The Municipal Corporation Acts of 1867, 1876, and 1900 contained provisions permitting borough councils to adopt measures for fire protection and the setting up of fire brigades in boroughs, but no similar provisions existed for fire protection in rural areas under the control of county councils. The first enactment devoted specifically to fire protection was the Fire Brigades Act of 1906, re-enacted in 1907 and consolidated in 1908. With the introduction of this Act, which provided for the constitution of fire districts and fire boards, the Government and fire insurance underwriters were recognised as having a responsibility in fire protection and were represented on and contributed to the expenditure of fire boards. A further Fire Brigades Act in 1926 consolidated the then existing legislation and remained in force until 1949. By 1946 there were 60 constituted fire districts, each with its own fire board and fire brigade, and financed by the Crown, local authority, and insurance underwriters.
In addition to the 60 fire brigades controlled by fire boards, there were also 99 fire brigades in boroughs which were not fire districts or within fire districts. These brigades were set up under authority of the Municipal Corporations Act 1920, which contained no provision for contributions from the Crown or the insurance companies, and the whole cost, therefore, had to be borne by the local authority.
In 1938 the then Inspector of Fire Brigades, R. Girling-Butcher, made the first moves towards amending the legislation with a view to providing an organisation for war and civil emergencies, and to improve the finances of the smaller fire brigades. Negotiations continued for several years, and it was not until 1949 that the Fire Services Act, under which the Service operates today, became effective.