West Midlands Fire Service

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West Midlands Fire Service
West Midlands Fire Service logo.jpg
Operational area
CountryUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
CountyWest Midlands
Agency overview
Established1974 (1974)
Facilities and equipment
www.wmfs.net Edit this at Wikidata

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is the fire and rescue service for the metropolitan county of West Midlands, England. The service is the second largest in England, after London Fire Brigade. The service has 38 fire stations,[1] with a blended fleet of vehicles and specialist resources.

The service is led by Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach, who is overseen by the West Midlands Fire Authority.[2] The Fire Authority is made up of 15 councillors who represent the seven councils within the West Midlands area.

The service's headquarters is located in Nechells in Birmingham, which is also the home to Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control.[3] The control room, based at MWFS headquarters is the main incident management and mobilising centre for both WMFS and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.[4]


The service divides its main functions into three areas: response, prevention and protection.[5]

Response covers responding to emergencies, risk-based attendance standards, dynamic mobilising and Fire Control. Prevention covers their up-stream firefighting work that includes safe and well visits, community engagement, vulnerable persons officers and other individual and home-based fire prevention work. Protection covers their work around commercial and business fire safety, licensing and safety around buildings such as high-rise and apartment blocks.


WMFS currently operates a fleet of 39 PRLs (Pump Rescue Ladders, two TRPs (Technical rescue pumps), 19 BRVs (Brigade Response Vehicles), four HPs (Hydraulic Platforms) and three BSVs (Business Support Vehicles) in addition to various specialist appliances and transport vehicles.

Chief Fire Officers[edit]

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

  • 2014 to present: Phil Loach
  • 2009–2013: Vijith Randeniya OBE[6]
  • 2003–2008: Frank Sheehan[7][8]
  • 1998–2003: Kenneth Knight[9]
  • 1990–1998: Graham Meldum[9]
  • 1981–1990: Brian Fuller
  • 1975–1981: Tom Lister CBE
  • 1974–1975: George Merrell CBE[10] (Chief Officer of Birmingham Fire and Ambulance Service from 1969)

Role system[edit]

As with many other fire services, West Midlands Fire Service uses a rank structure that has evolved over time – the original titles are still used by some brigades.

Former title Current title
Firefighter Firefighter
Leading Firefighter Crew Commander
Sub-Officer Watch Commander A
Station Officer Watch Commander B
Assistant Divisional Officer Station Commander
Divisional Officer Group Commander
Senior Divisional Officer Area Commander
Assistant Chief Officer Assistant Chief Fire Officer
Deputy Chief Officer Deputy Chief Fire Officer
Chief Fire Officer Chief Fire Officer

Fire Stations/Appliances[edit]

West Midlands Fire Service has no retained on-call firefighters. All fire stations within the service are full-time, and work on 2 types of shift:

  • CORE - covered by four watches, comprising Red, White, Blue and Green:

10-hour day-shift. or 14-hour shift-night shift.

  • LATE - covered by two watches of Orange and Purple:

12-hour shift running from 10 am to 10 pm. Tettenhall is the only solely late crewed station, and therefore Wolverhampton covers the area at night.

Birmingham City Centre is covered by three stations: Aston located and covering the northern side, Highgate located and covering the southern, central and eastern sides, and Ladywood covering the western side.

