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James Brooks, Irena Grugulis and Hugh Cook

According to official figures the last 15 years has seen a 57 per cent reduction in the number of fires attended by firefighters (Home Office 2016). This is welcome in many respects, but it represents a fundamental change in the working practice of firefighters, with greater emphasis now placed on fire protection and prevention as opposed to actual firefighting. It has also radically reshaped how firefighters learn and share knowledge. Being a front line firefighter is an occupation characterized by considerable risk, danger and uncertainty. A significant proportion of firefighters’ daily lives revolves around prosaic and mundane tasks, with much time spent checking equipment, conducting fire safety visits or cleaning out the training yard. Yet this is not the whole story, because quiet and uneventful shifts can be transformed. Within a heartbeat firefighters can face raging infernos in tower blocks or be required to undertake complex search and rescues.