West Midlands Fire Service

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West Midlands Fire Service (W.M.F.S)
West Midlands Fire Service (W.M.F.S) area
Area West Midlands (county)
Size 902 km2 (348 sq mi)
Population 2,634,500
Formed 1974
HQ Vauxhall Road Birmingham
Stations 37 Full Time & 1 12 hour cover
Co-responder No
Chief Fire Officer Philip Loach
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Philip Hales
Fire authority West Midlands Fire & Rescue Authority
Website www.wmfs.net

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is the statutory fire and rescue service responsible for fire protection, prevention, intervention and emergency rescue in the county of the West Midlands in England.

The West Midlands Fire Service functions under the control of the "West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority", which is a joint-authority, made up of councillors from the seven local authorities in the West Midlands.[1]

The service was created in 1974 when the West Midlands county came into being. Prior to its creation, each of the county boroughs in the West Midlands area (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Walsall, Warley, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton) had their own fire brigade. The largest of these brigades was the City of Birmingham Fire Brigade. The WMFS was created by a merger of these, plus parts of Warwickshire Fire Brigade, and is now the second largest and one of the best-performing fire and rescue teams in the UK.[2]


A cast-iron Birmingham Corporation fire-hydrant cover, from the time when the City Council was responsible for both the local fire service and water supply

The brigade is run under the command of the Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach and the Corporate Board, and provides emergency response from 38 strategically located fire stations, divided into eight Command Areas.[3]

Six of the Command Areas are coterminous with the Metropolitan boroughs of the West Midlands county; Birmingham however is divided into two commands. The full list of Command Areas is as follows:

The service was originally headquartered in the former City of Birmingham Fire Brigade headquarters at Lancaster Circus which were opened on 2 December 1935 by HRH Duke of Kent. It is now a Listed building. However, the service moved to purpose built, modern headquarters on Vauxhall Road, Nechells, in 2008/2009.

Training takes place at the WMFS Academy in Smethwick for new recruits and decreasingly for operational crews,this facility was a purpose built complex equipped with the highest quality training and classroom facilities. This provides high quality training and development for WMFS personnel, personnel from other Fire Services and other Agencies, from commerce and industry, and from the community at large. The brigade are looking to relocate all of its current departments away from the Brigades Academy building to free up the site for sale or rent, only keeping the Command Development Building (CDC) across the road for officer training.[4]

Chief Fire Officers[edit]

The following people have held the office of Chief Fire Officer:

  • George Merrell CBE 1974–1975 (Chief Officer of Birmingham Fire and Ambulance Service from 1969)[5]
  • Tom Lister CBE 1975–1981
  • Brian Fuller 1981–1990 (Appointed Commandant of the Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh in September 1990)[6]
  • Graham Meldrum 1990–1998[7] (Went on to become HerMajesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services)
  • Kenneth Knight 1998–2003[7] (Appointed Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade in July 2003)[8]
  • Frank Sheehan 2003–2008[8][9]
  • Vijith Randeniya OBE 2009–2013[10]
  • Phil Loach 2013-

Fire Stations[edit]

The fire service has 37 24hr community fire stations, and 01 12hr all of which are manned by full time employees and no Retained or on call Staff.[11]

