To our knowledge there is no definitive history of the The Llanelli & District Fire Service, but this photograph of a Pontyates fire engine and crew may encourage some willing historian to write such a work with this brief article providing one small piece for a bigger jigsaw?
The photograph, was taken we are told, before a new fire station had been built in 1963. It was presented to Llanelli Community Heritage by Mr John Campbell Jones, who served with the Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire Joint Fire Brigade from 1952 to 1962. The scene shows the fire engine, an Austin K2 Auxiliary Towing Vehicle (ATV), which was specifically manufactured for fire fighting in the Second World War.
The crew proudly lined up for the photograph are, from left to right, Gareth Gravell, John Campbell Jones, Cyril Rogers (the Station officer) and Ron Lewis all in the uniform of the time, complete with their helmets and fireman's axes attached to their waist belts.
According to John, "The ATV could race to emergencies at speeds of 60–70 mph, towing a trailer of fire hoses!" John, now 81, recollects some of the fires that he attended in Llanelli, in particular the fire at Benjamin Howells timber yard at the bottom of New Dock Road. He also remembers a fire in Pugh's Furniture warehouse in Princess Street, where the conflagration was so hot that it caused the paint to bubble on their ATV! Austin K2 ATV Towing Vehicle - Image reproduced by kind permission of http://nfs-afs.org.uk/
But the most poignant emergency that he had attended was to a fire involving a fatality at a motorcycle shop in Station Road, Llanelli. 'The woman died as she was frightened to jump out on to an out-house'. The fire that John was referring to was a blaze at J. T. Griffiths Motorcycle Shop on 20th September 1955. The blaze took hold in the early hours of the morning. Both Mr & Mrs Griffiths were trapped in the building and responding to calls from their neighbours to jump out of the window it was reported that the couple shouted "We can't jump, it's too high".
Despite the efforts of the fire brigade, the window finally collapsed following a 'flash over', and Mr Griffiths was thrown out of the building to safety on to the out-house while his wife fell through the floor of the main building.
At the subsequent inquest the coroner stated that he felt that every effort had been made to save Mrs Griffiths. There are probably more recollections of the men and women of the Llanelli & District Brigade that would form an interesting and historical record of their service.
The wartime towing vehicle was ideal for towing a trailer pump and transporting a crew and equipment to pour vast quantities of water onto wartime fires, but it was not designed for attending peace-time incidents. After the war many small fire stations had to rely on the towing vehicle and trailer pump and the deficiencies soon became apparent. One of the first remedies was proposed by the Ministry of Works in December 1945 when plans were issued enabling the towing vehicle to be converted into a hose-reel tender. The modification involved installing a Winn PTO-driven hose-reel pump and a 60-gallon water tank at the front of the rear compartment although, in practice, it seems that a 120-gallon tank was often fitted. A 180 ft hose-reel was mounted above the tank and the hose-reel tubing could be paid out through roller-guided ports on either side of the body. The pump control was installed behind the nearside front door and incorporated a five-way valve.Information regarding the ATV (Auxilliary Towing Vehicle) kindly supplied by Roger Mardon, Canterbury, Kent.