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Chief Fire Officer

A Chief Fire Officer or CFO is the highest ranking Officer in British Fire and Rescue Services. There are currently 59 Chief Fire Officers serving in the United Kingdom in charge of County (or Local Authority) Fire Services.

There is also a Chief Fire Officer responsible for the Ministry of Defence Fire Services which includes the Defence Fire and Rescue Service and the RAF Fire Service.

Some UK Airport Fire Services also designate their seniors officers as CFOs. However, such officers rarely wear the rank markings of a Chief Fire Officer for many reasons.

In Scotland CFO's were traditionally referred to as Firemaster, although this title was replaced by Chief Fire Officer in Scottish brigades in 2006 when the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 came into force.

The rank is of equivalent stature to that of Chief Constable within the British Police Force, and Chief Ambulance Officer in the UK Ambulance Service

Under proposed changes Chief Fire Officers were to be renamed Brigade Managers in line with modernisation directives issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. However the title is unpopular and has so far not been used.

Other titles for this office can include 'County Fire Officer' and 'Chief Executive', neither of which are in common use. Greater Manchester FRS however use the title 'County Fire Officer and Chief Executive'.[1] In the London Fire Brigade, the CFO is known as Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning - the post is currently held by Ron Dobson, he is referred to as Commissioner Ron Dobson.[2] Chief Fire Officers in the UK are represented by the Chief Fire Officers Association, it has a separate section representing principal officers in fire and rescue services in Scotland.[3]

A change of title

The name of the rank was to be changed to 'Brigade Manager' as part of an ongoing modernisation of the fire service in the UK; however, the title was unpopular with most Chief Fire Officers who prefer to retain their traditional titles.

The title brigade manager did not convey the seniority of the Chief Officers Role, or equivalence in stature to a Chief Constable or Chief Ambulance Officer.

CFOs do occasionally attend major incidents, in December 2005, the CFO of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Roy Wilsher, spent a great deal of time at the Buncefield oil storage depot. He also hosted press conferences and was part of the major incident gold command team.[4]

The use of the title 'Chief Executive' or "Brigade Manager" is deprecated by some firefighters who believe that it creates the false impression that the post is a non-uniformed civilian role. Although the title has been adopted to reflect the modern "business approach" of many fire brigades, almost all Chief Fire Officers have progressed from frontline roles through the rank structure

A few brigades have employed civilian Chief Fire Officers. They are given the title Chief Executive to denote that they are not operationally trained firefighters


A CFO is responsible for the day-to-day command of the fire service in all areas. Ultimately however major policies and procedures have to be agreed and passed by the Fire authority to whom the CFO reports. The Fire Authority is a committee of locally elected councilors. The committee's prime responsibility is to ensure that the fire service is run properly and responsibly. In simple terms the Chief Officer is directly answerable to someone who represents the interests of the general public. The collective voice for CFOs on policy, planning and strategy in the UK is CFOA Chief Fire Officers Association, previously known as CACFOA (Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association).

Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate

Historically, many CFOs went on to join Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate, or HMFSI. It used to be known as Her Majest'y Inspector of Fire Services and was a government agency directly under the control of the Department for Communities and Local Government. The rank of appointment is known as HMFSI - separate arrangements exist in Scotland. Her Majesty's Inspectors are uniformed and seen to be superior to that of a Chief Fire Officer, however they have no power to directly command front line fire crews.

In 2007, the role of HMFSI was replaced by the office of the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser whose responsibilities extend to England and Wales. The Chief Fire & Rescue Advisor also retains the title as the dejure and de facto HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services The role of HMFSI Scotland, will continue its role and functions.[5]

A Chief Fire Officer is assisted by one Deputy Chief Fire Officer and a number of Assistant Chief Fire Officers— each of whom will be delegated with commanding one or multiple areas of fire and rescue operations such as training, vehicles and equipment, information technology or human resources.

New Zealand

According to the New Zealand Fire Service Act 1975, a Chief Fire Officer in the New Zealand Fire Service commands a single fire district. This may be a volunteer fire brigade, with a single fire station, in an outer-urban or rural area, or it may consist of several fire stations in a metropolitan area, staffed by career fire fighters. Auckland and Wellington, with their geographic sprawl, have their career stations divided into multiple districts - two in Wellington (Wellington City, which includes Porirua, and Hutt), and five in Auckland (Auckland City Central, Auckland City East, North Shore, Waitakere (west), and Manukau (south)). The other 14 cities in New Zealand that have career fire fighters are sufficiently compact geographically to allow each one to be a single fire district.

The rank badge for Chief Fire Officers is an impeller between two ferns below two impellers. They wear white helmets with two blue stripes.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Greater Manchester FRS
  2. ^ London Fire Brigade: Our Organisation (accessed 23 October 2007)
  3. ^ Chief Fire Officers Association web (accessed 18 Sep 07)
  4. ^ BBC News website - Massive blaze rages at fuel depot, 12 Dec 05, (accessed 23 Oct 07)
  5. ^ The Scottish Government - Justice: Fire, About HMFSI (accessed 18 Sep 07)
  6. ^
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