Station Callsign Station Name Duty System Appliances
A02 Aston Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
A03 Sutton Coldfield Core 1x PRL
A04 Erdington Core 1x PRL
A05 Perry Barr Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x PM*, pods: 2x FDU, 1x WSU
A06 Ward End Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
A07 Handsworth Core/Late/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x ICU, 1x WFU
B01 Solihull Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL,1x BRV, 1x CSV*
B02 Sheldon Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x HVPSV, 2x PM*, pods: 1x HVP, 1x HVHL, 1x MDD, 1x MDR
B03 Coventry Core 2x PRL, 1x HP, 1x BSV
B04 Canley Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x WFU
B05 Foleshill Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
B06 Binley Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV
B07 Bickenhill/TRU Core/Cross Crewed* 1x TRP, 1x TRS, 1x L4V, 1x PM*, pods: 1x MRU, 1x TRU, 1x WSU
B07 Bickenhill/USAR Cross Crewed 1x PCV, 1x SDU, 4x PM, modules: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
C01 Highgate Core 2x PRL, 1x HP
C02 Woodgate Valley Core 1x PRL
C03 Smethwick Core 1x PRL, pod: 1x MPV
C04 Bournbrook Core 1x PRL, 1x ICU
C05 Kings Norton Core 1x PRL
C06 Northfield Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
C07 Ladywood Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x BSV
C08 Billesley Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV
C09 Hay Mills Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x DIM* 1x PM*, pods 1x BASU, 1x EPU, 1x GPU, 1x HSU, 1x ISU, 1x WFU
D01 Oldbury Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x HP
D02 Brierley Hill Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV
D03 Haden Cross Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV
D05 Stourbridge Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x IRU*
D07 Tipton Core 1x PRL
D08 West Bromwich Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x BRV, 1x BSV.
D09 Dudley Core/Late 1x PRL, 1x BRV
E01 Walsall Core/Cross Crewed* 2x PRL, 1x HP
E02 Bloxwich Core 1x PRL
E03 Willenhall Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x PM*, pods: 1x EPU, 1x HSU, 1x ISU
E04 Aldridge Core 1x PRL
E05 Wolverhampton Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
E06 Fallings Park Core 1x PRL, 1x BRV
E07 Bilston Core/Cross Crewed* 1x PRL, 1x CSV*
E08 Tettenhall Late 1x PRL
E09 Wednesbury/TRU Core 1x TRP, 1x TRS, 1x WSU

Fire Appliance Glossary/Callsigns[edit]

2002-2007 Dennis Sabre XL Pump Rescue Ladder
2013-2016 Toyota Hilux Brigade Response Vehicle
2009-2011 Volvo FL Pump Rescue Ladder
  • Pump Rescue Ladder (PRL): 1 / 2
  • Brigade Response Vehicle (BRV): 5
  • Hydraulic platform (HP): 4
  • Business Support Vehicle (BSV): 9
  • Incident Command & Control Unit (ICCU): 7
  • Command Support Vehicle (CSV): 7
  • High Volume Support Pump Vehicle (HVPSV)
  • Prime Mover (PM): 8 / M32 / M96


  • Hazardous substances Environmental Protection Unit (HMEPU)
  • Foam Distribution Unit (FDU)
  • General Purpose Unit (GPU)
  • High Volume Hose Layer (HVHL)
  • High Volume Pump (HVP)
  • Incident Support Unit (ISU)
  • Major Rescue Unit (MRU)
  • Multi Purpose Vehicle Carrier (MPV)
  • Water Support Unit (WSU)
  • Welfare support unit (decommissioned)
  • Welfare Unit (WFU)

Technical Rescue Unit[edit]

Technical Rescue Support Unit
TRU Prime Mover with WSU Pod
  • Technical Rescue Pump (TRP): 1
  • Technical Rescue Support (TRS)
  • Light 4x4 Vehicle (L4V)
  • Prime Mover (PM): 8


  • Major Rescue Unit (MRU)
  • Trench Rescue Unit (TRU)
  • Water Support Unit (WSU)

Urban Search and Rescue[edit]

USAR Prime Mover with Pod
  • Personnel Carrier Vehicle (PCV)
  • Search & Rescue Dog Unit (SDU)
  • Prime Mover (PM): M98 / M121 / M122 / M123


  • Module 1 - Technical Search Equipment
  • Module 2 - Heavy Transport, Confined Space & Hot Cutting Equipment
  • Module 3 - Breaching & Breaking Equipment
  • Module 4 - Multi Purpose Vehicle
  • Module 5 - Shoring Operations

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear Response[edit]

  • Detection, Identification & Monitoring (DIM): M4
  • Incident Response Unit (IRU): M45 / M62
  • Prime Mover (PM): M32 / M96


  • Mass Decontamination Disrobe (MDD)
  • Mass Decontamination Rerobe (MDR)

Specialist units[edit]

Technical Rescue Unit[edit]

Operating out of two locations, a 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 with 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 the retained cover. Retained personnel can respond to base within 30 minutes of being required for multiple incident deployment.

