West Midlands Fire Service

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West Midlands Fire Service
West Midlands Fire Service logo.jpg
Operational area
Country England
County West Midlands
Agency overview
Established1974 (1974)
Facilities and equipment
Official website

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is the third largest fire and rescue service in the UK, with only the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and London Fire Brigade being larger, and is one of only two fire services in which all stations are full-time (the other being London Fire Brigade). WMFS delivers emergency services to 2.83 million residents across seven local authority areas in the county of the West Midlands in England.

The brigade is run under the command of Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach and the Strategic Enabling Team (SET), providing emergency response from 38 strategically located fire stations, divided into six Command Areas.[1] Responsibility for the running on the brigade lies with West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, a joint authority made up of councillors from the seven local authorities in the West Midlands.[2]

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 which was the City of Birmingham Fire Brigade. WMFS was created by a merger of these, plus parts of Warwickshire Fire Brigade.

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 and the service moved to purpose-built, modern headquarters on Vauxhall Road, Nechells, in 2008.

Chief Fire Officers[edit]

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

  • 2014 to present: Phil Loach
  • 2009 to 2013: Vijith Randeniya OBE[3]
  • 2003 to 2008: Frank Sheehan[4][5]
  • 1998 to 2003: Kenneth Knight[6]
  • 1990 to 1998: Graham Meldum[6]
  • 1981 to 1990: Brian Fuller
  • 1975 to 1981: Tom Lister CBE
  • 1974 to 1975: George Merrell CBE[7] (Chief Officer of Birmingham Fire and Ambulance Service from 1969)

Fire Stations/Appliances[edit]

All fire stations within the service are full-time, and work on 2 types of shift:

  • Core - full 10- or 14-hour shift on 4 watches of Blue, Red, Green and White
  • Late - 12-hour shift running from 10:00AM to 10:00PM on 2 Watches of Orange and Purple. Tettenhall is the only late crewed station, and therefore Wolverhampton covers the area at night

Birmingham City Centre is covered by 3 stations: Aston located and covering the Northern Area; Highgate located and covering the Southern, Central, and Eastern Areas; and Ladywood covering the Western Area.

B7 Bickenhill Community Fire Station & Technical Rescue Unit
C4 Bournbrook Community Fire Station
C6 Northfield Community Fire Station
A5 Perry Barr Community Fire Station
Station Callsign Station Name Duty System Appliances
A02 Aston (City Centre North) 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
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 BRV, 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 (City Centre South) 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 (City Centre West) 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 Core 1x TRP, 1x TRS, 1x WSU

Fire Appliance Glossary/Callsigns[edit]

Dennis Sabre XL Pump Rescue Ladder
Toyota Hilux Brigade Response Vehicle
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): Z2
  • Command Support Vehicle (CSV)
  • 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 & 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

CBRN 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)


West Midlands Fire Service is one of only three brigades in the UK where all operational firefighters are full-time, the others being London Fire Brigade & Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

Shift system[edit]

Firefighters are part of a Watch system that consists of 'core' crews and 'late' crews depending on the station they are serving at. Staff that are part of the core crews will be on duty for two days from 8am until 6pm, then two nights from 6pm until 8am. Late crews are on duty from 10am until 10pm for four days in a row. Firefighters that are part of the core crews will belong to either a Red, Green, White or Blue Watch, and those in the late crews will belong to either an Orange or Purple Watch.

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 some brigades.

Former title Modern title
Firefighter Firefighter
Leading Firefighter N/A
Sub-Officer Crew Commander
Station Officer Watch Commander
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

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 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.[8]

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 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 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

Fire Research Investigation Team (FRIT)[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 where the cause cannot be immediately determined, and fires where people may have been injured or 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 undertaking 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.[12]


WMFS has committed to keeping open its 38 fire stations, with at least one standard fire engine at all of them, as well as maintaining its five-minute target response time to high-risk incidents.[citation needed]

Coventry, Highgate, and Walsall fire stations will each have two fire engines available around-the-clock. The introduction of Brigade Response Vehicles is now complete, with a total of 19 now in active frontline service. The Brigade still faces tough times ahead in terms of a reduced budget, however the Brigade will be recruiting 50 New Firefighters in early 2015. The Brigade as per its vehicle replacement programme will purchase another 6/7 new Fire Appliances in 2015 and a further 6 in 2016 to replace ageing older appliances; these vehicles will gradually enter service throughout the prospective year. The Brigade are also looking into introducing AFA vehicles (automatic fire alarms) in the way of mini coopers. It is currently unknown how many of these vehicles will be rolled out or where their destined stations will be. During 2015/16 both Aston & Coventry fire stations are likely to be replaced with completely new stations, not to mention a vast amount of maintenance to other stations such as Highgate & West Bromwich which will both have complete Appliance bay door replacements, and extensive works both interior and exterior to all other stations.[13]

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.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/your-fire-service
  2. ^ Fire Authority
  3. ^ "Hard work is key, says new WM fire chief". Birmingham Mail. 20 March 2009. p. 11.
  4. ^ "Meet chief fireman Frank". Birmingham Post. 12 August 2003. p. 4.
  5. ^ "'Surprise' as firefighters' chief resigns". Birmingham Mail. 19 November 2008. p. 3.
  6. ^ a b "Woman saved in fire drama; Kenneth new fire chief for region". Birmingham Evening Mail. 31 January 1998. p. 4.
  7. ^ "Hail to the Chief". Birmingham Post. 7 August 2002. p. 22.
  8. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/technical-rescue-unit-0
  9. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/uk-isar-international-search-and-rescue-team-0
  10. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/Media/Press+Releases/Press+Release/?contentId=102638 - Fire Service Press release
  11. ^ https://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
  12. ^ http://www.wmfs.net/content/fire-research-and-investigation-0
  13. ^ http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s1177/Fire%20Authority%20Report.pdf
  14. ^ "Bosses speak out over "tragic accident" as Chinese lantern sparks region's biggest fire". Express & Star. Retrieved 1 July 2013.

External links[edit]