Emergency cover is provided by over fifty agencies. These are officially known as a fire and rescue service (FRS) which is the term used in modern legislation and by government departments. The older terms of fire brigade and fire service survive in informal usage and in the names of a few organisations. England and Wales (and formerly Scotland) have local fire services which are each overseen by a fire authority, which is made up of representatives of local governments. Fire authorities have the power to raise a Council Tax levy for funding, with the remainder coming from the government. Scotland and Northern Ireland have centralised fire services, and so their authorities are effectively committees of the devolved parliaments. The total budget for fire services in 2014-15 was £2.9 billion.
Firefighters in the United Kingdom are allowed to join unions, the main one being the Fire Brigades Union, while chief fire officers (the heads of the various FRS) are members of the Chief Fire Officers Association, which has some role in national co-ordination.
The fire services have undergone significant changes since the beginning of the 21st century, a process that has been propelled by a devolution of central government powers, new legislation and a change to operational procedures in the light of terrorism attacks and threats.