The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, repeals the 1947 Fire Services Act. It provides primary legislation to enable local Fire and Rescue Authorities to plan and deliver services to fulfil what have now become statutory duties such as responding to road traffic accidents, chemical spills, flooding and terrorist attacks. It also places a duty on fire and rescue authorities to place even greater emphasis on fire prevention and fire protection helping to save more lives and reduce injuries from fire.
'We welcome the speedy introduction of this new legislation supporting the drive to reform the service. Society has changed fundamentally since the 1947 legislation was drafted. Populations have shifted, industry has changed in structure, travel in all its' forms has increased, hazardous goods are transported by road and rail, natural and man made disasters are an increased threat. Our role in responding to incidents in the changing environment grew and evolved but without the framework of legislation. We were constrained by earlier legislation that was more prescriptive on how we used resources. Now, we have a duty to understand our communities and provide services to meet their needs using resources as we see fit.
'For many years fire authorities have recognised the importance of fire prevention. Considerable resources have been invested in fire safety in the community, promoting fire prevention through education, fitting smoke alarms and working with partners to support vulnerable groups. These initiatives are now statutory duties meaning we can now use our resources more flexibly to further develop these core activities. We will also continue to work with the business community and other organisations to advise on fire prevention and to encourage the installation of fire protection systems.'
The Chief Fire Officers' Association was, until recently, the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers' Association which was formed in 1974 following local government re-organisation. The membership comprises almost all of the chief, deputy and assistant chief fire officers (Firemasters in Scotland) of fire and rescue services in the UK.
The association reviews and develops policies on key issues affecting the UK fire and rescue service and seeks to change or influence national policy positions where appropriate. It also provides sustainable and independent professional comment on fire service matters. It works to continually improve the professional standards of the membership and help them attain high levels of expertise and effectiveness by developing their knowledge, skills and qualifications.
The Chief Fire Officers' Association receives funding from government and in return the association provides professional advice on all fire service matters. The president of the association chairs the newly-formed practitioners' forum which brings together all the major stakeholders in the UK fire and rescue service to advise the government on how best to implement the fire and rescue service modernisation programme.