A2 Aston Community Fire Station
A5 Perry Barr Community Fire Station
A6 Ward End Community Fire Station
B7 Bickenhill Community Fire Station & Technical Rescue Unit
C4 Bournbrook Community Fire Station
C6 Northfield Community Fire Station
Number Station Frontline Appliances/Callsigns
A02 Aston A021 Pump Rescue Ladder, A025 Brigade Response Vehicle
A03 Sutton Coldfield A031 Pump Rescue Ladder
A04 Erdington A041 Pump Rescue Ladder
A05 Perry Barr A051 Pump Rescue Ladder, A055 Brigade Response Vehicle, A058 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (Water Support Unit, 2x Foam Distribution Unit)
A06 Ward End A061 Pump Rescue Ladder, A065 Brigade Response Vehicle
A07 Handsworth A071 Pump Rescue Ladder, A075 Brigade Response Vehicle, Z2 Incident Command Unit
B01 Solihull B011 Pump Rescue Ladder, B015 Brigade Response Vehicle, Command Support Vehicle*, FRIS Vehicle
B02 Sheldon B021 Pump Rescue Ladder, B025 Brigade Response Vehicle, 2x New Dimension Prime Movers, Demountable Pods (High Volume Pumping Unit, Hose Boxes, New Dimension Disrobe and Re-robe Units), HVPU Support Unit
B03 Coventry B031 Pump Rescue Ladder, B032 Pump Rescue Ladder, B034 Aerial Ladder Platform
B04 Canley B041 Pump Rescue Ladder, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
B05 Foleshill B051 Pump Rescue Ladder, B055 Brigade Response Vehicle
B06 Binley B061 Pump Rescue Ladder, B065 Brigade Response Vehicle
B07 Bickenhill Technical Rescue Unit B071 Medium Rescue Pump, Technical Rescue Support Unit, 4x New Dimension Prime Movers, Demountable Pods (5x USAR pods, Water Support Unit, Major Rescue Unit, Trench Rescue Unit), 4x4 TRU Duty Officer Vehicle
C01 Highgate C011 Pump Rescue Ladder, C012 Pump Rescue Ladder, C014 Aerial Ladder Platform
C02 Woodgate C021 Pump Rescue Ladder
C03 Smethwick C031 Pump Rescue Ladder, Reserve Prime Mover, Demountable Pod (Bobcat Carrier)
C04 Bournbrook C041 Pump Rescue Ladder, Welfare Unit
C05 Kings Norton C051 Pump Rescue Ladder
C06 Northfield C061 Pump Rescue Ladder, C065 Brigade Response Vehicle
C07 Ladywood C071 Pump Rescue Ladder, C075 Brigade Response Vehicle
C08 Billesley C081 Pump Rescue Ladder, C085 Brigade Response Vehicle
C09 Hay Mills C091 Pump Rescue Ladder, C095 Brigade Response Vehicle, C098 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (BA Main Control Unit, Hazardous Substances Unit, Environment Unit, Incident Support Unit, Welfare Unit, 3x General Purpose Units)
D01 Oldbury D011 Pump Rescue Ladder, D015 Brigade Response Vehicle, D014 Aerial Ladder Platform, Red Cross FESS Vehicle
D02 Brierley Hill D021 Pump Rescue Ladder, D025 Brigade Response Vehicle
D05 Stourbridge D051 Pump Rescue Ladder, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
D03 Haden Cross D031 Pump Rescue Ladder, D035 Brigade Response Vehicle
D07 Tipton D071 Pump Rescue Ladder, D075 Brigade Response Vehicle
D08 West Bromwich D081 Pump Rescue Ladder, D085 Brigade Response Vehicle, D088 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (BA Main Control Unit, Major Rescue Unit), Welfare Unit
D09 Dudley D091 Pump Rescue Ladder, D095 Brigade Response Vehicle
E01 Walsall E011 Pump Rescue Ladder, E012 Pump Rescue Ladder, E014 Aerial Ladder Platform, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
E02 Bloxwich E021 (Dennis)Pump Rescue Ladder
E03 Willenhall E031 Pump Rescue Ladder, E038 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (Incident Support Unit, Hazardous Substances Unit, Environment Unit)
E04 Aldridge E041 Pump Rescue Ladder
E05 Wolverhampton E051 Pump Rescue Ladder, E055 Brigade Response Vehicle
E06 Fallings Park E061 Pump Rescue Ladder, E065 Brigade Response Vehicle, FRIS Dog Vehicle
E07 Bilston E071 Pump Rescue Ladder, Command Support Vehicle*
E08 Tettenhall E081 Pump Rescue Ladder
E09 Wednesbury Technical Rescue Unit E091 Medium Rescue Pump, Technical Rescue Support Unit, Prime Mover

The former fire station at Lancaster Circus was home to the longest fireman's pole in Europe at 40 feet (12 m) in length.[12]

An arrangement was agreed in November 2013 with West Midlands Ambulance Service to allow co-location of both fire and ambulance resources. Ambulances and rapid response vehicles are based at 34 West Midlands Fire Service sites including its Headquarters in Vauxhall Road, Birmingham.[13]

