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A new front line? Workforce development issues from an evolving fire service

Tom Simcock (University of Chester, Chester, UK) (Unit for Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 14 December 2020

Issue publication date: 21 June 2021




Over the past twenty years, the Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) workforce in England has experienced significant developments as part of New Labour's modernisation agenda with the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 and the increasing focus on prevention and community safety. Subsequent organisational changes and the introduction of new community safety services dynamically altered the role of fire fighters and introduced new roles into these organisations. The purpose of this paper is to explore the issues relating to an evolving fire service workforce and the tensions present in the development of new professional roles.


An exploratory qualitative critical realist case study approach was undertaken, employing semi-structured interviews and focus groups of employees across one FRS in England.


The findings of the present study identify several emerging issues from a changing fire service: in particular, the frictions between different aspects of the organisation and the tensions in the development of career “ladders” for non-operational roles.


To the author's knowledge, this is the first paper that examines the issues surrounding the development and evolution of professional roles in community safety aspects within the FRS in England.



The author would like to thank their PhD supervisors Professor Elizabeth Harlow, Professor Peter Cox, and Professor Robert Hulme for their ongoing support during the PhD. The author would further like to thank the reviewers and all those involved in providing guidance for their contribution to this paper, it has certainly helped to improve the paper and we are grateful for your support. Funding: This paper draws upon a broader PhD study funded by the University of Chester and one particular UK Fire and Rescue Service in the North-west of England. The author would like to thank the Fire and Rescue Service for being so accommodating during this research and for the openness of all those who gave their time to participate in this research.


Simcock, T. (2021), "A new front line? Workforce development issues from an evolving fire service", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 194-205.



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