Changes and Trends in the Fire Service

One of the reasons that I publish this blog is to engage people in Seattle FD BCconversations that help us all become more informed and educated.  Now I don’t get a “ton” of comments actually posted here on the blog (Though I hope that changes in 2014!), but I do “arouse” quite the dialogue on other social media “channels”.

When I publish a blog, it simultaneously gets posted on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (Chances are you first read it from one of those links).  Then the next day, I post it again on LinkedIn with links to several of the fire service related LinkedIn Groups that I participate in:

  • Fire Service Chief Officers (1,925 members)
  • National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (3,547)
  • FIRE CHIEF Officer Network (2,887)
  • Fire Engineering (4,296)
  • Fire News (3,260)
  • FireRescue1 Network (3,785)
  • NFA Alumni and Students (400)
  • NFA Alumni Association (2,279)
  • NFPA (58,459)

That’s where the comments can “roll in” depending upon the topic.

In 2013 I wrote a post on the topic of Important Changes/Trends in the Fire Service and here are some of the comments (edited to fit my space here) that I received from colleagues that I received in response to my question, What’s your take on changes/trends in the fire service?

(More from me at the end of the comments, so please “stay tuned”, OK?).

From a Deputy Fire Chief

Improvements in equipment and PPE.

From the Owner of Fit for Duty Consulting

Increased emphasis on health, fitness and overall well-being for firefighters including injury prevention and stress reduction strategies

From a Fire & Safety Consultant

The best trend I’ve noticed is the reduction of LODDs! We still have a long way to go, but we are beginning to understand that it’s not O.K. for us to just die.

From the Author: “10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back” & CEO

We need to seriously look at more consolidation of fire and emergency services. As a retired career FF, I’ve seen the effectiveness of automatic and mutual aid agreements between communities which are agreed upon based on response stats and geography. Now I live in an area protected by mostly volunteers or POC’s and see the challenges they have in both recruiting and retaining qualified and certified volunteers.

See Related:  “Old School” Blends with “New School”

From a Fire Captain (retired)

Robert, one of the most used, but not recognized is the Internet. With the amount of actual fires being less today than yesterday, the real life experiences for today’s firefighters are down…Many videos begin prior to fire department arrival and can be a great learning tool…The internet also provides many fire departments [with] related written articles, blogs and Facebook pages. These sites can provide large amounts of information.  Just remember some of these sites give only the author’s opinion, which may or may not be correct.

From a Fire Chief

Although there is still room for improvement, one of the biggest improvements I have seen is an overall shift towards scientific and or statistical analysis in deciding how we do things. We are developing standards of cover to decide where to allocate our resources instead of putting them where they have always been. The improvements in science, data, and analytics in the fire service have been a good thing for the fire service as those deciding how to divide scarce resources have that as a baseline expectation, which in the past we often fell short of. The improvements on the scientific front have resulted in huge improvements in structural firefighting gear, and are beginning to have people at least look at the tactics they use when attacking fire.

From a Deputy Fire Chief

Robert sings and hits the grand slam. [I swear I didn’t pay the Chief to say that!] Many firefighters with a few years on feel that they “already know this stuff”. Drilling on the skills keep them in them thinking and keeps them sharp. You can’t expect your personnel to learn the complex part of our craft without knowing the basics first.

From a member of the NFPA 150 Technical Committee at National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and a Board Certified Fire Investigator

…No one is born a firefighter, we make firefighters. Sad to say that we have jumped light-years ahead in technology but have fallen way behind in molding our upcoming generation in character, morality, and basic honor…

Public Safety Professional Seeking Employment???????????????????????????????

…I am hoping that as a younger member, I could shed a different light on one point. Concerning the cultural aspect of this discussion, it seems that many in the fire service frequently discuss the aspect of the, “newer generation”…In terms of the positive changes that need to be made within the fire service, I think that it should be a priority of each locality to instill certain traits and learning habits in newer firefighters…

From a Fire Chief

…I agree that the “newer generation” of firefighters has generated a lot of discussion in firehouses across America and possibly beyond that…We need to encourage them to utilize their strengths, but just as importantly we need to develop them in the areas we believe them to be lacking in.

Some of the things that are commonly said include:  they aren’t mechanically inclined and don’t understand small engines; they don’t socialize like we used to; and they ask why about everything. On the technical side we need to tailor our training to ensure that we develop the small engine understanding that many new recruits no longer come to us with.

On the more social side of things, we as the people manning fire departments and fire stations decide what behavior is acceptable, and what is not, which in turn becomes our organizational culture. If people are coming on board displaying behaviors that are unacceptable, we need to make sure they understand that these behaviors are not meeting our standards, and we expect them to change to meet our expectations.

This isn’t something that can come just from the Fire Chief, it must be reinforced by the command staff, company officers, and the entire department, or it will just be a lot of words that have no impact. If we can effectively do this, then we can enjoy the benefits brought in by the new generation, while still retaining some of the traits that make us all proud to be a part of the fire service.

ResponsibilityAuthorityAccountability PictureOK, I’m back.  Last March I posted a blog entitled, Responsibility, Authority & Accountability: These Aren’t Synonyms.  I followed that with a “companion blog”, How to Create an Atmosphere that Supports Motivation in Your Department, the following month.  (If you’ve not seen them, I highly recommend them, but hey, that’s just Ions_Triangleopinion).

I recommend them because I think they contain some of the key concepts that we as leaders and managers need to have in our “managerial toolbox” to successfully manage changes in our organizations.  Regardless if the changes arise from our people (generational differences) or new technologies or new information that changes the way we view strategy and tactics, it all comes

Photographs of the 19 members of Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished while fighting wildfire outside Yarnell, AZ.back to how we lead and manage, doesn’t it?

So what’s in your “toolbox”?




Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served for 26 years with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire & EMS Department.  Contact him at

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,