Following an operational review by West Midlands Fire Service the decision was taken to amalgamate Cradley and Halesowen fire stations and provide a single fire station in Cradley Heath. The new Haden Cross fire station became operational at the start of August 2014 [14]

Fire appliances[edit]

Dennis Sabre XL Pump Rescue Ladder
Toyota Hilux Brigade Response Vehicle
Volvo FL Pump Rescue Ladder

West Midlands Fire Service operates over 60 frontline fire appliances,[15] split into two types:

  • Pump Rescue Ladder - designed to give firefighters the capability to immediately deal with a variety of emergency situations. These vehicles carry a wide variety of equipment including a range of ladders, breathing apparatus, cutting and lifting gear and a range of other equipment. Each fire engine carries a crew of 4 or 5 firefighters and is equipped with the latest radio and computer aided equipment, providing the vital communication link between operational crews and Fire Control.
  • Brigade Response Vehicle - smaller than a standard fire engine and can achieve a quicker response to various incidents, often resulting in preventing a situation from escalating. Crewed by three firefighters, they can be sent to any type of incident reported to the brigade, depending on the information collected and received and come complete with a powerful water pump, 300 litres of water, a ladder, vehicle cutting equipment and water rescue kit.[16]

Every fire station operates at least one Pump Rescue Ladder; three fire stations (Highgate, Coventry and Walsall) operate two each. Every PRL is crewed 24 hours a day, with the exception of Tettenhall which is crewed 12 hours a day using the 'late' shift system (see below).

A number of fire stations also operate a Brigade Response Vehicle on a 'core' shift or 'late' shift rota system, core being 24 hour cover and late being 12 hour cover which is currently manned only between the hours of 10am and 10pm. This is matched to the demand of the station area. A different watch system consisting of Purple and Orange Watches is used to cover the late shift - four days on, four days off - as opposed to the standard core watches (Red, White, Blue and Green) - two days on, two nights on and four days off.

These front line vehicles are supported by a number of specialised appliances that are strategically located across the West Midlands. They are manned using a dual crewing system, where two firefighters will move off a frontline appliance to crew the special appliance. The frontline appliance will be classed as a temporary Brigade Response Vehicle due to the reduced crew numbers. WMFS has the following special appliances:

  • 6 Aerial Appliances (4 frontline, 2 reserve) - these can reach up to a height of 32 metres and are used to provide rescue facility and high volume water on a fire from a height.
  • 1 Incident Command Unit - accommodates the many different types of communication equipment needed at major incidents. In addition to the wide range of radio frequencies used, incident commanders often need to communicate via landlines and send and receive information via satellite links and CCTV of the ongoing situation. The command unit can essentially be used as an on-site conference centre for command personnel, mapping and planning firefighting operations and booking in and directing crews as they arrive.
  • 3 Command Support Vehicles - only one of the 3 vehicles functions in the same way as the Incident Command Unit. These very rarely get mobilised to any incidents, the adapted one of the three will act as a resilience vehicle when the main command unit is at transport Engineering Workshops (TEW) the adapted vehicle is based at TEW. PRL'S now act as an initial central command point until the arrival of the Incident Command Unit.
  • Incident Support Imaging System (ISIS)- a 4-rotor VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It can be fitted with either a digital video, high resolution stills or a state of the art thermal image camera. The live images are beamed directly to a laptop sized base station and also on scene to the Incident Command Vehicle. It also has GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) capability, which means that once a suitable observation platform has been reached it can hover in the same location.
  • 6 Prime Movers (5 frontline, 1 reserve) - has the ability to load and transport a variety of different demountable pods to an incident scene as required, offering a versatile and economic way of providing specialist equipment.

