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
Official website

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[1] Fire Stations with a blended fleet of vehicles and specialist resources.

The service is currently 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 7 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 West Midlands Fire Service headquarters is the main incident management and mobilising centre for both West Midlands Fire Service and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service[4].


The service divides its main functions into 3 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.


West Midlands Fire Service currently operates a fleet of 41 PRL's (Pump rescue ladders), 19 BRV's (Brigade Response Vehicles) and 3 BSV's (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 to 2013: Vijith Randeniya OBE[6]
  • 2003 to 2008: Frank Sheehan[7][8]
  • 1998 to 2003: Kenneth Knight[9]
  • 1990 to 1998: Graham Meldum[9]
  • 1981 to 1990: Brian Fuller
  • 1975 to 1981: Tom Lister CBE
  • 1974 to 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 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 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:

  • 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.
  • 1 Trench Rescue Unit.

Additional vehicles and equipment that are based at Wednesbury:

  • 1 Water Support Unit.

West Midlands UK-ISAR[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]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Fire Investigation and Prevention Section (FIPS)[edit]

The Fire Investigation and Prevention Section (FIPS) was the first one formed in the United Kingdom 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]

  • 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.[15]

Sexism and racism controversy[edit]

In January 2019 it was alleged that West Midlands Fire Service 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.
  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]