Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Melbourne)

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), also known as the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, is one of the several fire services in Victoria, Australia. The others include Country Fire Authority (CFA), the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (though firefighting is not the primary role of DELWP), Forest Industry Brigades (FIBs) and a number of private firefighting services. The MFB provides firefighting, rescue, medical and hazardous material incident response services to the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The MFB's headquarters are located at the Eastern Hill Fire Station (also known as Fire Station 1) in East Melbourne.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade
Operational area
Agency overview[1]
Annual calls38,958 (2017)
Employees2,297 (2017)
Annual budgetA$407,849 (2017)
Fire chiefGreg Leach
Facilities and equipment
Official website

The MFB will be abolished in 2020 and its stations and firefighters absorbed into the newly created Fire Rescue Victoria.


The first known fire brigade in Melbourne was the volunteer Melbourne Fire Prevention Society established in 1845. Over a period of years a number of volunteer brigades were formed bearing the names of insurance companies and municipalities, and other institutions e.g. Carlton Brewery, Fitzroy Temperance. There was intense rivalry between these brigades. Buildings had wooden or metal plaques in the form of an insurance brigades coat of arms or firemark affixed to their exteriors denoting which insurance company had the building under its care. When the fire alarm was given many companies would rush to the scene, the mark would be inspected, and only the brigade that owned the mark would fight the fire while the other companies would do their best to hinder the operation. By 1890 there were 56 such volunteer brigades in Melbourne.

After several serious fires in 1890, with the loss of life of six firefighters in addition to loss of property, the Fire Brigades Act 1890 was passed with the aim of uniting these rival fire brigades. The first meeting of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) board took place on 6 March 1891, and led to the disbanding of the then 56 volunteer brigades in Melbourne on 30 April 1891 with an invitation to firefighters to join the new organisation.[2] On May 1, 1891 the Melbourne Fire Brigade became the main fire brigade in Melbourne. The first annual report of the MFB stated its strength as "59 permanent firefighters, 229 auxiliary firefighters, 4 steam fire engines, 25 horse drawn hose carts and 58 hose reels... 33 horses and 48 stations". In 1891, the Brigade attended 816 calls and 485 fires, of which 188 fires were classified as serious.

The first fire station constructed by the MFB was the Eastern Hill Fire Station, opposite St Peter's, Eastern Hill, one of the highest points in the city of Melbourne. Construction commenced in 1891 and the station opened on 3 November 1893. The building contained living quarters, stables, workshops, and offices. A watchtower was initially manned 24 hours a day. Firefighters lived on the premises until the 1970s.

In 1950, volunteer and partly-paid firefighters were discontinued in favour of solely full-time fire service. In September 1988, female firefighters were permitted to join the MFB.[2]

The MFB has more than 2200 employees, including over 1900 firefighters and almost 350 corporate staff.[3]

In 2019, legislation to abolish the MFB and replace it with a new organisation, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), passed the Parliament of Victoria. When the changes are implemented in 2020, FRV will assume all of the functions of the MFB, as well as employing all paid firefighters across the state, including those on the outskirts of Melbourne and in regional cities previously employed by the Country Fire Authority.[4]


The functions of the MFB are set out in section 2 of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958[5] as being to provide fire suppression and fire prevention services as well as emergency prevention and response services in the Metropolitan Fire District.

The MFB responds to about 38,000 calls per year for a range of Emergencies including:[3]

  • fires (structure, non-structure, bushfire)
  • hazardous incidents
  • road accident rescue
  • emergency medical response (with Ambulance Victoria)
  • automatic alarm response
  • high angle rescue
  • urban search and rescue
  • marine response

Fire stations and appliances

The Metropolitan Fire District (MFD) encompasses over 1000 square kilometres of Metropolitan Melbourne, with 47 strategically placed Fire Stations to ensure a timely response to emergencies.[6]
The MFB fire stations are listed below under the five districts which make up the MFD. Central District, Western District and Northern District combine as the North West Metro Region, while Southern District and Eastern District form the South East Metro Region.

