Fire service in the United Kingdom

Fire service in the United Kingdom

The fire service in the United Kingdom operates under separate legislative and administrative arrangements in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Fire services have undergone significant changes since the beginning of the 21st century, a process that has been propelled by a devolution of central government powers, new legislation and a change to operational procedures in the light of terrorism attacks and threats. The catalyst for change came with the 2002 publication of a review of the fire service in the United Kingdom by Professor Sir George Bain. His report, the Independent Review of the Fire Service, led to rapid changes to fire and rescue services. Bain's terms of reference were described as follows: "Having regard to the changing and developing role of the Fire Service in the United Kingdom, to inquire into and make recommendations on the future organisation and management of the Fire Service..." [ FRS Online (accessed 02 Sep 07) links to full report PDF: Independent Review of the Fire Service pub Dec 2002] ] In the foreword to the review, Bain stated that it was carried out independently and objectively: "...the Review was put together with the co-operation of theGovernment, the employers' organisations and fire authorities in England and Wales, Scotlandand Northern Ireland." [ [ FRS Online (accessed 02 Sep 07) links to full report PDF: Independent Review of the Fire Service: foreword page: i] ]

Fire and rescue services: overview

Fire services in England, Scotland and Wales are not formed nationally, though a single service exists for Northern Ireland. In general, emergency cover is provided by a fire and rescue service (FRS) - the term is used in legislation and by government departments. [ [ Department for Communities and Local govt: Fire and Resilience (accessed 08 Dec 06)] ] The FRS is directly governed and funded by a fire authority. Many FRS were previously known as brigades, or county fire services, but legislative and administrative changes; and alterations to boundaries has led to the almost universal incorporation of FRS into the name.

A FRS is usually the operational fire fighting body, as distinct from the fire and rescue authority which is the legislative, public and administrative body made up of civilians and councillors that runs the FRS. There are now many layers of governance including central, devolved and local government; fire brigades, fire and rescue services; and other executive agencies, including Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI), HMFSI Scotland, and the Chief Fire Officers Association, all with a degree of operational, legislative or administrative involvement with the fire service in the UK. The role of Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser was created in 2007, its function will eventually replace that of the HMFSI. Prior to the introduction of devolved parliaments and assemblies in Great Britain (GB), the fire service had been the responsibility of the respective Secretaries of State (Home Department and Scotland) for the two GB jurisdiction.


* "See separate article: Historical Fire Brigades of the United Kingdom"

Legislation for the provision of firefighting in England and Wales dates back to 1865 when the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed, this took the responsibility of firefighting away from the insurance companies. However the legal requirement for local authority fire brigades, came about with the passing of the Fire Brigades Act 1938 - at the time there were about 1600 brigades throughout the UK. [ [ London Fire Brigade: Key Dates, (accessed 29 Jan 2007)] ] During the Second World War the many local authority fire brigades had been merged to form a single National Fire Service. After the war, in 1948, under the Fire Services Act 1947, fire services were restored to local authority as before, but (in England and Wales) to the county councils and county boroughs rather than the smaller areas that had previously existed.

The number of fire brigades was subsequently reduced again by mergers in 1974/1975 and in 1986.

In Scotland the brigades from 1948-1975 covered generally groups of counties and were Angus, Central, Fife, Glasgow, North Eastern, Perth and Kinross, South Eastern, South Western, Western, the areas largely continuing the administrative arrangements of the war-time National Fire Service in Scotland.

Legislative framework

* "See separate article History of fire safety legislation in the United Kingdom"
* "Comprehensive list of recent UK fire and rescue service legislation:" []

Legislation (United Kingdom, Great Britain or England and Wales)

Local authority fire services are established and granted their powers under fairly new legislation which has replaced a number of acts of parliament dating back more than 60 years, but is still undergoing change; a rough timeline can be seen below.

