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 2,619,500
Formed 1974
HQ Birmingham
Stations 37 Full Time & 1 12 hour cover
Co-responder No
Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil 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, with the move commencing in July 2008 (and being completed by the end of November).

Training takes place at the WMFS Academy in Smethwick, 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.[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 38 community fire stations, all of which are full-time.[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 Appliances/Callsigns
A2 Aston A021 Pump Rescue Ladder, A025 Brigade Response Vehicle
A3 Sutton Coldfield A031 Pump Rescue Ladder
A4 Erdington A041 Pump Rescue Ladder, A042 Pump Rescue Ladder
A5 Perry Barr A051 Pump Rescue Ladder, A055 Brigade Response Vehicle, A058 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (Water Support Unit, Foam Distribution Unit, General Purpose Unit)
A6 Ward End A061 Pump Rescue Ladder, A062/4 Pump Rescue Water Tower
A7 Handsworth A071 Pump Rescue Ladder, A075 Brigade Response Vehicle, Z2 Incident Command Unit
B1 Solihull B011 Pump Rescue Ladder, B015 Brigade Response Vehicle, Command Support Vehicle, Fire Investigation Unit
B2 Sheldon B021 Pump Rescue Ladder, B025 Brigade Response Vehicle, 2x New Dimension Prime Movers, Demountable Pods (High Volume Pumping Unit, Hose Boxes), HVPU Support Van
B3 Coventry B031 Pump Rescue Ladder, B032 Pump Rescue Ladder, B034 Aerial Ladder Platform
B4 Canley B041 Pump Rescue Ladder, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
B5 Foleshill B051 Pump Rescue Ladder, B055 Brigade Response Vehicle
B6 Binley B061 Pump Rescue Ladder, B065 Brigade Response Vehicle
B7 Bickenhill Technical Rescue Unit B071 Medium Rescue Pump (carries enhanced rescue equipment instead of some fire fighting equipment), 4x4 Rapid Response Unit (Water/Rope Rescue), 4x New Dimension Prime Movers, Demountable Pods (5x USAR pods, Water Support Unit, Rope Rescue Unit, General Purpose Unit)
C1 Highgate C011 Pump Rescue Ladder, C012 Pump Rescue Ladder, C014 Aerial Ladder Platform
C2 Woodgate C021 Pump Rescue Ladder
C3 Smethwick C031 Pump Rescue Ladder, Reserve Prime Mover, Demountable Pod (Skid Steer Loader)
C4 Bournbrook C041 Pump Rescue Ladder
C5 Kings Norton C051 Pump Rescue Ladder
C6 Northfield C061 Pump Rescue Ladder, C065 Brigade Response Vehicle
C7 Ladywood C071 Pump Rescue Ladder, C072 Pump Rescue Ladder
C8 Billesley C081 Pump Rescue Ladder
C9 Hay Mills C091 Pump Rescue Ladder, C095 Brigade Response Vehicle, C098 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (BA Main Control Unit, Hazardous Substances Unit, Environmental Unit, Incident Support Unit, Welfare Unit, 3x General Purpose Units)
D1 Oldbury D011 Pump Rescue Ladder, D012 Pump Rescue Ladder, D014 Aerial Ladder Platform
D2 Brierley Hill D021 Pump Rescue Ladder, D022 Pump Rescue Ladder
D5 Stourbridge D051 Pump Rescue Ladder, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
D6 Cradley Heath (to become Haden Cross) D061 Pump Rescue Ladder
D7 Tipton D071 Pump Rescue Ladder, D075 Brigade Response Vehicle (will move to Haden Cross upon station completion)
D8 West Bromwich D081 Pump Rescue Ladder, D085 Brigade Response Vehicle, D088 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (BA Main Control Unit, Foam Distribution Unit)
D9 Dudley D091 Pump Rescue Ladder, D095 Brigade Response Vehicle
E1 Walsall E011 Pump Rescue Ladder, E012 Pump Rescue Ladder, E014 Aerial Ladder Platform, New Dimension Incident Response Unit
E2 Bloxwich E021 Pump Rescue Ladder
E3 Willenhall E031 Pump Rescue Ladder, E038 Prime Mover, Demountable Pods (Incident Support Unit, Hazardous Substances Unit, Environmental Unit)
E4 Aldridge E041 Pump Rescue Ladder
E5 Wolverhampton E051 Pump Rescue Ladder, E052 Pump Rescue Ladder
E6 Fallings Park E061 Pump Rescue Relay, E065 Brigade Response Vehicle
E7 Bilston E071 Pump Rescue Ladder, Command Support Vehicle
E8 Tettenhall E081 Pump Rescue Ladder
E9 Wednesbury Technical Rescue Unit E091 Medium Rescue Pump (carries enhanced rescue equipment instead of some fire fighting equipment), 4x4 Rapid Response Unit (Water/Rope Rescue), 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 and Rescue Service the decision was taken to amalgamate Cradley and Halesowen Fire Stations and provide a single Fire Station in Cradley Heath. The new fire station is currently under construction and will be located on the corner of Halesowen Road and Barrs Road.[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 from 38 fire stations.[15] Not all appliances are crewed 24 hours a day; at 13 fire stations with two fire engines, the second engine is classed as a 'late pump' and is manned only between the hours of 10am and 10pm. This is matched to the demand of the station area. A different watch system is used to cover the late shift - four days on, four days off - as opposed to the standard core 24 hour shift - two days on, two nights on, four days off.

These are 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]

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 follow special appliances:

  • 6 Aerial Ladder Platforms (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 Pump Rescue Water Tower - capable of performing the combined roles of the Pump Rescue Ladder and the Aerial Ladder Platform. On top of the appliance is a 18m elevating boom, at the head of which is fitted remote cameras, floodlights and twin remote water monitors that can produce a combined water flow rate of 5000 lpm.[17]
  • 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 - functions in the same way as the Incident Command Unit. These will be mobilised to any medium size (MP4-5+) incident and above to act as an initial central command point until the arrival of the Incident Command Unit, upon which point they will act in support.
  • 1 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 any of the 3 Command Support Vehicles or the Incident Command Unit. 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 (4 frontline, 2 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.
  • Skid Steer Loader - 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 - 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 - operates as part of the WMFS Scientific Support Team, providing specialist support to firefighters at incidents involving hazardous materials/chemicals. The ISIS (see above) is carried on this vehicle.
  • 1 USAR unit (see below)

Technical Rescue Unit[edit]

TRU Rapid Response 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.[18]

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:

  • Rapid Response 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 - see earlier description.
  • 1 USAR Dog Van - transports a USAR dog and handle to an incident scene.
  • 1 4x4 Vehicle

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 Serach & 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22]


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.[23]

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.[24]

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/future-contract-opportunities-0
  15. ^ [1] - From official site. All below information from same website.
  16. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/brigade-response-vehicle
  17. ^ http://www.translink-international.com/ranger-fire-aerials-mainmenu-28/fire-ranger-mainmenu-54
  18. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/technical-rescue-unit-0
  19. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/uk-isar-international-search-and-rescue-team-0
  20. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/Media/Press+Releases/Press+Release/?contentId=102638 - Fire Service Press release
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/fire-research-and-investigation-0
  23. ^ http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s1177/Fire%20Authority%20Report.pdf
  24. ^ "Bosses speak out over "tragic accident" as Chinese lantern sparks region's biggest fire". Express & Star. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 

External links[edit]