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 provides a fast response capability for water, rope, and large animal rescues to get initial personnel and equipment to an incident as fast as possible.
  • Technical Response 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 that are based at Bickenhill:

  • Four New Dimension Prime Movers – modified to be able to transport both New Dimension and regular WMFS demountable pods to the scene of an incident.
  • Five Urban Search and Rescue Modules.
  • One Trench Rescue Unit.

Additional vehicles and equipment that are based at Wednesbury:

  • One Water Support Unit.

West Midlands UK-ISAR (West Midlands United Kingdom International Search and Rescue)[11][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 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.[12]

Twelve 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.[13] The team members were joined by two further members who had been in Sweden as part of a training exercise at the time of the earthquake. The team members were involved in the rescue of several people, including two-year-old Mia, who had been trapped for over four days.[14]

Fire Investigation and Prevention Section[edit]

The Fire Investigation and Prevention Section(FIPS) was formed in 1983, and in 25 years has attended over 8,000 incidents.

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

FIPS 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 undertaking targeted initiatives and campaigns relating to the education of fire safety awareness.

Notable incidents[edit]

Recruitment controversy[edit]

In January 2019, it was alleged that WMFS was using discriminatory practices in recruitment of new firefighters.[16] Once candidates had passed a reactions test, they moved on to a numerical, verbal and mechanical reasoning exam. Media reports stated that ethnic minorities and females taking this test were deemed to have passed should they achieve a score of 60%. However, it was claimed that white male candidates were required to score at least 70%.[17] Member of Parliament David Davies condemned the policy, stating "It's totally bonkers. They should just be picking the best man or woman for the job. They shouldn't be lowering the target for anyone just to meet a target." The service has target of 60% of new recruits to be female by 2021 and 35% to be ethnic minorities. In repose to criticism, the organisation did not comment on whether it had different pass marks for different groups, stating "West Midlands Fire Service is committed to a workforce which reflects the diversity of all our communities" [18] and "our recruitment shows our determination to challenge outdated perceptions about who can – and can’t – be a firefighter."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Community Fire Stations". West Midlands Fire Service. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Governance and Leadership". West Midlands Fire Service. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Fire Control". West Midlands Fire Service. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service". www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Our Plan". West Midlands Fire Service. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Hard work is key, says new WM fire chief". Birmingham Mail. 20 March 2009. p. 11.
  7. ^ "Meet chief fireman Frank". Birmingham Post. 12 August 2003. p. 4.
  8. ^ "'Surprise' as firefighters' chief resigns". Birmingham Mail. 19 November 2008. p. 3.
  9. ^ a b "Woman saved in fire drama; Kenneth new fire chief for region". Birmingham Evening Mail. 31 January 1998. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Hail to the Chief". Birmingham Post. 7 August 2002. p. 22.
  11. ^ "International Search and Rescue". West Midlands Fire Service. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  12. ^ "International Search and Rescue".
  13. ^ "International Search and Rescue".
  14. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/haiti/7006378/British-rescue-teams-pull-three-survivors-including-Mia-two-from-the-rubble.html
  15. ^ "Bosses speak out over "tragic accident" as Chinese lantern sparks region's biggest fire". Express & Star. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  16. ^ 2019 (28 January 2019). "WHITE MEN NEED NOT APPLY: British Fire Service Lowers Standards For Women, Minorities". Daily Wire.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "Fire brigade accused of discrimination after drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities". uk.news.yahoo.com.
  18. ^ Correspondent, Michael Knowles, Home Affairs (28 January 2019). "Fire chiefs make it harder to get a job if you're a white man". Express.co.uk.
  19. ^ "Fire brigade accused of discrimination after drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities". uk.news.yahoo.com.

External links[edit]