* 1938: Fire Brigades Act 1938. This Act (which is no longer in force) provided for centralised co-ordination of fire brigades in Great Britain and made it mandatory for local authorities to arrange an effective fire service. [ [ Scottish Executive - The Scottish Fire Service of the Future] ]

* 1959: Fire Services Act 1947 (amended 1959), this was replaced in England and Wales by the 2004 legislation [ [ Dept for Communities and Local Govt, Fire and resilience, 2006 (accessed 29 May 07)] ]

* 1999: Greater London Authority Act 1999 This act was necessary to allow for the formation of the Greater London Assembly and in turn the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority

In 2002, there was a series of national fire strikes, [ [ BBC News: countdown to fire strike 13 Nov 2002] ] [ [ BBC News: in pictures, Fire Strike in London 14 Nov 2002] ] with much of the discontent caused by a report into the fire service in the UK by Professor Sir George Bain. In December 2002, the Independent Review of the Fire Service was published with the industrial action still ongoing; it made radical proposals to how the fire service should be organised and managed. Prof Bain's report ultimately led to a change in the laws relating to firefighting.

* 2002: Independent Review of the Fire Service published"

* 2004: Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 [ [ Fire & Rescue Services Act 2004, Pub: The Stationery Office, Crown copyright] ] This act mostly only applies to England and Wales.

* 2006: The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [ [ The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, England & Wales] ] This piece of secondary legislation or statutory instrument replaces several other acts that dealt with fire precautions and fire safety in premises, including the now defunct process of issuing fire certificates. It came into force on the 1 October 2006 [ [ The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 England & Wales, Schedule 4] ] The DfCLG has published a set of guides for non-domestic premises: []

* 2006: The Government of Wales Act 2006 gave the National Assembly for Wales powers to pass laws on "Fire and rescue services. [and] Promotion of fire safety otherwise than by prohibition or regulation." but does not prevent future legislation being passed by the UK government which applies to two or more constituent countries.

There are further plans to modernise the fire service according to the Local Government Association. Its website outlines future changes, and specific projects:

"The aim of the Fire Modernisation Programme is to adopt modern work practices within the Fire & Rescue Service to become more efficient and effective, while strengthening the contingency and resilience of the Service to react to incidents." [ [ LGA: Fire Service Modernisation] ]

elect Committee

The fire service in England and Wales is scrutinised by a House of Commons select committee. In June 2006, the fire and rescue service select committee, under the auspices of the Communities and Local Government Committee, published its latest report.

Committee report

The committee's brief is described on its website:

"The Communities and Local Government Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Department for Communities and Local Government and its associated bodies." [ [ House of Commons Communities & Local Govt Committee Fire & Rescue Service, Fourth Report of Session 2005–06, Volume I: introduction] ]

Government response

This document, and the subsequent government response [ [ Government Response to the Communities & Local Government Committee’s Report on the Fire and Rescue Service, 29 September 2006, TSO] ] in September 2006, are important as they outlined progress on the FiReControl, efforts to address diversity and the planned closure of HMFSI in 2007 among many issues.

Both documents are interesting as they refer back to Professor Bain's report and the many recommendations it made and continue to put forward the notion that there is an ongoing need to modernise FRSs. For example, where FRSs were historically inspected by HMFSI, much of this work is now carried out by the National Audit Office.

Legislation and administration (England)

Consequential to the Government of Wales Act 2006 future legislation might be passed which can affect England only.

Legislation and administration (Northern Ireland)

Fire and rescue services in Northern Ireland are provided by a single entity, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, a Statutory Corporation funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

* 1950: When the National Fire Service Northern Ireland was disbanded, three fire authorities took control of firefighting but were unified as the Northern Ireland Fire Authority in 1950. [ [ Northern Ireland Fire authority: A brief history, by Bill Broadhurst & Harry Welsh (accessed 18 May 07)] ] The Fire Services (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 1950 became primary legislation in the same year.

* 2006: Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 S.I. No. 1254 (N.I.9) [ [ Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 S.I. 2006. No. 1254 (N.I.9) (accessed 19 Feb 2007)] ]

Legislation and administration (Scotland)

Fire services in Scotland are the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government. [ [ Scottish Executive - Justice - Fire] ] Previously the responsibility lay with the Secretary of State for Scotland (the relevant "Secretary of State" referred to in legislation applicable to Scotland).

