Changing Fire Service

Following the Second World War, in 1947 the Fire Services Act placed the responsibility for fire-fighting with county councils or their equivalent at borough level. In 1972 the Local Government Act (and its equivalent Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973) resulted in the merger of many brigades. There have been further mergers since, of particular note the merger of all the Scottish brigades in 2013 to form the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Despite these organisational changes the fundamental way of tackling a fire has remained the same since the mid 1850’s. Once a fire is reported one or more appliances will aim to get there as quickly as possible. The workhorse basic fire service appliance consists of a vehicle with a powered pump, ladders, hoses, ancillary equipment and a fire crew. The number of crew carried and required to operate and use a traditional appliance varies, but is at least four and up to six.

However, with cuts in budgets over the last few years and more yet to come, fire brigades are having to look closely at all aspects of the service they provide and how they provide it. One area that has already started to see changes is the typical fire engine. Many brigades have already introduced, and others are looking at introducing, smaller fire appliances. Variously called something like a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) or Brigade Response Vehicle (BRV) they are essentially smaller version of a typical fire engine, with a crew of just two or three.

Rapid Response Vehicles

They are far cheaper to purchase, around £50,000 for a Toyota Hilux based one, as used by the West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS). Whereas a ‘normal’ fire engine costs around £300,000. In addition they cost significantly less to operate on an annual basis as there are less crew needed and lower annual maintenance costs. It is estimated that the saving to a fire brigade, taking the above and depreciation into account, is anywhere between £100,000 and £385,000 every year for each appliance. No wonder brigades are looking at them!

Fire brigades that have used them for a while, such as WMFS, have found that in 93% of incidents attended by an RRV no additional resources were needed. The vehicle and crew were able to cope with the vast majority of every day calls with the vehicle itself. The above mentioned RRV used by WMFS has a water pump, a smaller tank (300 litres of water), a two man ladder, cutting equipment and lighting. In those few incidents where additional resource were required, the RRV crew were able to make a start whilst waiting for the additional resource. Another finding from the trial period was that on average they were 10% faster at getting to an incident.

Cold Cut Lance

Another allied technology is that of the cold cut lance. A company developing this is Primetech and their Rapid Response Multi-role Vehicle (RRMV) with the Cobra Multi Purpose Nozzle (MPN). This lance allows the fire fighter to cut through, for example, a wall and inject a spray of water mist into a void to reduce the temperature within and make it safer for fire-fighters to enter.

Fire-fighters using a powerful new lance to break through a brick wall and tackle a factory fire in Salford


The ultra high pressure lance was introduced by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) in January. The service is one of the first in a UK city to use the equipment, which allows fire-fighters to work on previously inaccessible parts of a fire. The fire service said it allowed fire-fighters at Greenwood Street to make gas cylinders safe before crews entered the building.

The lance was first used by the service at a restaurant fire in Manchester's Albert Square in January. The equipment uses a combination of water and cutting agent, which is ejected through a special nozzle at extremely high pressure, allowing it to rapidly cut through wood, metal and brick.

Fire Risk Assessment

Safety Management UK would rather you didn’t have the need for any fire appliance, small or large, to attend your premise. It is far better to ensure that your property is safe from fire in the first place and, as well as being a legal requirement, it is easy to arrange an annual Fire Risk Assessment and get advice from the professionals.

If you have questions about fire risk assessment, or for help on any aspect of fire safety, call us on 01524 784356 today.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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