A brief history of the fire service in Scotland

We take you on a brief history of the fire service in Scotland

A brief history of the fire service in Scotland

A brief history of the fire service in Scotland

Scotland has a long and storied history with firefighting. Scotland led the way by creating the world's fire municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824. This is a click-through guide into a brief history of firefighting in Scotland.


For a detailed look at firefighting history, you can visit our Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage in Edinburgh.

17th Century

During this period of time there were no fire brigades and no precautions so most villages only had access to: 

A leather bucket – these were passed along a long line of people from a river or water source and then put on the fire


A fire hook – these were long poles with a metal hook that helped people pull down thatched roofs and stop fire from spreading to another building.

18th Century

There were still no fire brigades at this time so villagers would have:


  • A fire mark on the house 

    This badge told fire insurance companies that the person living there was a customer. The insurance company would then have their own firefighter put out the fire.

  • A water squirt

    These were very similar to a water pistol, the water would be sucked up the body of the extinguisher and then the person would aim it at the fire to put it out.

First municipal fire service 1824

James Braidwood was the first Master of Engines and created the world’s first municipal (which means belonging to the city or town) fire service in 1824.


He is hailed as the “father of the modern fire service”.


He helped create Scotland’s first ever fire appliance that was pulled by firefighters.

Formation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was formed by the merger of eight former brigades in Scotland: Tayside, Strathclyde, Highlands and Islands, Dumfries and Galloway, Lothian and Borders, Fife, Central, and finally Grampian.


The Service was established as a result of the passing of Scottish Government legislation, The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.


The formation came in 2013 after the merger of these brigades.

Downloadable content

We have a number of educational presentations that have been created in partnership by the Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage and Twinkl that can be downloaded for free.


Colleagues and members of the public are encouraged to share these resources with schools, community groups and any other relevant groups and spread educational messages about the fire service.