* 1824: Establishment of municipal fire service in Edinburgh [ [ General History ] ] , the first public fire brigade in the UK [ [ Fire Service History ] ]
* 1885: Creation of Scottish Office transferring administrative (but not legislative) responsibility to Secretary of State for Scotland.
* 1938: Fire Services Act 1938 combined the functions of 185 fire brigades and imposed fire-fighting duties upon local authorities, [ [ Scottish Executive - The Scottish Fire service] ]
* 1941: Fire brigades transferred to National Fire Service (NFS) to form No.11 Region [ [ NFS ] ] ] .
* 1947: Fire Services Act 1947 returned fire brigades in Scotland to local authority control [ [ Scottish Executive - The Scottish Fire Service] ] , mostly via joint boards. 11 brigades were created [ [] ] resembling somewhat the NFS areas. Section 36 of the Act dealt with its application to Scotland. Parts of the Act remain in force in Scotland.
* 1959: Parts of the UK Fire Services Act 1959 remain in force in Scotland.
* 1996: Creation of additional joint boards consequent to local government re-organisation.
* 1999: Responsibility transfers from Secretary of State for Scotland to the Scottish Executive
* 2002: Consultation Paper: [ "The Scottish Fire Service of the Future"]
* 2003: Consultation Paper: [ "The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: legislative proposals"] .
* 2004: introduction of Fire (Scotland) Bill consequent to 2003 consultation paper.
* 2005: Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 The scope of this act includes a "fire safety regime for non-domestic premises", but it also includes legislation that allows for the provision and operation of fire and rescue services for the eight local authority and joint board FRS in Scotland. [ [ Scottish Executive (Justice) Fire Safety (accessed 19 feb 07)] ] [ [ Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, Crown copyright, (accessed 23 Feb 07)] ]

Legislation and administration (Wales)

* 2006 : The Government of Wales Act 2006 gave the National Assembly for Wales powers to pass laws on "Fire and rescue services. [and] Promotion of fire safety otherwise than by prohibition or regulation.".

Government responsibility for fire services

Central government

The Home Office had historically been responsible for fire service matters in England and Wales until World War II when the creation of the National Fire Service brought all UK fire brigades under central government control, it was in turn under the auspices of the Civil Defence Service. Post-war legislation returned control to the Northern Ireland Government, the Home Office (for services in England and Wales) and the Secretary of State for Scotland.


The fire service has always been the ultimate responsibility of a government department, historically assisted by an executive agency called Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate or HMFSI, [ [ Dept for Communities and Local Govt, HMFSI] ] its function was described thus:

"To achieve our vision by education and legislation, in an environment that encourages best practice, equality and diversity, health and safety and best value, and through inspection, to advance the development and continuous improvement of fire brigades."

Directly after the May 2001 general election, control of the fire service in England and Wales passed from the Home Office to the DTLR - or Department for Transport, Local Government and Regions. This department was then broken up creating the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) which took central government responsibility.

In May 2006, the ODPM was re-structured creating the Department for Communities and Local Government or CLG, and it became the central government department for fire authorities in England. [ [ Dept for Communities and Local Govt] ] [ [ HM Government: Fire Gateway] ] but would be advised by a new department under the direction of the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser - see below.

Fire service ministers

The fire service minister is the most senior politician whose brief directly includes fire and rescue issues in England and Wales, other parts of the UK never having had the matter specifically under the control of a UK minister in peacetime. The fire service minister is not part of the prime minister's cabinet. The post is held by a junior minister, or Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State who reports to the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, who takes ultimate responsibility for fire and rescue, but that is part of a much wider brief.

* Hazel Blears: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women
* Parmjit Dhanda: Appointed in 2007 as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Fire and Resilience at CLG [ [ DfCLG Fire and Resilience 09 Aug 07 (accessed 12 Sep 07)] ]

Previous ministers

* Angela Smith: A former spokeswoman for Essex Fire and Rescue

* Jim Fitzpatrick, himself a former firefighter in the London Fire Brigade and FBU representative
* Nick Raynsford the minister in charge when legislative control shifted from the Home Office to the Office of Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Raynsford was also the minister during the 2002/3 national strikes

Regional government

Below national level, there are regional and local bodies whose role it is to establish a fire authority, implement the legislation from the tier above, while working alongside the relevant HMFSI and other interested bodies.

