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The Helsinki Fire Brigade Orchestra

The Helsinki Fire Brigade Orchestra is an amateur brass orchestra, the patron of which is the Helsinki City Rescue Department. The concert configuration orchestra features over 20 members, but smaller orchestra ensembles also give performances.

The orchestra performs at both its own concerts and events organised by the Rescue Department. The orchestra treats the staff of the Rescue Department to fantastic music at Department parties throughout the year. The citizens of Helsinki also have the opportunity to enjoy the orchestra’s brass music at occasions such as Helsinki Day on 12 June. The orchestra’s own concerts include an annual Mother’s Day concert, with soloists last year including Paula Koivuniemi, Arja Koriseva, Verneri Pohjola and Aija Puurtinen.

The orchestra’s musicians were originally sourced from the Rescue Department’s personnel, with the musicians quenching both fires and a thirst for music through their work. The current ensemble includes a broad range of professionals from different fields, all united by a fiery passion for music. Leading the orchestra is conductor Esko Heikkinen.


The orchestra naturally performs traditional brass music, but just as often conductor Heikkinen’s arrangements bring out exciting new elements in familiar compositions too. The orchestra’s repertoire stretches from light music to classical music, with vocal and instrumental soloists too! The repertoire is constantly changing depending on the performance and musicians.

Get in touch and let us know what you’re after – we can tailor our performance to suit your event! 

Bookings: Riitta Kaarenmaa, tel. +358 (0)50 541 8450 or Esko Heikkinen, tel. +358 (0)50 500 0771  

Joining the orchestra

All woodwind and brass instruments are fairly diversely represented in the Helsinki Fire Brigade Orchestra’s ensemble, numbering around 20 musicians, but there is always room for more musicians. Currently, French horn players would be particularly welcome, but there is room for musicians interested in brass music in all sections.

The orchestra rehearses on Tuesdays at 5–7.30pm at Laakso Civil Defence Shelter on Lääkärinkatu. We do not hold traditional auditions. Please contact conductor Esko Heikkinen.

More information and contacts

Esko Heikkinen, tel +358 (0)40 500 0771, email

Riitta Kaarenmaa, tel. +358 (0)50 541 8450, email

History of the orchestra

The Helsinki Fire Brigade Orchestra is the oldest orchestra of a professional fire brigade in the Nordic Countries, having been continuously active since 1898. It was founded to stimulate fire fighters, who at that time lived at the fire stations, with working hours significantly longer than their free-time hours.  The orchestra began its life as a horn septet, whose musicians were permanent fire fighters. During the early years, fire alarms only occurred a couple of times a week, so the musicians had plenty of time to rehearse under the instruction of a professional conductor whilst waiting for rescue operations.

The tradition of annual public concerts began in 1929. By this stage the horn septet had grown into a horn orchestra. Gradually the orchestra’s ensemble began to expand from a horn orchestra to a brass orchestra, including French horns, trombones, clarinets, oboes and bassoons.

By the time the civil defence operations and the fire station were merged to form the Helsinki City Rescue Department in the early 1990s, combining playing with the other duties of fire fighters was no longer possible in the same way. Gradually, the natural progression has moved towards welcoming musicians from outside the Rescue Department too. Thus the orchestra has become an amateur brass orchestra, also acting as a calling card for the Helsinki City Rescue Department. The musicians proudly represent the Rescue Department, whatever their civil profession.