London Fire Brigade
Learn more about London Fire Brigade
The London Fire Brigade or LFB is the statutory fire fighting and rescue service for London, England. It is run by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and is the third-largest fire service in the world with nearly 7000 staff of which 5800 are operational firefighters and officers.<ref>London Fire Brigade: Our staff</ref>
In 2004 it answered nearly 300,000 emergency calls, responded to 60,000 fires and over 5000 traffic accidents, making it one of the busiest fire brigades in the world. In 2005, it received over 9000 hoax calls, the highest number of all the fire brigades in the United Kingdom <ref>BT: Hoax calls cost fire service £230,000 every day</ref>
It does not provide an ambulance service, this function is performed by the London Ambulance Service as an independent NHS Trust, however all firefighters are trained in first aid and fire engines - or appliances as they are known - carry first-aid equipment including basic resuscitators.
The LFEPA consists of three directorates that all report to the commissioner - currently Sir Ken Knight <ref>London Fire Brigade: Commissioner</ref> - they are: Fire and Community Safety Directorate, Resources Directorate and Corporate Services Directorate.
The LFB's headquarters is at Lambeth, on the Albert Embankment, next to the River Thames, and close to Lambeth Bridge, but it was confirmed in November 2005, that the brigade's headquarters will be moving to a new building adjacent to the existing Southwark training centre in 2007 <ref>London Fire Brigade: News</ref>.
 Legislative powers
Fire and rescue authorities in England come under the government department that used to be known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). This department was responsible for legislation covering fire authorities. However, in 2006, a structural change to central government led to the creation of the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is now responsible for fire and resilience in England and therefore London <ref>Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website</ref>.
The new act was drafted in response to the Independent Review of the Fire Service <ref>Independent Review of the Fire Service</ref>, often referred to as the Bain Report, after its author Professor Sir George Bain. It recommended radical changes to many fire brigade working procedures and led to a national fire strike in 2002.
Further changes to the legislative, organisational and structural fabric of the brigade, which could include varying the attendance time, the location of front line pumps (fire engines) and number of personnel, plus mandatory performance targets, priorities and objectives are set by the DCLG in the form of a document called the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework. The framework is set annually by the government and applies to all brigades in England. Responsibility for the rest of the UK fire service is devolved to the various parliaments and assemblies. On UK wide issues, the Chief Fire Officers Association provides the collective voice on fire, rescue and resilience issues.<ref>Chief Fire Officers Association</ref> Membership is made up from senior officers above the rank of assistant chief officer, to chief officer or the new title of brigade manager.
- The Fire and Rescue Act 2004 repealed several acts, many going back fifty years. The full list of acts repealed can be found at:
- See also: Fire Service in the UK
Following a multitude of ad-hoc firefighting arrangements and the 1666 Great Fire of London, various insurance companies established fire fighting units to fight fires that occurred in buildings that their respective companies had insured. As the demands grew on the primitive fire brigades they began to co-operate with each other until, on January 1st,1833, the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed under the leadership of James Braidwood <ref name=LFBHist>London Fire Brigade: Key dates</ref>. With eighty firefighters and thirteen fire stations, the unit was still a private enterprise, funded by the insurance companies and as such was responsible mainly for saving material goods from fire.
Several large fires, most notably at the Palace of Westminster in 1834 <ref name=LFBHist></ref> and warehouses by the River Thames in 1861 <ref name=LFBHist></ref>, spurred the insurance companies to lobby the government to provide the Brigade at public expense and management. After due consideration, in 1865 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed<ref name=LFBHist></ref>, creating the Metropolitan Fire Brigade under the leadership of Captain (later Sir) Eyre Massey Shaw. In 1904 the Brigade was officially renamed as the London Fire Brigade<ref name=LFBHist></ref>.
During the Second World War, fire brigades were amalgamated into a single National Fire Service. The separate London Fire Brigade for the county of London was re-established in 1948<ref name=LFBHist></ref>. With the formation of Greater London in 1965, this absorbed most of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, the borough brigades for West Ham, East Ham and Croydon and parts of the Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent brigades<ref name=LFBHist></ref>.
In 1986 the Greater London Council - or GLC - was disbanded and replaced by a new statutory authority, called the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority or more simply, the LFCDA<ref name=LFBHist></ref>. On July 3, 2000, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, took over statutory responsibility from the LFCDA.
At the same time, the Greater London Authority was established to administer the LFEPA and in turn the LFB, and coordinate emergency planning for London. Consisting of the Mayor of London and other elected members; the GLA also takes responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Authority, Transport for London and other functions.
