A SPECIAL service of thanksgiving has taken place to mark 40 years since the formation of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

Former Chief Fire Officer Andrew Best was among more than 100 people who attended the ceremony at our Lady and St Nicholas church in Liverpool.

Also in the congregation was Wirral mayor David Mitchell and Fire Authority members.

The event marked the point that eight separate brigades were brought together to form the Merseyside Fire Brigade on April 1, 1974.

In 2000 it was renamed Merseyside Fire Service and in 2003 was renamed Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, reflecting the range of skills and equipment firefighters now use in responding to house fires, crashes on the roads, building collapses and flooding.

Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens gave a reading at the service. He said: "Although there have been many changes to the fire and rescue service on Merseyside not least the reduction in fire deaths from 30 in 1974 to below 10 over the last few years, two things have not changed.

"That is the professionalism and dedication of the staff who make-up the Service and I pay tribute to them.

"This service of Thanksgiving, attended by those who served in the past and now, is a fitting event to remember the contribution these individuals have all made to the Merseyside population."

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Heritage and Education Centre has a host of memorabilia on show including the F8 which was in Service in 1974 in Merseyside.

The centre is based at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s headquarters in Bridle Road in Bootle.

Groups wishing to visit the education centre and Education Centre can make an appointment by calling 0151 296 4640. It is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

In 1974 the Brigade manned 66 pumps, 11 aerial appliances and nine emergency tenders based at 34 stations, two of which served the airport.

They were supported by the tenders of the Liverpool Salvage Corps and seven separate control rooms.

Half of the biggest fires to have occurred on Merseyside since 1974 took place within the first five years after formation; fire deaths averaged 30 people per year and domestic smoke detectors, home fire safety checks and Community Fire Stations were unheard of.

In 1974 there were over 60,000 999 calls received and the long hot summer of 1976 saw all time record call numbers.