of course, be able to stop whatever they are doing, immediately, at any time of the day or night, and report for duty. They do all of this whilst managing full-time jobs which are also becoming more and more demanding.

It is not certain how Britain's fire brigade will develop in the future, but the part time village brigade will only survive if sufficient people are prepared to make the huge commitment required to provide what is, despite the previous comments, an interesting and rewarding public service.