 Role structure
The traditional ranks - to the left of the column below have been replaced in the LFB, by new titles more descriptive to the job function. <ref>London Fire Brigade: Rank structure</ref>
The old titles are still in use in many of the UK's other brigades and fire authorities. <ref>FireNet: UK fire service ranks</ref>
- Firefighter = Crew Member
- Leading Firefighter = Crew Leader
- Sub Officer = Deputy Watch Commander
- Station officer = Watch Commander
- Assistant Divisional Officer = Station Commander
- Divisional Officer = Borough Commander
- Senior Divisional Officer = Division Commander
- Assistant Commissioner = Head of Directorate (Operations, Training etc)
- Deputy Commissioner = Second Officer of Brigade, or Deputy Chief Officer
- Commissioner = Chief of Brigade, or Chief Fire Officer
 Recruitment and training
Professional firefighter training lasts about four months and takes places at the LFB's specialist training centre in Southwark. On successful completion, the newly-qualified firefighter is posted to one of the fire stations within the London area to work on a shift pattern - currently two day shifts (nine hours), followed by two night shifts (15 hours), followed by four days off. Working patterns were the subject of scrutiny in Professor Bain's Independent Review of the Fire Service.<ref>Independent Review of the Fire Service, Prof Sir George Bain Pub: 16 Dec 2002</ref>
After training school, firefighters serve a one year period when they are on probation, and many choose to take formal promotion exams. Qualification and full pay are not reached until four years service has been completed. Ongoing training - both theoretical and practical continues throughout the firefighter's career.<ref>London Fire Brigade: Training</ref>
Firefighters gain promotion by taking examinations. Until July 2006, these were administered by the Fire Services Examinations Board who set national written exams for promotion to the rank of Leading firefighter, Sub-officer and Station officer (see above). <ref>Fire Services Examinations Board</ref>
Some promotion exams can be substituted by qualifications from the Institution of Fire Engineers. Firefighters and civilians - for example building inspectors, scientists, surveyors and other practising professionals take these qualifications either by written test or research.
 Firefighting, special services and fire prevention
Firefighters respond to fires<ref>Fire and Rescue Act 2004</ref>, and special services.<ref>Fire and Rescue Act 2004</ref>,<ref>Fire and Rescue Act 2004</ref> A special service is defined as every other non-fire related emergency and includes: road traffic accidents (known by all the emergency services as RTAs), chemical incidents, persons shut in lifts, persons under trains, train crashes, waterborne rescues (most notably the Marchioness sinking in 1989) and other emergencies requiring specialist rescue personnel and equipment. The full scope of a brigade's duties and powers are enshrined in The Fire and Rescue Act 2004 <ref>Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, Crown Copyright 2004, Pub: The Stationery Office</ref> <ref>The Fire and Rescue Act 2004 online publication</ref>
Firefighters and in some cases specialist teams from the brigade's Fire Investigation unit also investigate arson incidents, work alongside the police and provide evidence in court.
The other core duty of the brigade is to 'prevent damage', and day-to-day fire prevention duties.
 Firefighting cover
The London Fire Brigade provides fire cover according to a system of four risk categories, these have traditionally been used across the UK, where every building is rated from "A" risk to "D" risk <ref>London Fire Brigade: Fire cover</ref>. The risk category determines the minimum number of appliances to be sent to an incident:
Areas with high density of large buildings and/or population, for example office blocks or factories.
Three fire engines to be sent within eight minutes, the first two to arrive within five minutes.
Areas with medium density of large buildings and/or population, for example multi-storey residential blocks.
Two engines deployed, one within five minutes, the second within eight minutes.
Low density suburban areas and detached properties.
One fire engine to be sent within ten minutes.
More rural areas not covered by bands A-C.
One fire engine to be sent within twenty minutes.
The Fire and Rescue Act 2004, gives brigades the power to assist other brigades or fire authorities in what is known as mutual assistance.<ref>Fire and Rescue Act 2004</ref> The LFB played a comprehensive role in assisting Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service with the Buncefield oil fire in 2005.
The brigades that adjoin the LFB are as follows:
- Essex County Fire and Rescue Service 
- Kent Fire and Rescue Service 
- Surrey Fire and Rescue Service 
- Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service 
- Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service 
- BAA The LFB also mobilises several of its appliances to support BAA firefighters at London's Heathrow Airport, and firefighters at London City Airport
 Special services
Core services are paid for by London's council tax payers and through central government funding - known as a grant settlement; and each council tax payer's bill will include what is known as a precept - a specific part of their bill that contributes to the funding of the FRS. Those in need of the LFB's services in an emergency do not pay. But the brigade can provide additional special services for which it may charge where there is no immediate threat to life or imminent risk of injury.
Examples of these special services which may be charged for are:
- clearing of flooded commercial premises
- use of Brigade equipment for supplying or removing water
- making structures safe in cases where there is no risk of personal injury to the public
 Safety and fire prevention
LFB firefighters and 'watch officers' visit residential and commercial premises to advise on hazard risk assessment and fire prevention. They also provide safety education to schools and youth groups. Each of the London boroughs has a central fire safety office that collates and coordinates fire prevention work in accordance with legislation, and they are supported by a dedicated team of specialist officers.