* Greater London Authority
* London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (under direct control of Greater London Authority)
* Metropolitan and county fire and rescue services or brigades - see below

The next level beneath that of local authority, is a brigade which usually comes under the operational command of a high ranking senior officer. Traditionally Chief Fire Officers have risen through the ranks from firefighter, although under modernisation plans brigades can now operate graduate entry, and fast track promotion as is already the case with the armed forces and the police. The London Fire Brigade announced details of its graduate scheme in 2007. [ [ London Fire Brigade: Graduates (accessed 03 Jul 07)] ] Chief Fire Officers (CFO) 'speak' collectively via the Chief Fire Officers Association.

* Fire authority: local councillors elected to set policy on its fire and rescue services, and distribute funding, and approve major spending
* Local authority: Chief executive - overall powers for all an authority's functions, including fire, rescue and resilience
* Brigade: Chief Fire Officer, Brigade Manager, or (in Greater London) Commissioner - overall operational, strategic and command of a brigade or fire and rescue service

CFOs do attend operational incidents. CFO Roy Wilsher took command at the Hertfordshire oil depot fire at Buncefield, and was part of the gold command team, a CFO would usually be in charge of a fire, or at least the most senior officer in attendance would be.

Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser

*"See separate article Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser"

In February 2007, the government announced it was establishing a new unit to provide ministers and civil servants with "independent professional advice on fire and rescue issues". It will be headed by a new role that will be known as the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser whose role it will be (among others) to work towards reducing the number of fire deaths in England and Wales, and implement changes to FRS required by the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004Department for Communities and Local Government, News Release 022, "New Advisory Unit for Fire and Rescue Services to be Set Up", 8 February 2007] In May 2007, Sir Ken Knight commissioner of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority was appointed as the first ever Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser. [Communities and Local Government News Release 099, 24 May 2007, New Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Appointed] The appointee will assume the historical function of Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate.


Except for the period when the National Fire Service existed, matters concerning fire fighting fell within the remit of the Scottish Office (later the Scottish Executive, now the Scottish Government).

* Scottish Executive, top tier for Scotland [ [ HMFSI: Scottish Executive] ]

In Scotland Her Majesty's Fire Inspectorate Inspectorate for Scotland (commonly known by the shortened and nationally-unqualified form "HMFSI") exists to inspect all fire Services in Scotland to ascertain how they are discharging their functions under relevant legislation [] . It functions as an autonomous body under the charge of the Justice Ministry of the Scottish Government [ [ Scottish Executive: Justice Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland (accessed 30 May 07)] ]

Northern Ireland

Except for the period when the National Fire Service existed, matters concerning fire fighting fell within the remit of the government of Northern Ireland.

* Northern Ireland Assembly, top tier for Northern Ireland, by default, one fire service, [ [ Northern Ireland Assembly] ] [ [ Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service] ]


* Welsh Assembly Responsibility for fire and rescue services and promotion of (but not legislative control of) fire safety in Wales [Schedule 7 Government of Wales Act 2006] . now lies with the Welsh Assembly Government. [ [ Welsh Assembly Government: Fire] ]

Fire service structure

FRS or brigade level

Brigades are further sub-divided according to local practice as follows:

* Command: Large brigades such as the London Fire Brigade are divided into three commands
* Area: A brigade or FRS can also be divided into areas - London is a good example because it used to consist of five geographical areas: north west, north, north east, south west and south east
* Divisional: A smaller geographical area, again it can be decided locally, again London is a good example because until 1986, the LFB consisted of eleven divisions
* Borough: Brigades are now aligned with local councils, and because of London's size, its three commands also overlap with the London boroughs, so each bourough is a small division. It now has borough teams, [ [ LFEPA London Fire Brigade, Borough teams] ] and a separate list of stations shows which borough it belongs to. [ [ LFEPA London Fire Brigade A to Z of fire stations] ]


The Cabinet Office is responsible for the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, known as the CSS, [ [ HM Government, Cabinet Office/CSS 'Preparing for Emergencies'] ] it provides advice for individuals in case of a major disaster:

"The (web)site provides easily understandable guidance for the general public on how to prepare themselves, their families and their homes and businesses to cope during an emergency or disaster."