Demountable Pods - these are carried on the back of a Prime Mover to an incident. There are several different types as shown below

  • Water Support Unit - this carries a range of water rescue equipment, including inflatable walkways, swift water PPE, an inflatable boat and a powered rigid boat.
  • Breathing Apparatus Main Control - allows for central co-ordination of the firefighters wearing Breathing Apparatus at a major incident, in a safe and controlled environment. It not only provides logistical support, but also facilities to maintain and service Breathing Apparatus equipment.
  • Foam Distribution Unit - carries bulk foam concentrates to the fireground when an incident requires its use to curtail the fire. In addition to foam it carries full support equipment.
  • Environment Unit - this unit carries a full range of equipment to restrict pollution at incidents, and supports the Brigade's objective to control environmental pollution and protect our natural environment.
  • Incident Support Unit - transports equipment for major incidents, specifically to support the crews. Items include lighting for night-time incidents, barriers and pumping equipment for floods
  • Hazardous Substances Unit - specifically carries equipment and personal firefighting protective wear, for use at incidents where chemicals or gases have been spilt.
  • Bobcat Carrier - transports a Bobcat Skid Steer Loader and various attachments to help move materials and debris on a fireground.

In addition, government's New Dimension programme has equipped WMFS with a number of specialist vehicles:

  • 3 Incident Response Units (Stourbridge, Walsall & Canley)- provides a mass decontamination facility at the scene of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident. Each vehicle carries two MD1 mass decontamination units, each capable of treating 200 persons an hour.
  • 1 High Volume Pumping Unit
  • 1 Mass Decontamination Disrobe Module
  • 1 Mass Decontamination Rerobe Module
  • 1 Detection, Identification and Monitoring Vehicle -
  • 5 Urban Search and Rescue Modules

Technical Rescue Unit[edit]

Technical Rescue Support Unit
TRU Prime Mover with USAR pod
TRU Prime Mover with WSU Pod

Operating out of two locations, the primary base at Bickenhill fire station and a satellite base at Wednesbury fire station, the WMFS Technical Rescue Unit has purpose built facilities to train in all specialist rescue disciplines, providing a local, regional and national response 24 hours a day 365 days a year to any USAR/widescale flooding incident as well as the support necessary for specialist rescue incidents.

The team is made up of a Station Commander, Administration Officer, Equipment Maintenance Officer, USAR Training Officer, Search Dog Handler, and four watches each made up of a Watch Commander, Crew Commander and six Technicians. A further four watches are based at Wednesbury.

With shifts running along the same colour watches as the core fire crews, watch based personnel work a 96 hour duty period with 48 hours on full duty and the remainder on retained cover. Retained personnel can respond to base within 30 minutes of being required for multiple incident deployment.[17]

The unit makes use of a wide range of vehicles and equipment to carry out their role. Each TRU base has two primary response vehicles:

  • Technical Rescue Support Unit - this 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter van provide a fast response capability for water, rope and large animals rescues to get initial personnel and equipment to an incident as fast as possible.
  • Medium Rescue Pump - based on a modified Volvo FL Pump Rescue Relay, this appliance carries enhanced rescue equipment at the expense of some fire fighting equipment. This will respond to life-threatening incidents in the local station ground alongside the regular TRU callouts.

Additional vehicles and equipment are based at Bickenhill:

  • 4 New Dimension Prime Movers - modified to be able to transport both New Dimension and regular WMFS demountable pods to the scene of an incident.
  • 5 Urban Search and Rescue Modules - see http://www.romar.org.uk/page132.html for more information.
  • 1 Water Support Unit
  • 1 Trench Rescue Unit

West Midlands UK-ISAR[edit]

The United Kingdom International Search and Rescue Team (UK-ISAR) is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to humanitarian accidents or disasters anywhere in the world. There are 18 team members in West Midland Fire Services UK-ISAR, split into a Red Team and a Blue Team. The role of the team is to respond to support the UK Government when deploying personnel and equipment in response to international disasters such as an earthquakes.

When on international call, a deployment is made of a team of six including the team leader from one of the groups and a Group Commander to act as the Operations Commander or Deployment Commander in charge of the UK International Search & Rescue Group (UKISARG).

