Mapped: London’s Fire Engine Callouts


This map shows the geography of fire engine callouts across London between January and September 2011. Each of the 144,000 or so lines represents a fire engine (pump) attending an incident (rounded to the nearest 100m) and they have been coloured according to the broad type of incident attended. These incident types have been further broken down in the bar chart on the bottom right. False alarms (in blue), for example, can be malicious (fortunately these are fairly rare), genuine or triggered by an automatic fire alarm (AFA). As the map shows, false alarms – thanks I guess to AFAs in office buildings – seem most common in central London.


Actual fires occupy fewer fire engines than false alarms and other services (such as road traffic collisions (RTCs) and flooding), but as one might expect they appear to be a greater part of the incidents attended in more residential areas. As this map demonstrates, the London Fire Brigade deals with a huge number of incidents, and it is great that they have shared the data to help us study them.



The data used for my map were requested back in February by the Financial Times who wanted to map London Fire Brigade’s response times to illustrate the possible impact of proposed fire station closures. The full dataset covers 5 years and is available on the London Datastore (data link here). The data are provided as a .csv file that can be easily uploaded into a database for analysis and visualisation. There is even a comprehensive metadata table to explain what is going on and an email address of a person to contact.

Within the dataset, the primary and secondary fire stations that send fire engines are listed and it is these that generate a line on the map above. For many incidents it is hard to tell how many fire engines went from each station (only the total is provided) so I have left this information off the map, simply showing the link between the station(s) and incident as a single line. That said I have used fire engine callouts in the map and bar chart, not simply number of incidents as I wanted to give an impression of the resources deployed in each case.


  1. James Smith

    Hey James,

    Hope you’re well. Nice work as always. It occurs to me that it’d be nice to re-do this but using the road network. I’m working on something similar at the moment so might have a crack at it soon…


    1. James Author

      Hi James, glad you like it. I thought about doing this too- I think the challenge will be preserving the link between stations and incidents as the same roads will be used for multiple incidents.

  2. Clare

    Interesting visualisation James. Do you intend to do anything further with it?
    I work at GMFRS and I am using a similar method to explore “out of target” mobilisations, which helps us to target resources and more importantly target prevention activities to those places we cant easily get to. I’m also using straight lines to visualise – I already know the travel time so I don’t need the GIS to work it out for me.

    1. James Author

      Glad you like it. I have no plans to take this further at the moment. I did the visualisation to help draw attention to the data as I think it is a great resource for spatial analysis and modelling.

  3. Anubhav

    The visualization is very interesting. I’m working on a similar kind of project to analyze response times of fire halls.
    Can you please tell me how did you geolocate the fire stations, because the co-ordinates are available for the incidents but not for the stations?
    Any help would be appreciated.

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