History of fire brigades in the United Kingdom

History of fire brigades in the United Kingdom

The history of fire brigades in the United Kingdom is complex due to many re-organisations having taken place.

The first fire engines and crews were provided by voluntary bodies, parish authorities or insurance companies. James Braidwood founded the world's first municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824. A seven foot tall bronze statue of Braidwood, located in Parliament Square in Edinburgh, commemorates his achievements. [cite web |url=http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/No-bells-and-no-whistles.4328264.jp |title=No bells and no whistles for 'father of firefighting' |accessdate=2008-09-04 |author= |date= 2008-07-26|work= |publisher=The Scotsman] The Metropolitan Fire Brigade was created by statute in 1866. In the decades that followed the new local government bodies created by nineteenth century legislation took over responsibility for fire-fighting.

The fire service was nationalised in 1941, but returned to local authority control in 1948. Since then there has been a gradual process of amalgamations so that the number of brigades has decreased greatly.

Naming of brigades

Prior to 1974 all but one of the fire brigades in England and Wales used the term "Fire Brigade", the exception was the City of Salford, which called itself "Fire Department". After 1974 All but two of the new authorities adopted the term "Fire Service", the two exceptions being Avon County and County Cleveland. Most of the older County brigades who came though the reorganisation with little change also changed their names to "Fire Service", the only brigades not to adopt the term were London, Cornwall, East Sussex, Somerset, West Sussex and Wiltshire, all of which still retained the name "Fire Brigade". More recently, almost all fire authorities have changed their name to "Fire and Rescue Service", the only exceptions to this are, Cleveland, Cornwall County and London who still use "Fire Brigade" and West Midlands Fire Service.

Fire brigades in England and Wales

Prior to 1938, there were some 1600 local fire brigades in operation. The Fire Brigades Act 1938 constituted the councils of all county boroughs and county districts (municipal boroughs, urban and rural districts) as fire authorities. The councils were required to provide "the services for their borough or district of such a fire brigade and of such fire engines, appliances and equipment as may be necessary to meet efficiently all normal requirements". [Fire Brigades Act, 1938 (1 & 2 Geo. 6.) C. 72]

During World War II, on 18 August 1941, the local authority fire brigades in Great Britain were combined into a National Fire Service (NFS). After the war, the government decided to better organise the UK fire service and passed the Fire Services Act 1947.

The 1947 Act transferred fire-fighting functions from the National Fire Service to fire brigades maintained by the councils of counties and county boroughs. The transfer took place in 1948. It also set down what each local authority must do in regard to having a fire brigade. Each local authority was responsible for:

* Providing a fire brigade
* The training of a fire brigade
* The receiving of calls

Each county council and county borough council were required to maintain a brigade, although they were allowed to voluntarily combine with a neighbouring fire authority. [Fire Services Act 1947, (10 & 11 Geo. 6.) C. 41]

In the 1960s there were several changes to local government and some changes took place within the fire brigades but in the main they remained as created in 1948 until 1974. The Local Government Act 1972 created metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, which were to be fire authorities.

The full list of the brigades formed under the 1947 Fire Services Act is given below along with the 1960s changes and the result of the 1974 Local Authority re-organisation:

=Fire brigades 1948 - 1974=

Wales 1996 on

The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 replaced the eight counties with unitary authorities. The authorities are grouped into three areas for the provision of fire and rescue services. Fire services are administered by fire and rescue authorities consisting of councillors from each of the councils in the area.

1996 on

Local government in Scotland was again reorganised in 1996 by the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. This Act replaced the regions with unitary "area councils", while leaving the islands areas unchanged. The number of fire brigades remained at eight, although booundaries were realigned as groupings as of the new authorities. Minor name-changes also took place.

Fire brigades in Northern Ireland

As in Great Britain, there were numerous local authority fire brigades in Northern Ireland until the Second World War. On March 1, 1942 all brigades were nationalised by the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) (NI) Act 1942 as the National Fire Service (Northern Ireland).

On January 1, 1948, the Fire Services Act (Northern Ireland) 1947 came into effect. This provided for the establishment of four brigades in the province:
*Belfast Fire Brigade
*Northern Fire Authority, based in Ballymena
*Southern Fire Authority, based in Portadown
*Western Fire Authority, based in Derry

Northern Ireland Fire Brigade 1950 - 2006

The three regional brigades were short-lived and on January 1, 1950 they were amalgamated into the Northern Ireland Fire Authority.

In 1973 the Belfast Fire Brigade and NIFA were amalgamated into a single Fire Authority for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

On July 1, 2006 the fire authority was replaced with a Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Board, with the brigade adopting the title Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service. [ [http://www.nifrs.org/about_us.php?sec=20 "About NIFRS", accessed January 5, 2008] ]

ee also

*Fire Service in the UK
*Local Government Acts


*cite book
last = His Majesties Government
first =
coauthor =
title = Fire Services Act 1947
publisher = HMSO
Location =
pages =

*cite book
last = Various
first =
coauthor =
title = A History of the British Fire Service
publisher = Fire Service College Library, Moreton in Marsh
date =
Location =
pages =

External links

* [http://www.btinternet.com/~graeme.kirkwood/index.htm History of Scotlish Fire Brigades]
* [http://www.fireservicecollege.ac.uk/ Fire Service College: Official site]

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