Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service covers an area of approximately 496 square miles (1,280 km2). The service has 41 fire stations which until 2006 were organised into three territorial Area Commands (South, East and West), each one with an Area Command Headquarters, based at Stretford, Rochdale and Bolton respectively. When the brigade altered the command area's structure they divided the three area commands from South, East and West to 11 Borough Commands, aligned to the 10 local authorities in the county: Bolton, Bury, Manchester (North/South), Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan. The service employs 2,641 personnel, of which 2,174 are uniformed operational personnel, 64 control room staff, and 403 non-uniformed support staff.
The service was created when the county of Greater Manchester came into being in 1974. It had, until fairly recently, been called the Greater Manchester County Fire Service. The change in name reflects the growing number of roles the service now has, and many services across the United Kingdom are also changing their names to "Fire and Rescue Service". This change was inspired by new primary legislation for England and Wales, The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.
The service was originally administered by the Greater Manchester County Council, but when this was abolished in 1986, administration of the service was taken over by a joint authority of the ten Metropolitan Boroughs of Greater Manchester, known as the "Fire and Rescue Authority". Five members are appointed by Manchester City Council, two each by Bury and Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Councils, and three each by the remaining seven borough councils of Greater Manchester.