North West Metro Region

Central District

Station Number Station Name Appliance/Callsigns
1Eastern HillP1A, P1B, UP1, LP1, CU1, DC1A, DC1B, Rehab1
2West MelbourneP2A, P2B
3CarltonP3, R3
10RichmondP10, TB10, T10A, T10B, pods: BA, BD, FDS, GP, HAR, HL, HRS, USAR-1, TRS
38South MelbourneP38A, P38B, BA38, BS38, Hazmat38
39Port MelbourneP39A, P39B
70South WharfFB1, FB2, FB4, FB6

Western District

Station Number Station Name Appliance/Callsigns
41St AlbansPT41
42NewportPT42, UP42
43Deer ParkP43, WT43
44SunshineP44, PT44, R44, DC44A, DC44B, pods: ERM, WRM-3
47FootscrayP47, LP47, T47, pods: FDS, HL, ML
48Taylors LakesPT48
49Laverton NorthPT49
50Ascot ValeP50
51Keilor EastP51A, P51B

Northern District

Station Number Station Name Appliance/Callsigns
5BroadmeadowsPT5, WT5
6Pascoe ValePT6
7ThomastownPT7, TB7, R7, DC7
14BundooraP14A, P14B

South East Metro Region

Southern District

Station Number Station Name Appliance/Callsigns
24Malvern EastP24
34HighettPT34, WT34
35WindsorP35A, P35B, LP35

Eastern District

Station Number Station Name Appliance/Callsigns
19North BalwynPT19
20Box HillP20
22RingwoodPT22, TB22
23BurwoodP23, pods: WRM-5
25OakleighP25, TB25, LP25, R25, DC25
26CroydonP26, PT26
27NunawadingPT27, R27
28Vermont SouthPT28
30TemplestoweP30, PT30
31Glen WaverleyP31, WT31

Fire appliance glossary

The MFB operates a range of appliances to match the varied firefighting and rescue roles it provides. All stations have at least one pumper or pumper tanker, while some stations also have more specialised appliances such as water tankers, ladder platforms, telebooms, heavy rescue trucks, or other support vehicles.[7]

  • Breathing Apparatus Unit (BA)
  • Breathing Apparatus Support (BS)
  • Command Unit (CU)
  • Decontamination Unit (Hazmat)
  • District Car (DC)
  • Fire Boat (FB)
  • Ladder Platform (LP)
  • Pumper (P)
  • Pumper Tanker (PT)
  • Rescue (R)
  • Rehabilitation Unit (Rehab)
  • Teleboom (TB)
  • Transporter (T)
  • Ultra Large Pumper (UP)
  • Water Tanker (WT)


  • Breathing Apparatus (BA)
  • Bulk Decontamination (BD)
  • Equipment & Resource Management (ERM)
  • Fire Duty Support (FDS)
  • General Purpose (GP)
  • High Angle Rescue (HAR)
  • Hose Layer (HL)
  • Heavy Rescue Support (HRS)
  • Mechanical Loader (ML)
  • Tipper/Rescue Support (TRS)
  • Urban Search & Rescue no.1 (USAR-1)
  • Water Recycling Module no.3 (WRM-3)
  • Water Recycling Module no.5 (WRM-5)

Emergency medical responder (EMR) program


"The introduction of an Emergency Medical Response (EMR) role is arguably the biggest change the MFB has experienced in its long history". - Commander Denis Rich

This change was not initially welcomed when first proposed by the (then) Chief Fire Officer, Jeff Godfredson. However, the benefits to the community since its introduction as a core function in 2001 cannot be denied and by the end of 2007, the number of saved lives is approaching 100.

"The aim of a first responder program should be to save lives additional to those that can be saved by optimal level of ambulance response". - Dr. Ian Millar

"First responder" is a term sometimes used to designate teams of personnel who have the equipment and skills to undertake an initial response to a given emergency situation. The term implies that a "second response" will follow, incorporating teams with specialist personnel and equipment.

The EMR program is part of an organised emergency medical system where the MFB responds simultaneously with the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) to all life-threatening medical emergencies (i.e. heart attacks, drownings, suicides, drug overdoses and severe breathing difficulties).

The origins of a fire-based EMR role have developed over many years, and whilst the medical first responder concept is relatively new within Australia, a wide range of successful first responder programs exists throughout the world. There is now considerable evidence that trained first responders who are organised and integrated into the mainstream Emergency Medical Service (EMS) can respond quickly to medical emergencies and initiate life-saving procedures.

The concept of the EMR is to save lives additional to those that can be presently saved by the current emergency ambulance response. Emergency medical responder skills and equipment are designed to prolong life for the first few minutes after a collapse and prior to the arrival of ambulance paramedics who are needed to provide a more advanced medical response, treatment and transport to hospital.