Any such emergency or disaster is likely to involve a UK FRS, and the generic term for such contingency plans has become known as resilience [ [ HM Government, Cabinet Office: UK Resilience] ] The 'Preparing for emergencies website' gives specific government advice on fire safety, specific examples include the summer fire safety campaign, and schools' fire safety guide which are just two examples. [ [ HM Government, 'Preparing for emergencies', Fire Safety] ]

Government is currently working in partnership with the FRS across Great Britain to establish a greater capability to manage major incidents. In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government is delivering three projects as part of a wider programme to increase resilience, interoperability and control within the service. The three projects are New Dimension, Firelink and FiReControl. These projects make up the Fire Resilience Programme, part of Government's modernisation agenda.

Fire service funding

In the UK, an FRS generally provides its services for free, although there are some special services that can be charged for, and some additional services that can be paid for. The service is free to the end user in the case of an emergency.

Funding for the fire service comes from two principal sources. Taking one random example, Wolverhampton City Council, in England has published details of its budget and council tax for the financial year 2006 to 2007 in an online statement from its leader. [ [ Wolverhampton City Council: Leader's statement - budget and council tax 2006/07 Released: Tuesday 21st February, 2006] ]


The document above refers to a 4.8% increase in the "fire precept"; this is simply an amount of money collected by a local authority, from individuals, via their council tax which goes towards the cost of funding the FRS. The precept is paid to the fire authority that covers the council area - in this case it is the West Midlands Fire Authority. But a fire authority is generally bigger than a borough or small city council. Where there are several boroughs, as in the case of London, the precept collected from each borough will be paid to the fire authority.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service mentioned specifically the precept in it budget settlement for 2006. [ [ West Yorshire Fire and Rescue Service: Online press release, 17 Feb 2006, Four pence a week rise in fire precept] ] The FRS is clearly telling its service users how much they will have to pay towards running the fire service.

Grant settlement

The remainder of FRS funding comes from a central government "grant settlement" paid to each fire authority. Each FRS has to negotiate its own grant according to size and demands on its services.


The need for modernisation

In 2002, Professor Sir George Bain was asked by the government to conduct a wide ranging review of the fire service in the UK. His report, The Independent Review of the Fire Service, led to rapid changes to fire and rescue services, and was the basis of what eventually became the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. Bain's terms of reference were described in September 2002 as follows:

"Having regard to the changing and developing role of the Fire Service in the United Kingdom, to inquire into and make recommendations on the future organisation and management of the Fire Service..." [ Independent Review of the Fire Service, online press release 20 Sep 2002, Independent review starts into pay and modernisation of the Fire Service, Accessed 25 Sep 2006] ]

Included in many of the report's headings, and within the text was the word "modernisation", but Bain's report was not popular with firefighters, and a long period of industrial action started in 2002 and continued until 2003 with a new pay and conditions package being put together.

One of the areas identified by Bain as being in need of modernising was FRS approach to fire prevention and community fire safety. There is now more emphasis on fire prevention and providing public information coupled with encouraging businesses and individuals to take responsibility for providing a risk assessment of businesses—that will become law in October 2006. Additionally, changes to central government, local government, and geographical boundaries have had an impact on the fire service in the UK.

The fire service in England consists of local authority brigades—or Fire and Rescue Services which come under the administrative control of metropolitan and shire, or county fire authorities, for example Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. The London Fire Brigade is unique in having an extra layer of governance in the form of the Greater London Authority that is above the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

Most statutory firefighting bodies consist of a fire authority, and brigade, the former responsible for political and administrative aspects of service provision. The latter, for delivering it. For example the LFEPA is the authority that runs the London Fire Brigade; Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Local authorities in the UK have many other responsibilities as well as provision of a fire brigade. Additionally, the armed forces, private fire brigades and airports all make their own firefighting provision.

Another area identified in Bain's report was the ability for the FRS to respond to major incidents, Bain's review stated that the fire service should have specific responsibilities for: "Emergency preparedness coupled with the capacity and resilienceto respond to major incidents of terrorism and other chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats". In England and Wales, three projects are being rolled out that will help the FRS deal with incidents like these. The projects come under the umbrella of the Fire Resilience programme. The programme will provide the FRS with a far greater resilience and control to handle all types of incident.

