Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
146 Bolton Road
Tel: 0161 736 5866
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Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (then called Greater Manchester Council Fire Service) was formed on 1st April 1974 by the amalgamation of eight smaller city or county borough fire brigades and significant portions of two existing county council brigades. The new authority covered an area of 500 square miles and was served by 41 fire stations.
The first few years were a time of consolidation and improvement. The Fire Service Headquarters building was set up at Bolton Road, Swinton, where it remains today, though substantially rebuilt and modernised since 1974. The communications systems were reorganised so that all emergency calls could be handled by - at first - just two control rooms (there were previously ten covering the same area). The large, eclectic fire appliance fleet we inherited was soon replaced by more modern equipment to our own standard specification. Today, GMFRS operates one of the most up-to-date fire engine fleets in the UK.
By 1977 the first new fire station had been erected, at Stalybridge; since then several new fire stations have been completed, along with new borough command headquarters, a Technical Services Centre at Leigh and a Training Centre at Thompson Street, Manchester.
Development continued rapidly and in 1979 we commissioned the country's first fully computerised command and control system, covering the whole area. This was located in a new extension to Fire Service Headquarters, the complex being officially opened by HRH the Prince of Wales in 1979.
Operationally, Greater Manchester County comprises one of the most diverse and challenging environments for any fire and rescue service. Every day we attend a catalogue of incidents ranging from road traffic collisions to house fires and water rescues to chemical leaks. However, some incidents have stood out over the years.
In particular, the 1979 Woolworth's department store fire in central Manchester and the 1984 Massey Street (Bury) house fire. These two tragic incidents were, together, responsible for the loss of some twenty lives and considerably reinforced the brigade's campaigning efforts to improve the safety of upholstered furnishings, resulting in changes in national safety legislation.
Similarly, the 1985 Manchester Airport disaster highlighted issues concerning aircraft cabin safety which GMFRS campaigned strongly to improve.
One of the most unique and challenging incidents we have attended occurred on Saturday 15th June 1996 when an IRA bomb exploded in the heart of Manchester. Prior to the blast, fire crews assisted the Police evacuating 80/100,000 people from the city centre. When the bomb detonated, over 100 Greater Manchester firefighters battled small fires which broke out and carried out search and rescue operations rescuing people from collapsed and damaged buildings.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has always played a significant role in improving community fire safety. We have a history of running successful highly-publicised campaigns on issues such as smoke alarms, arson, attacks on firefighters and smoking.
In 1979 the Welephant children's fire safety character was conceived in Greater Manchester, though today we have many different campaigns aimed at a wide variety of vulnerable groups in the community.
The brigade's success has not only been in the operational and fire safety fields. In 1983 the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum at Rochdale opened its doors for the first time after three years work by a team of volunteers who still operate it today. The Museum offers a wide range of services such as group visits, special events. research assistance, film and TV work. Under a new arrangement, GMFRS hands over full responsibility for its museum operation to a new charitable museum trust from April 2010, whilst still offering maximum support through a unique partnership agreement.
For the future, our vision is to make Greater Manchester a safer place by being a modern, community-focused and influential fire and rescue service. Most areas receive a rapid response with the first fire engine arriving within seven minutes and the second fire engine within nine minutes.