Genesis of the EMR program

The concept of an EMR role for the brigade was first initiated during Jeff Godfredson’s term as Chief Fire Officer (1988-1998). This initiative was largely influenced by his association with US Fire Services through his involvement with ICHIEFS, where he sought for the MFB to continually seek opportunities to introduce an expanded range of fire and emergency services. This included increased cooperation with other emergency services agencies, which ensured the use of available resources to improve the delivery of emergency services to the community. At the time, the MFB was also receiving criticism from the government of the time that it wasn't efficient enough, and that firefighters were not adequately utilised in emergency services.

In 1994, the Victorian Government’s Public Bodies Review Committee was the first formal forum in which the possibility of firefighters undertaking emergency medical response was raised. In its 1994 report of the Public Bodies Review Committee into the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board, the recommendation was for the MFB to "extend its role to include an emergency medical 'First Responder' role in support of, and at the request of the Metropolitan Ambulance Service."

Based on this recommendation, the MFB under CFO Godfredson’s stewardship actively supported the implementation of a first responder program that provided early access to basic life skills, particularly early defibrillation, in cases of suspected cardiac arrest.

With 47 strategically placed fire stations, an impressive fleet of primary response vehicles, and 1,400 professional firefighters, to Godfredson’s mind, the MFB’s set-up was a natural fit with emergency medical response services. The Public Bodies Review Committee agreed, noting the uniform distribution of MFB staff across the metropolitan area and the MFB's response standard of 7.7 minutes, and the capacity of firefighters to perform emergency medical response services. The committee also stated that saving life is the most important objective, regardless of who does it.

In addition to the above, the MFB commissioned KPMG Consulting in 1996 to review its emergency response function and identify the model of emergency response which best suited contemporary needs. The review outcome recommended the MFB take on a range of duties, which provide benefits to the community, labelling it as a ‘public safety model’. Under the model, it further supported the proposal that the MFB include a medical first responder function.

Early opposition

The EMR concept was introduced during a period of significant inner turmoil for both the MFB and the United Firefighters Union (UFU). New awards and enterprise bargaining agreements were being negotiated, unpleasantries were being exchanged and industrial disputes were becoming the norm. A radical change in an organisation with long-standing traditions was always going to be difficult, but in this environment, it was intensely difficult. Needless to say, the UFU and the Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) were initially wary of the idea of EMR.

The AEA, having recently endured government cost-cutting measures and industrial disputation, was concerned along with the UFU that EMR was being introduced as part of this process and that its members could lose jobs to firefighters. On this basis, the AEA and UFU initially refused to support the MFB’s proposal. It took time, careful negotiations and many hours of consultation before the unions gave their full support to the MFB's first EMR pilot program.

During 1994 the MFB and UFU had entered into a period of enterprise bargaining (EB) where EMR was incorporated as part of an EB package. At that time the EB on offer was rejected by the UFU. This subsequently meant that the EMR proposal was also rejected and training stopped.

When EB negotiations broke down completely, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission intervened, and on 4 December 1996, the commission handed down a decision on the EB package that included the introduction and trial of an emergency medical response role for firefighters.

The undertaking of an MFB EMR role began as a pilot in 1998 under the supervision of a government-appointed committee, which incorporated five sub-committees (operations, medical, training, media/pr and finance) chartered with overseeing the program’s introduction. The program was confirmed as a core activity of the MFB within the Metropolitan Fire District (MFD) in October 2001.

Training and equipment

In October 1993 a small dedicated MFB Emergency Medical Services project team was appointed by the then CFO Jeff Godfredson. The team (later to become the EMS Department), consisted of Commander Denis Rich, Senior Station Officer Allan Morton, Medical Advisor, and Dr. Ian Millar (January 1994). Subsequently, in 1996 Leading Firefighter Brian Whittaker and David Shugg from Monash University Centre for Ambulance and Paramedical Studies (MUCAPS) also joined the department. This group became responsible for all facets of the EMR first responder program, including the development and implementation of the role, training of emergency response personnel (skills acquisition, continuing education and recertification programs), development of operational and clinical procedures, researching, developing and sourcing of equipment, and development of specific support services.