The team should arrive in the affected country within 24 hours of the disaster occurring and be self-sufficient for periods of up to 10 days. Extensive specialist training over and above that normally required for firefighters is given to all team members.[18]

12 members of the West Midlands team were deployed as part of the UKISAR (United Kingdom International Search And Rescue) mission to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake there on 12 January 2010.[19] The team were joined by 2 further members who had been in Sweden as part of a training exercise at the time of the earthquake. The team were involved in the rescue of several people, including two-year old Mia, who had been trapped for over four days.[20]

Fire Research and Investigation[edit]

The West Midlands Fire Research and Investigation Section (FRIS) was the first one formed in the United Kingdom in 1983, and in 25 years has attended over 8,000 incidents.

FRIS provides 24 hour/365 day availability as required and the team includes a Dog Handler, who working together with his dog, provides arson detection searches at fires where it is suspected that accelerants such as petrol may have been used.

FRIS investigates the cause of fire in a variety of different types of incidents including large fires, fires wherethe cause cannot be immediately determined and fires where people may have been injured or have unfortunately died.

FRIS works closely with the Police, other Services and organisations such as insurance companies, when investigating fires. The officers also work on special projects including arson reduction policies and strategies, human behaviour in fire, the main causes of fire, and the compilation of any information to identify trends in fire causes. This information is vital when we undertake targeted initiatives and campaigns relating to the education of fire safety awareness.

FRIS Officers are also regularly called to give expert witness evidence at Civil, Criminal (Magistrates and Crown) and Coroners Court.[21]


Following a large number of cuts in government funding, the service has had to try and streamline as much as possible to try and negate the effect on the service provided to the public. WMFS has committed to keeping open its 38 fire stations, with at least one standard fire engine at all of them, and to maintaining its five-minute target response time to high-risk incidents. Coventry, Highgate and Walsall fire stations will each have two fire engines available around-the-clock. The introduction of Brigade Response Vehicles is ongoing, with total of 19 to eventually enter service.[22]

Notable Incidents[edit]

  • Disused Factory, Thimblemill Lane, Nechells - June 1985 - 30 Pump Fire, five-storey factory building destroyed.[citation needed]
  • Shannons Mill, Walsall - 2007 - 25 Pump fire. 3 Storey, listed, former leather tanning workshop.[citation needed]
  • Cornwall Road, Smethwick - 2009 - 25 Pump Fire, 2 Large Factories fully involved in fire.[citation needed]
  • Dartmouth Road, Smethwick - 2013 - 35 Pump Fire, 50,000 tonnes of plastic and Jayplas plastics and paper recycling plant on fire.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fire Authority
  2. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/Our_Performance
  3. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/Your_Fire_Service/Command_Areas/ - Note map on site has not been changed but Command Areas have
  4. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/business-training
  5. ^ "Hail to the Chief". Birmingham Post. 7 August 2002. p. 22. 
  6. ^ "Appointments". The Times. 20 August 1990. 
  7. ^ a b "Woman saved in fire drama; Kenneth new fire chief for region.". Birmingham Evening Mail. 31 January 1998. p. 4. 
  8. ^ a b "Meet chief fireman Frank". Birmingham Post. 12 August 2003. p. 4. 
  9. ^ "'Surprise' as firefighters' chief resigns.". Birmingham Mail. 19 November 2008. p. 3. 
  10. ^ "Hard work is key, says new WM fire chief". Birmingham Mail. 20 March 2009. p. 11. 
  11. ^ Command Areas - fire stations listed per area
  12. ^ "Station bosses ban fireman pole amid health and safety fears". Mail Online. 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  13. ^ http://aace.org.uk/2012/11/page/32/
  14. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/new-station-go
  15. ^ [1] - From official site. All below information from same website.
  16. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/brigade-response-vehicle
  17. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/technical-rescue-unit-0
  18. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/uk-isar-international-search-and-rescue-team-0
  19. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/Media/Press+Releases/Press+Release/?contentId=102638 - Fire Service Press release
  20. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/haiti/7006378/British-rescue-teams-pull-three-survivors-including-Mia-two-from-the-rubble.html - Telegraph Article accessed 17 Feb
  21. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/fire-research-and-investigation-0
  22. ^ http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s1177/Fire%20Authority%20Report.pdf
  23. ^ "Bosses speak out over "tragic accident" as Chinese lantern sparks region's biggest fire". Express & Star. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 

External links[edit]