Fire can spread rapidly and from the earliest
days this spread was often contained by fire breaks – gaps between
Despite this, perhaps because of debris laying
around, or a strong wind fanning the fire, it was often necessary
to increase the width of the gap.
Axes were used to demolish buildings in the path of a spreading
fire and rakes to clear the resulting debris.
For most of the 20th century every firefighter carried an axe on
the belt of his firefighting uniform but the fire-resisting
materials used in modern buildings meant the axe was only rarely
used. Building and planning control ensures that there is good
separation between properties.
The uniforms worn nowadays do not provide for an axe but one or
two are still be carried on most fire engines – just in case...