The first EMR first responder training programs for firefighters were undertaken with the Ambulance Officers Training Centre (March 1994) and then Deakin University, (July–November 1994). Both these training programs were subsequently ceased, first due to political intervention and then EB industrial disputation in November 1994, which resulted in the whole EMR program being stopped by the then-CFO Jeff Godfredson, due to the UFU rejection of the Enterprise Bargaining package on offer.

During this period of cessation of the training, various overseas study tours were undertaken by members of the EMS Project Team researching the operations of Fire Service-based first responder programs:

1994 – Denis Rich (MFB) and David Ryan (MAS), - UK and USA (Joint Emergency Services Foundation Scholarship)
1995 – Dr. Ian Millar – USA and Canada
1996 – Denis Rich, Allan Morton, Dr. Ian Millar – Wellington, New Zealand
1996 – Allan Morton - USA (MFB Scholarship)
1999 – Denis Rich and Allan Morton - USA

In hindsight, the delay to the training program and the ability to study overseas models worked in favour of the development of a more suitable training program for the Melbourne environment. Training was purposely developed by the EMS Project Team to ensure the actual training delivery emphasised emergency medical life saving skills that was more appropriate for firefighters style of learning. This approach differed markedly from the traditional health science approach of emergency medical personnel, in that, training emphasised assessing and treating presenting life-threatening problems without a need to diagnose the underlying condition.

Following the two-year hiatus, training recommenced in 1997 with MUCAPS retained to deliver the training program. Faced with the mammoth task of training over 1300 operational firefighters within the required timeframe, a training course and schedule were developed to integrate with routine on-shift operations. This involved firefighters attending courses on rostered day-shifts over a 32-day period. To facilitate this, courses were run concurrently seven days per week in blocks of four, incorporating all platoons. A training program and schedule of this scale in such a new skill area was an historical first for the MFB, and has subsequently set the standard for all brigade training programs to follow.

The training program involved each firefighter receiving a short pre-course self-paced preparatory package (anatomy and physiology) and eight days of classroom and practical training. The assessment of first responders involved progressive appraisal of practical skills throughout the course, with theory and practical assessments conducted on the last day of the course. This consisted of a written theory examination, testing of crucial basic life support and equipment skills, a viva voce interview and a real-time practical scenario. Training sessions were led by an ambulance paramedic Principal Instructor, with theoretical and practical sessions facilitated by selected ambulance paramedics on a sessional basis and MFB EMS Department staff. The overall program was managed and directly supervised by the MFB EMS Department and a Training Course Coordinator, David Shugg, from MUCAPS.

EMR first responder certification is for a four-year period and subject to actively participating in continuing education (CE) and skills maintenance programs. The CE program ensures firefighters maintain their skills through monthly training sessions facilitated by visiting MAS ambulance paramedic clinical instructors, with on-going case audit and quality assurance involving ambulance personnel working in conjunction with the MFB’s EMS Department and MFB’s EMS medical advisor.

All qualified EMR first responders are also required to complete a two-day recertification program every four years. The introduction of the requirement to undertake a recertification program for EMR skills was a groundbreaking initiative for the MFB EMS Department, as previously in the history of the MFB this had not been a condition for firefighters in other core skill areas.

The sourcing of equipment for firefighters to undertake the EMR role was particularly challenging. Available ambulance and off-the-shelf first aid and oxygen resuscitation kits were found to be unsuitable for firefighter requirements, leading to the MFB EMS Department developing their own purpose-designed and built kits. These kits have since been proven to be very successful in their ease of use, robustness and storage in firefighting appliances.

The cornerstone of the EMR first responder program is the rapid application of defibrillation to the patient. The MFB was the first Australian Fire Service to utilise automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) which made the key clinical decisions automatically and could be used effectively with minimal training. The first units chosen, Laerdal HeartStart FR, were lightweight, analysed heart rhythms, decided whether a shock was needed and gave simple voice prompts and instructions.

The MFB remains at the forefront of this technology using a new and groundbreaking defibrillator data download and transfer system to store, record and transfer patient ECG and treatment information within minutes of receiving a request from a receiving hospital. All MFB primary appliances carry AED units, oxygen resuscitator, first aid kits and other life support equipment necessary for the provision of the EMR role.

Pilot program

In early January 1998, after much negotiation from all stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of the EMR program, the then Victorian state government, through the Minister for Health, determined that a conjoint six-month pilot be initiated. The primary objective of the pilot was to determine whether simultaneous dispatch of both MFB and MAS resources would lead to more rapid response times and therefore more rapid application of defibrillation for life-threatening medical emergencies involving cardiac arrest.