Of the three projects in the Fire Resilience programme, New Dimensions has been the first project to roll out. New Dimension has given the FRS a wide range of equipment and vehicles to help deal with challenges like flooding and terror attacks. The second project to roll out is Firelink, upgrading the wide area radios with a single digital system. The third and final project in the programme to be rolled out will be FiReControl, which will provide greater control within the service and better coordination between the emergency services. From 2008, this project will consolidate the existing 45 fire service control rooms in England to nine Regional Control Centres.

Fire safety

*"See separate article History of fire safety legislation in the United Kingdom"

Historically fire safety was a function of local authorities rather than the fire service however in 1947 the introduction of the Fire Services Act gave the Fire Brigades their first responsibilities for fire safety. The Fire Precautions Act 1971, the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 gave more powers to the service.

Today, the modernisation of the UK fire service has taken into account the role that it plays in fire safety issues and that issue is high on the agenda of most fire and rescue services. Many brigades started to produce Integrated Management Plans (IMP) to take in to account these new responsibilities and produced plans for not only fire safety in the workplace but also in the community. Now all fire and rescue services have community based fire safety departments.

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 now lays out in Section 6 what the fire service must do. It states that a fire and rescue authority must make provision for the purpose of promoting fire safety in its area and this must include the provision of information, publicity and encouragement in respect of the steps to be taken to prevent fires and death or injury by fire not only by the enforcement of specific fire safety legislation, but also by a proactive strategy targeted at all sections of the community.

Fire and resilience programme

The fire and resilience programme has three components: New Dimension, Firelink and FiReControl. Together these projects will provide the FRS with equipment, a network and the structure to handle a wide range of incidences.

New Dimension

New Dimension, sometimes referred to as New Dimensions or the New Dimension programme, was started by the Department for Communities and Local Government for fire and rescue services in England and Wales, following the 2001 terror attacks. It has provided equipment, training and standardised procedures to deal with terrorist attacks and major environmental disasters. This aspect of the Fire Resilience Programme is scheduled for completion in the next year or so. [ Dept for Communities and Local Govt: Fire and Resilience - Introduction to the New Dimensions programme, (accessed 17 Oct 07)] ] By July 2004, the New Dimensions programme had provided £56m to various projects, a further £132m was promised for the period up to 2007


Firelink is the new digital FRS wide area communications system in England, Scotland and Wales that will become fully operational in 2009. The FRS use wide area radios to communicate between vehicles and control rooms but there has never been a fully compatible system. FireLink will be much more efficient and provide greater resilience for major incidents. The fire service's ability to communicate efficiently, across different fire and rescue services, and between emergency services has never been easy. The issue was raised by Sir Desmond Fennell, who conducted the public inquiry into the King's Cross fire in 1987. Fennell recommended when his report was published in 1988 that fireground communications be addresseed as an issue of "high importance". [ [Dept of Transport, Investigation into the King's Cross Underground Fire, pub HMSO, November 1988] ]


Prof Bain's report highlighted many areas of proposed change that include working practises, shift hours and time spent on fire prevention duties. One of the proposals which is now well under way is the reduction of fire service control rooms.

At present, each of England's 45 (the number FRS was reduced from 46 in April 2007 with the merger of Devon and Somerset FRS [ [ Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service web (accessed 2 Sep 07] ] fire and rescue services handles its own calls from the either the 999 system, or from mobile phone companies. Additionally, calls are accepted from the other emergency services by dedicated landlines. The FiReControl project is building nine new purpose built control rooms known as Regional Control Centres or RCCs. The aim is to rationalise call handling, and aim for greater communication between the emergency services. There has been some suggestion that this could pave the way for regional fire and rescue services. Fact|date=February 2007

At present, calls from the 999 system - whether by mobile telephone or landline are answered by a BT operator, who feeds the call to fire, police or ambulance, or other emergency service. Staff, known as control operators or control officers, also despatch the fire appliances (engines), maintain radio communications and provide detailed risk and geographical information. These operators are employed by an FRS, they wear a similar uniform to firefighters, and have a their own rank structure. The role of specialist fire officers and control operators overlaps where they jointly work in control or command centres, but the subject of mobilising, command and control will change as the FiReControl project advances.

List of UK public fire and rescue services



The Scottish brigades are still broadly based on the system of local government regions in use from 1975 to 1996. With two exceptions fire authorities are now joint boards responsible for groups of Council Areas.