 Fire stations
The LFB has 111 fire stations across the 33 London boroughs. They are staffed 24 hours per day by full-time members of the brigade, and are linked to a command and control centre located in Docklands <ref>PR Newswire: London Fire Authority's New Command and Control System Goes Live</ref>, this centre was opened in 2004, calls to it are fed from 999 operators at BT.
Some UK fire authorities use part time, or retained firefighters who live and work near their local station and are on-call, but the LFB is one of only two UK fire services where all operational staff are full-time employees. Each Station has four shifts, known as watches: red, white, blue and green; with a watch commander (Station Officer or Sub Officer) in charge. The overall management of the station is carried out by the Station Commander (Assistant Divisional Officer), who will also attend serious incidents, as well as spending time on call.
A group of around three to maybe six stations within a borough are managed by a Borough Commander (Divisional Officer) who interacts strategically on a local level with the Borough Commander for the police and the chief executive of the local authority.
Over half of the LFB's fire stations have two fire engines or appliances, also known as pumps. These are generally the busier stations with more than 2000 calls per year, or for strategic reasons, or areas considered high risk. The remaining stations have a single pump (actually known as a pump ladder or DPL) and generally attend fewer than 2000 calls per year. Many stations also have other specialist vehicles attached to them such as aerial ladders, fire rescue units, hose layers, urban search and rescue trucks, high volume pumps, incident support units, and scientific support units that assist with Hazmat incidents.
Central London stattions can attend up to 8000 calls in a year, inner city stations about 3000 to 4000 calls per year (these tend to be the stations that are busy serving the poorer densely-populated areas), and outlying or suburban fire stations may attend around 1500 calls which include road traffic accidents, grass fires and house fires.<ref>London Fire Brigade: A-Z of fire stations</ref>
Architecturally, fire stations vary in age and design from Edwardian red-brick fire houses to modern spacious blocks complete with additional specialist facilities <ref>Firefleet.co.uk gallery of London fire stations</ref>. Early fire stations were originally built with horse-drawn appliances in mind and with traditional features such as the firemen's pole, used by firefighters to gain rapid access from their upstairs accommodation quarters to the fire engine garages below when summoned. The oldest working station in London is at Clerkenwell between the City and the West End.
More modern fire stations, though constructed without such features, often have more spacious accommodation and facilities for staff of both sexes, public visitor areas such as community safety offices and other amenities. An example of these is the new fire station in Hammersmith which opened in 2003 <ref>New £7.7m fire station at Hammersmith, 2003</ref>, just a few hundred yards along the Shepherd's Bush Road from the previous local fire station which had been constructed in 1913 <ref>Hammersmith Today: Old fire station set to be a pub</ref>.
 Notable incidents
The geographical area covered by the LFB along with the major transport infrastructure; and the political, business and administrative bases typical of a capital city has seen the brigade invloved in several major incidents. A major incident, which used to be known as a major accident requires the implementation of a inter-aganecy response to a pre-determined contingency plan.
Any of the emergency services can initiate Major Incident Procedure usually from an officer on the ground. In legislative terms, in the UK the most senior fire officer is in charge of any incident involving fire, any other is the responsibility of the police, however as in the case of the 7 July bombings multiple major incidents were declared by by the fire service for the Aldgate and Edgware Road bombs, and by the London Ambulance Service for the Tavistock Square bus bomb. When a major incident is declared the services along with civilian agencies use a structural system known as gold command that allows them to follow a set procedure for incident management. Put simply gold command relates to strategic control of an incident, silver command tactical and bronze operational. The term gold command can also relate to an emergency service building, mobile control unit or other base that becomes the focal point (often remotely) for the incident's management.
Additionally, a major incident can lead to the government instigation its coordination facility known as COBRA.
Some notable major incidents where the LFB has played a significant role:
- 11 December 2005 - Buncefield Fire The UK's biggest peacetime blaze. Although the major incident at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal was attended by the LFB, it was assisting neighbouring fire brigade Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to the north of London, whose area or 'ground' the incident took place in. <ref>BBC News website: Beds, Herts and Bucks </ref>
- 7 July 2005 - London Bombings Multiple major incidents across London in which firefighters worked to MIP after close assessment enabled by the LFB's specialist equipment.<ref>.BBC News wesbsite: on this day 7 July 2005</ref>
- 5 October 1999 - Paddington Train Crash Often referred to as Ladbroke Grove Crash due to it occurring on the stretch of line in that area, two trains collided a short distance outside of Paddington Station, killing 31 people <ref>BBC News website: on this day 5 October 1990</ref>
- 8 January 1991 - Cannon Street Train Crash Two people were killed and over 500 injured <ref>BBC News website: on this day 8 January 1991</ref>
- 20 August 1989 - Sinking of the Marchioness Pleasure boat the Marchioness was struck by a dredger the Bowbelle killing 51 people. <ref>BBC news website on this day 20 August 1989 </ref>
- 12 December 1988 - Clapham Train Crash<ref>BBC News website: on this day 12 December 1988</ref> A packed commuter train passed a defective signal and ran into the back of a second train, derailing it into the path of a third coming the other way. The crash killed 35 people and seriously injured 69 others.
