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Rethinking Fire Department Organizational Design: Establishing Operational and Administrative Divisions
Robert S. Fleming

Last modified: 2011-09-19


Contemporary fire departments face many challenges as they seek to fulfill their mission of providing fire and related emergency services to the communities that they serve and protect.  While there are certainly many challenges facing these organizations, including budgetary and staffing issues, perhaps one of the greatest challenges is the fact that the mission of most contemporary fire departments as well as the expectations of their stakeholders have significantly increased in recent years.  This is a trend in fire departments throughout the Unites States. The traditional fire department organizational structure is often described as “paramilitary.”  The chain of command from the fire chief through the probationary firefighter primarily incorporates “line” positions.  Some fire departments have added a limited number of “staff” positions over the years, but rarely are these positions organized into an “administrative division” under the direction and oversight of a senior-level fire officer.  This presentation will report on the recent reorganization experience of several fire departments in the establishment of two divisions – one responsible for Operations and the other responsible for Administration – each under the direction of a senior-level deputy fire chief reporting to the fire chief