Fighting the Flames (AKA The Metropolitan Fire Brigade: Adelaide)

Fighting the Flames (AKA The Metropolitan Fire Brigade: Adelaide)
Access fees

A horsedrawn fire brigade unit drives along King William Street in Adelaide, watched by people from the sides of the street. The camera follows events from a fixed position at one side of the road. The vehicle with the extendable ladder pulls up in the street and firefighters unharness the horse from the ladder. The camera pans across the people on the street then back to capture the firefighters hand cranking the ladder tens of metres into the air. The camera follows the ladder’s extension with a slow tilt shot. Summary by Poppy De Souza. 

Fighting the Flames synopsis

This footage of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade features horsedrawn fire units moving through the streets of Adelaide as well as rescue and resuscitation demonstrations by fire brigade members.

Curator's notes

This clips shows the early use of pans and tilts to follow the action. The camera operator pans from the ladder to the people on the street to contextualise the action and present the broader scene that exists on the edges of the frame. As the ladder rises into the sky, the camera again follows its path

This is an engaging piece of historical footage which shows the technology and transport used to fight fires in 1909. The six minutes of film held at the National Film and Sound Archive may not be complete – it cuts out abruptly in the middle of demonstrations to camera, and there are no credits or title cards which point to its provenance. Based on a description in the South Australia Register, it is believed to be a promotional film for the South Australian Fire Brigade shot by the Spencer Theatrescope Company in June 1909. By way of comparison, Frank Hurley’s Fire Guardians (1932) provides an entertaining dramatisation of the history of firefighting through the ages – complete with re-creations staged by real firefighters wearing Egyptian costumes!

Notes by Poppy De Souza

Production Company:
Spencers Pictures