The Fire Service’s Role is Changing.

Here’s what you should know.

  • Posted on June 21, 2023

In early 2023, we aggregated data from over 4,527,591 calls received by 1,461 fire departments nationally in 2022, using this data to track shifts in collective incident types and compare it to previous years. Through this data, we hope that fire departments are better able to identify rising trends nationally, individually understand their own department’s incidents, and be more proactive in preparing their team for future calls.

Fire departments’ shifting responsibilities

Last year, 68% of the total calls fire departments received were EMS related and only 3% were fire related. The good news is that fire calls have steadily decreased overall in recent years thanks to the increase in community risk reduction and the advent of more fire-resistant building materials. On the other hand, fire service’s involvement with EMS has continued to rise due to the increased need for community response and engagement caused by COVID-19.

Partnering up to protect

Your department can help decrease your community’s EMS call volume by partnering to cut down on repeat calls. Agencies and departments should consider providing information to resources like community programs and nurse triage lines. You can also proactively help to reduce calls by providing fall prevention services, opioid overdose prevention, health and wellness education, and assistance for patients unable to leave home. If you’re interested in more ways to assist your local EMS teams, check in with your community health partners to learn how to address their specific needs.

Focus on residential fires

When it came to the actual fire calls in 2022, 80% were residential based, meaning one or two-family units and multifamily units. While this number remains consistent with 2021, we have seen a steady increase in the rise of residential fires post-pandemic due to the popularity of hybrid and remote work. To decrease the likelihood of residential fires within your community, your department can continue to push for fire prevention education, such as cooking and electrical safety, and safe disposal of cigarettes and firewood ash, as well as promote initiatives related to smoke detectors and sprinklers. If you’re interested in educational resources specific to residential fire prevention, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers helpful toolkits.

Understanding our environment

Within the residential based calls, structure fires were the most common fire type reported, making up 31% of all calls. Outside rubbish fires came in second at 24% and natural vegetation fires came in third at 22%. The higher number of natural vegetation fires over the past few years may be due to changing weather patterns that result in longer, more active wildfire seasons with larger burn areas. While we do realize that not all areas are equally impacted by wildfires, nearly 45 million homes and 72,000 communities in the U.S. are currently at risk to the threat. To learn more on wildfire prevention and management, check out the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the US Forest Service’s toolkits.

Knowledge is power

As fire department’s responsibilities shift to include more EMS-related calls than fire services, we need to ensure we are keeping up with the changing demands of our industry. Understanding trends in data allows us to better use our resources to prepare our teams, provide preventative resources, and partner with our community health services teams to better keep our communities safe. For more fire insights and best practices based on industry data, check out the ESO Fire Index today.