Home>Fire>Fire and Rescue >Fire response times statistics published by the Home Office

Fire response times statistics published by the Home Office

21 January 2020

Statistics on the average response times to fire incidents in England (2018/19) have been published.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has voiced its concern that the latest Home Office figures show an 11-second increase in response times to primary fires and a 32-second increase in response times to secondary fires compared to 2017/8.

The report notes that, although response times to fires have been increasing gradually over the past 20 years, there was a ‘marked increase’ from 2017/18.

Primary fires are potentially more serious incidents that pose a threat to people or property. On average, primary fire response times increased by 33 seconds since 2013/14. 

The most notable is a 48 second rise in average response time to other outdoor fires.

There has also been an increase in response times to secondary fires by 32 seconds to 9 minutes 42 seconds compared with 2017/18. This is an increase of 59 seconds compared with 2013/14. However, 2018/19 also saw a 19% per cent increase in the number of secondary fires due to a spell of hot, dry weather.

Response times are one factor in dealing with emergency incidents. Fire services also consider detailed risk analysis, innovation & technology and suitably equipped highly trained crews when creating an overall approach to managing their community risk through an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP).

NFCC chair Roy Wilsher, commented: “The recent State of Fire report published by HMICFRS was positive in highlighting many areas of strength in the sector including its dedication to protect life and property and also states that fire and rescue service operational response is strong. But NFCC feel the statistical longer-term response time trends may be a cause for concern.

“The response time increase for primary fires is concerning as these are the fires where we see the most injuries, fatalities and damage to property.

“The rise in response times to secondary fires is striking. However, we are experiencing changing risk due to climate change. In the UK there is a significant rise in wildfires during the summer, but we are also seeing a rise in non-fire incidents such as flooding. 

“Fire Services are still struggling to recover from the austerity cuts of recent years which has included services seeing a 23 per cent reduction in wholetime firefighters. 

“NFCC want to see investment in the Fire Service to maintain excellence. Government must ensure fire services are sustainably funded with a move away from annual settlements which would enable better planning. They need to be resourced to risk as well as to demand, to support improvement and ensure public confidence.”

Key Results
  • The average total response time to primary fires (potentially more serious fires that harm people or cause damage to property) in England in 2018/19 was 8 minutes and 49 seconds: an increase of 11 seconds since 2017/18 and of 33 seconds since five years before in 2013/14.
  • Three types of primary fires showed an increase in average response times in 2018/19 (other buildings by 7 seconds, road vehicles by 8 seconds and other outdoor fires by 48 seconds), while the response time to dwelling fires decreased by 1 second compared with 2017/18.
  • Average total response time to secondary fires in 2018/19 (which can broadly be thought of as smaller outdoor fires, not involving people or property) increased by 32 seconds to 9 minutes 42 seconds compared with 2017/18 and increased by 59 seconds compared with 2013/14.
  • Fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) in predominantly urban areas had an average total response time of 7 minutes 41 seconds to primary fires in 2018/19: an increase of 6 seconds and 24 seconds since 2017/18 and 2013/14, respectively.
  • Average total response time to primary fires in significantly rural FRAs was 9 minutes 59 seconds in 2018/19: an increase of 13 seconds and 52 seconds since last year and five years previous, respectively.
  • Average total response time to primary fires in predominantly rural areas was 10 minutes 34 seconds in 2018/19: an increase of 18 seconds since 2017/18 and an increase of 27 seconds since 2013/14.
  • Call handling times for primary fires decreased by one second in 2018/19 to 1 minute 23 seconds, the third consecutive decrease since a peak of 1 minute 27 seconds in 2015/16. Call handling times for secondary fires increased by 3 seconds to 1 minute 47 seconds in 2018/19.
  • Crew turnout times for primary fires showed no change in 2018/19 at 1 minute 37 seconds for primary fires and 1 minute 35 seconds for secondary, remaining at the shortest time in the series following a consistent decreasing trend.
  • Drive times have increased across all fire types, up 11 seconds to 5 minutes 48 seconds for primary fires and 29 seconds to 6 minutes 20 seconds for secondary fires in 2018/19. At the England level, the increase in total response time to primary fires is entirely caused by the increase in average drive time.