Future of the Fire Service

"It ain’t like it used to be!" The old cliché certainly is appropriate for today’s fire service compared to yesterday’s. But, what about tomorrow—what will the fire service of the 21st century be like? The answer to that question is: It will be a fire service filled with opportunities and challenges.

The future of the fire service is being, and will continue to be, driven by changes in society. These changes include new expectations of the citizens served by the fire service—such as greater accountability for the use of public resources and improving the overall efficiency of programs and services. Members of the fire service have new expectations. Also, the fire service will continue to become more diverse, in both members and services.

"In the beginning of the next century the fire service’s mission will continue to evolve into a more broad-based risk control and management organization. The typical fire organization will deliver a wide range of emergency and non-emergency services to deal with topics such as seat belt safety, out-of-hospital health care, and other risks/hazards faced by our society."

Bill Peterson, Chief, Plano, Texas, Fire Department.

To keep pace with society, the fire service must review its current mission and determine if that mission will indeed meet the demands of the next century. The old mission of simply "saving lives and protecting property" may no longer have the depth or scope necessary to meet the expectations of the public. If, indeed, the mission must change, that change should come from within the fire service. This will require innovation, courage, and the commitment of fire service leaders at all levels, both career and volunteer. In fact, change may be the single greatest challenge facing the fire service in the next century.

City of Redding (CA) Fire Department
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