- 18 November 1987 - King's Cross Fire<ref>BBC News website: on this day 18 November 1987</ref> Fire broke out under a wooden escalator leading from one of the underground station platforms to the surface. The blaze and resulting smoke claimed 31 lives, including that of a Station Officer from Soho fire station, Colin Townsley.
- 28 February 1975 - Moorgate Tube Train Crash<ref>BBC News website: on this day 28 February 1975</ref> A London Underground train failed to stop and crashed into the buffers at the end of a tunnel. The driver and 42 passengers were killed.
- 1970s-1990s - IRA bombing campaign Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century, several major bombings were carried out in London by the Provisional IRA. A list of these and other bombings in London to which the LFB responded can be found here.
 The LFB and popular culture
- Fire Wars In 2003, the BBC followed the arson investigators of the LFB's Fire Investigation Unit (FIU). The two-part series, broadcast in July 2003 the documentary looked at how the LFB investigated '4000 fires where the cause was unknown'. The second programme Fire Wars: Murder Most Foul centred on one investigation.<ref> Fire Wars, Produced by Folio/Mentorn for BBC Television transmitted on 1 July 2003 & 8 July 2003</ref>
- London's Burning The television series London's Burning, shown on ITV was based on the fictional LFB 'Blackwall' fire station. The series centred on characters on the Blue Watch. It was originally a 1986 television film, written by Jack Rosenthal, the fire station used as the principal location in the drama was the LFB's Dockhead near London Bridge.<ref>London's Burning: The Movie, (IMDB)</ref>. The television series that followed the film ran from 1988 to 2002. <ref>"London's Burning" TV series, (IMDB)</ref>
- Fire! The LFB's Kingsland Road fire station in Hackney, east London was the focus of a documentary series by Thames Television for ITV, broadcast in the spring of 1991. Fire! <ref>Fire! Produced & directed by Chris Oxley/Laurel Productions for Thames Television/ITV transmitted in 1991</ref> The documentary caused an internal inquiry by the LFB after scenes were shown of firefighters having a food fight at a Christmas party in one of the programmes. Several watch members from Kingsland Road were suspended after the programme was broadcast on 27 June 1991.<ref>Ban on Party Firemen, Another TV Row, Pub Daily Mail, 28 June 1991</ref>
- Fireman! A Personal Account Former London firefighter Neil Wallington wrote an account of his experience in the LFB called "Fireman! A Personal Account", it was published in 1979. <ref>Fireman! A Personal Account, by Neil Wallington,Pub David & Charles, 22 Feb 1979, ISBN 0-7153-7723-X</ref> He chronicled his transition from a firefighter in the Croydon Fire Brigade through to his reaching the rank of Station Officer in the LFB. He went on to become the Chief Fire Officer of Devon Fire and Rescue Service and has written several books about the fire service all over the world. Fireman!... outlined the change in working conditions in the LFB in the 1970s, a time that saw the working hours of firefighters drastically reduced, and conditions improved.
- Red Watch The former ITN newsreader Gordon Honeycombe became friendly with Wallington while he was a Station Officer at Paddington fire station. In 1976, Honeycombe published an account of a serious fatal fire at a hostel in Maida Vale, in 1974 that claimed the lives of seven people including one firefighter. The resulting book was called "Red Watch", <ref>Red Watch: The best seller about a fire and the men who fought it, by Gordon Honeycombe, Pub Arrow, 17 May 1976, ISBN 0-09-126310-7 </ref> it provided a graphic account of a single incident, and outlined some of the changes to working practises that resulted from it.
 See also
 Fire related
- Fire service in the United Kingdom
- Fire Service College
- Institution of Fire Engineers
- London Fire Brigade Museum
- Eyre Massey Shaw
 Other emergency services
- London Ambulance Service
- London Air Ambulance (HEMS)
- Metropolitan Police Service
- Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
 External links
- London Fire Brigade
- Dept for Communities and Local Govt: Fire
- Cabinet Office: Acts of the UK Parliament
- Fire Bigades Union
- LFBsite (unofficial) featuring pictures of fire stations
- A23 Euston Fire Station (unofficial) site
- F22 Poplar Fire Station (unofficial) site