Obituary: Frank Rushbrook, former firemaster, 99

Frank Rushbrook was an expert in tackling ship fires. Picture: contributed
Frank Rushbrook was an expert in tackling ship fires. Picture: contributed
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FRANK Rushbrook, former firemaster, Edinburgh & South-East of Scotland Fire Brigade, has died, aged 99.

Frank Rushbrook was born in Edinburgh on December 6, 1914. His father was a photographer and Frank started out as a fire brigade photographer and firemaster’s driver before becoming a fireman at the Capital’s main fire station in Lauriston Place in 1938.

Three years later he was promoted to section leader and given command of a five-pump station in Leith.

Then in 1944, he took part in the first fire prevention course run by the British Fire Service in Brighton and was promoted to company officer, with responsibility for re-organising the Fire Prevention Department for the south-eastern area of Scotland.

In 1948, he moved to the Northumberland County Fire Brigade and later served with Leicester City Fire Brigade and Lanarkshire County Fire Brigade before becoming appointed chief fire officer in London’s East Ham in 1954, where he pioneered training in tackling ship fires and underwater rescue.

Mr Rushbrook returned to Edinburgh in 1959 as assistant firemaster and soon afterwards assumed command of the Edinburgh & South-East of Scotland Fire Brigade.

Picking up on his work in East Ham, he had a mock-up of a ship built on dry land for training in dealing with ship-board fires and fire prevention.

In 1961, he wrote a book, Fire Aboard: The Problems of Prevention and Control in Ships and Port Installations, which became the authoritative text book on the subject and was later republished, complete with a list of major ship fires since 1800, lessons learned from various disasters and examination of the legal issues involved. Mr Rushbrook also initiated talks with Edinburgh University which led in 1973 to a Department of Fire Safety Engineering being set up and he lectured to Masters students on the subject of ship fires.

He served as president of the Institution of Fire Engineers in 1965 and was made a CBE in the 1970 New Year’s Honours List.

After retiring that same year, he worked as a fire consultant, often travelling the world to give evidence as an expert witness.

He also acted as a consultant to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and a number of shipping companies and shipbuilders.

Mr Rushbrook was heavily involved in moves to establish a memorial to James Braidwood, founder of the world’s first municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824, and a statue was eventually unveiled in Parliament Square in September 2008,

Mr Rushbrook died on February 17. He is survived by his daughter Jean and daughter-in-law Anne.

His wife Violet died in 2001 and his son Ian, a well-known financier, died in 2008.