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.
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. 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.
In 2002, there was a series of national fire strikes, 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.
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. "
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.
This document, and the subsequent government response 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.
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.
"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. but would be advised by a new department under the direction of the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser - see below.
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.
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. Chief Fire Officers (CFO) 'speak' collectively via the Chief Fire Officers Association.
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.
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 2004 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. 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).
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
Brigades are further sub-divided according to local practice as follows:
"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 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.
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.
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.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service mentioned specifically the precept in it budget settlement for 2006. The FRS is clearly telling its service users how much they will have to pay towards running the fire service.
"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..."
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 resilience to 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.
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.
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. 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".
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 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.
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.
|Avon Fire and Rescue Service|
|Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service|
|Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Cleveland Fire Brigade|
|Cornwall County Fire Brigade|
|County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service|
|Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service|
|Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (new FRS created by merger in 2007)|
|Dorset Fire and Rescue Service|
|East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service|
|Essex County Fire and Rescue Service|
|Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service|
|Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service|
|Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Humberside Fire and Rescue Service|
|Isles of Scilly Fire and Rescue Service|
|Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service|
|Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Kent Fire and Rescue Service|
|Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|London Fire Brigade LFEPA|
|Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service|
|Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service|
|Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service|
|North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service|
|Surrey Fire and Rescue Service|
|Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service|
|Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|West Midlands Fire Service|
|West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service|
|West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service|
|Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service|
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.
|Brigade||Council Areas (if different from brigade name)|
|Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service||Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling|
|Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service|
|Fife Fire and Rescue Service|
|Grampian Fire and Rescue Service||Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray|
|Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service||Highland, Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)|
|Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service||East Lothian, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scottish Borders, West Lothian|
|Strathclyde Fire and Rescue||Argyll and Bute, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire|
|Tayside Fire and Rescue Service||Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross|
|Brigade||Principal areas covered|
|Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service||Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys Swansea|
|North Wales Fire and Rescue Service||Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Wrexham|
|South Wales Fire and Rescue Service||Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Torfaen, Vale of Glamorgan.|
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.
The islands also have their own Fire and Rescue Services:
Jersey Fire & Rescue Service
Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service
Isle of Man Fire & Rescue Service
See main article on Airport Rescue and Firefighting Services in the UK
There are several specialised and private FRS in the United Kingdom
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.