*See also Fire Master for more information about chief fire officers in Scotland


Wales saw a reduction in the number of fire brigades in 1996, from 8 (the number of former administrative counties) to 3, made up of groups of the new principal areas.

Islands Fire and Rescue Services

The islands also have their own Fire and Rescue Services:

Jersey Fire & Rescue Service

Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service

Isle of Man Fire & Rescue Service

Other UK fire and rescue services

See main article on Airport Rescue and Firefighting Services in the UK

There are several specialised and private FRS in the United Kingdom

British Airports Authority Fire Service

Airport fire services in the UK protect all categories of airports and aerodromes. They are usually referred to as Rescue and Firefighting Services. One of the biggest aviation fire services is operated by the British Airports Authority. [ [ BAA Fire Service (accessed 12 Oct 07)] ] [ [ BAA Fighting Fires, Training Firefighters, Nov 2006, (accessed 12 Oct 07)] ] Non BAA airports operate their own fire services to comply with legislation which states that airports must be provided with RFFS. One such example is London City Airport, its website describes the principle objective of an airport fire and rescue service: "as to save lives in the event of an aircraft accident or incident". [ [ London City Airport Consultative Committee, Fire and Rescue Service (accessed 16 Feb 07)] ] The number and type of firefighting appliances based at an airport will be determined by the airport's category. [ [ Fire Service: Aviation firefighting (accessed 12 Oct 07)] ] Airports in the UK are categorised from 1 to 9, with the new cat 10 to become effective when double-decker aircraft commence service. A category 9 airport, caters for the biggest aircraft, the standards are determined by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Defence Fire and Rescue Service

The MoD operates its own fire and rescue organisation. Originally this consisted of a civilian fire service known as the "Defence Fire Service" and the "RAF Firefighting and Rescue Service". They were known collectively as the "Ministry of Defence Fire Services", but in 2004 were formed into the Defence Fire and Rescue Service. This also includes private contractors brought in to protect sites such as small defence establishments.

The DFRS is the largest non geographical or local authority FRS in the UK and the training, rank structure and equipment used are similar to that operated by their local authority fire service counterparts.

As a general rule the RAF Fire Service covers runways or airfields with particular expertise in defusing aircraft munitions. [ [ Royal Air Force, Careers: firefighter (accessed 16 Feb 07)] ]

The civilian Defence Fire Service covered domestic sites, but there were cross overs and both services could be called to airfield and domestic situations.

Both RAF and defence personnel can serve abroad both in peace time and at war.

Both the Royal Navy and British Army operate their own appliances and services at their respective bases and opeating areas. Royal Marines facilities are serviced by the Royal Navy.

Private and industrial FRS

Some large factories operate their own private or industrial fire services to protect their interests and provide a first attack capability until local authority fire crews arrive. Ford and Pfizer both operate industrial fire crews, and there are many others.


British Nuclear Fuels and other nuclear power station operators have their own on site Fire Services.


Several Large ports have their own fire service such as the Port of Felixstowe.

Event fire safety services

Several private event fire safety units operate in the UK at major events such as air shows, regattas, concerts and on film sets. They sometimes use the services of off-duty fire fighters and emergency personnel to provide fire cover at outdoor events. The cover normally consists of one or two standard fire appliances with perhaps a rapid response or control vehicle.

Fire services protecting royal properties

Several state properties, including royal residences and the Palace of Westminster, are protected by their own fire services in the interests of protecting sites of heritage and royal importance. The Royal Household Fire Service is responsible for firefighting at Royal properties.


ee also

*London Fire Brigade
*UK Firefighter dispute 2002/2003
*Historical Fire Brigades of the United Kingdom
*History of fire safety legislation in the United Kingdom
*Fire Services in Scotland
*Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland

External links

* [ The Fire Service College]
* [ The Scottish Fire Services College]
* [ Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate]
* [ Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland]
* [ UK Fire Service urbans search and rescue dog teams]
* [ Fire Service]
* [ Chief Fire Officers' Association]
* [ Chief Fire Officers Association (Scotland)]
* [ UK Fire News]
* [ Scottish Fire and Rescue Services Procurement - Information for Suppliers]

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