The National Fire Brigades Union (NFBU) dates its original back to the Midlands Fire Brigades Association which was formed in 1882 and, as the name suggests, membership consisted of the various local authority, private and industrial fire brigades in the area.
It was recognised by some serving officers that the time was appropriate to form a national organisation serving the needs of the rapidly growing number of fire brigades throughout the United Kingdom. At the time it was recorded that some 900 brigades were known to be in existence. The National Fire Brigades Union was formed in September 1887 and the Midlands Fire Brigades Association became the Midlands District of the newly formed organisation.
The new organisation quickly became recognised as the national voice and advisory body for the UK fire brigades. Its membership grew year on year from 71 brigades who signed up as original members. By the end of 1889 the membership had grown to 816 brigades. By 1914 the membership had grown to 1000 individual fire brigades. At the time the total number of brigades in existence was thought to be over 1900.
Amongst other claims, the NFBU prepared reports for Government and national bodies, set model rules and standards for brigades, established protocols for uniforms, drills, training, competitions, the design of appliances and equipment, and general organisation. Also established in 1890 was a widows and orphans fund which, through the passage of subsequent organisation names, still exists today. The national ‘Annual Camp’ became a major feature of fire brigade life when manufacturers would display and demonstrate equipment and brigades would train or take part in drill competitions.
The majority of the membership of the NFBU were from volunteer brigades and some of the growing number of professional brigades officers saw the need for a further organisation. In 1918 a trade union for firemen was formed and to avoid any confusion and to distance itself from the trade union movement, the NFBU changed its name to the National Fire Brigades Association (NFBA).