PLANS to broaden the role of firefighters have been welcomed by a union boss who says the service has to evolve to meet demand for the 21st century.

A survey has been launched by the county’s police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst to get the public’s view on what the fire and rescue service should prioritise ahead of a new strategy to be published early next year.

The Fire Brigade Union has criticised the plans which could include asking fire crews to clear up following road crashes to allow traffic to flow freely again.

Secretary Alan Chinn-Shaw said he did not want the fire service to prop up Essex Police, the ambulance service or any other agencies and called for extra training to be prioritised.

But the plans have been supported by the Fire and Rescue Service Association - another national union for firefighters.

Chief executive officer Tristan Ashby said he was keen for fire services across the country to modernise to cope with a new style of demand.

He said: “The devil is in the detail but generally speaking we do not have a problem with broadening the role.

“Fire calls themselves are down by 30 or 40 per cent and in terms of our members who are paid based on the callouts they respond to it does not help recruitment and retainment.

“The public will expect emergency services to evolve to provide what is needed in the 21st century.”

Mr Ashby said he was clear firefighters should not “become ambulance technicians or firefighters” but called for better partnership working and data sharing between the emergency services.

He said: “You can have situations where emergency services attend incidents at the same time, come together but when they go away again with no more collaboration.

“We can all stand on ideologies but if the public want something to be done then are they really worried about who does it between a police officer, firefighter or ambulance technician?”

Mr Hirst said: “We want the people of Essex to benefit by the service working closely with its emergency service partners, focusing on saving lives, preventing injuries and helping vulnerable people in our communities be safe.

To respond to the consultation visit