The EMR first responder pilot commenced in the MFB’s Southern Zone incorporating seven fire stations and nine appliances. Firefighters from the 13 surrounding stations also received first Rresponder training to ensure cover of the pilot fire stations when required. A total of 25 stations and 22 appliances were involved in the initial pilot program.

Commencing on 14 July 1998, the six-month pilot was assessed and independently evaluated by Monash University Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine utilising data collected for all cardiac arrest events attended. Initial data from the pilot study indicated that both response times and time for defibrillation were reduced in the pilot area. There was however an insufficient number of cardiac arrest cases to draw significant medical conclusions. As a consequence, on 8 February 2000, the EMR First Responder program rolled out across the whole MFD as an extended 12-month pilot. This roll-out incorporated all 46 fire stations, 58 primary fire appliances and over 1300 trained firefighters.

Following the success of the extended pilot period, the then Minister for Health (Hon John Thwaites) on 11 October 2001 confirmed the EMR First Responder program as an ongoing role and part of the core function of the MFB.

MFB EMR program timeline

1993: CFO Godfredson appoints initial EMS Project Team - Commander Denis Rich, Senior Station Officer Allan Morton, Medical Advisor, and Dr. Ian Millar.

1994: The Victorian government’s Public Bodies Review Committee recommends that "the MFB extend its role to include Emergency Medical Response".

1994: Following UFU rejection of EB package, CFO Godfredson ceases training programs.

1996: The MFB recommence consultation process with MAS, UFU and the Ambulance Union.

1996: The Australian Industrial Relations Commission handed down a decision including the introduction and trial of emergency medical response for firefighters.

1997: KPMG review recommends development of a "Public Safety Model" further supporting the proposal that the MFB undertake a medical first responder function.

1997: First Responder Steering Committee is established by Victorian Government. Five subcommittees operating under steering committee include Training, Operations, Medical, PR/Media and Finance.

1998: First Responder training program commences with MUCAPS.

1998: The first pilot program, Emergency Medical Response First Responder begins in July. This six-month program is an initiative of the Victorian Government’s Ministry of Human Services.

1999: Following the pilot program (which finished in January 1999), a Monash University review finds that response times are reduced in the pilot area.

1999: Government announces decision to extend First Responder pilot for further 12 months to incorporate whole of MFD.

2000: An extended pilot program begins on 8 February. This year-long program proves the benefits of firefighters working as first responders.

2000: 16 February - first defibrillation save by Firefighter EMR First Responders (P7A).

2001: The Victorian Government’s Minister of Health confirms emergency medical response role as part of the MFB’s core function.

2005: The joint MFB/MAS Emergency Medical Response program achieves its 50th successful team resuscitation (July).

2007: Total successful team resuscitations to date: 91.


The EMR program has allowed the MFB to build stronger connections with other Victorian emergency service providers. The benefits of sharing resources, skills and experience have also become more and more obvious. The partnership formed between the MFB and the Metropolitan Ambulance Service has proved to be an especially rewarding one, ensuring that an optimum level of patient care is delivered with life-saving results that demonstrate the benefits of shared responsibility in emergency situations.

Given that the ultimate aim of any emergency service is to save lives and protect the community, the EMR program has been an outstanding and successful achievement for the MFB and the City of Melbourne. Since its introduction the EMR program has initiated significant internal cultural change to the MFB. This change has not only been of benefit to the organisation internally, but more importantly it has helped to ensure the MFB provides a contemporary, relevant and life-saving service to the community it serves, the people of Melbourne.

"The introduction of the EMR program into the MFB has given our firefighters the skills, confidence, equipment and support not only to provide lifesaving medical assistance at EMR calls, but at all call types and emergency situations we attend on a day to day basis." - Senior Station Officer Allan Morton

See also


  1. "Annual Report 2016–2017" (PDF). Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  2. Taken from MFB website and accessed 22 May 2007, Originally from "Life Under The Bells" by Sally Wilde (ISBN 0 582 87023 2) published by Longman Cheshire in 1991
  3. MFB Annual Report 2015-2016
  4. Carey, Adam (20 June 2019). "'A lot of pain': Labor's contentious fire services reforms pass into law". The Age. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  5. Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958, section 2
  6. "Stations and District". Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) - Knowing the MFB (Stations)
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