Volume 22 Issue 4, 2007

Coming down off the high: Firefighters experience of readjustment following deployment

Alina Holgate, Maria Di Pietro

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


The Victoria, Australia 2006/2007 fire season was amongst the worst on record and involved the deployment of thousands of firefighters from multiple government agencies from across the State. Little research has been conducted into the typical readjustment processes of firefighters following return from deployment. There has also been little research into the emotional rewards that firefighters may experience during deployment. Sixty-six firefighting staff from an emergency response agency were interviewed about their experiences of readjustment and the subjective rewards of their tour and interview responses were content analysed using a grounded theory approach. Firefighters cited a feeling of achievement and of having made a meaningful contribution, as well as a sense of community and camaraderie, as rewards of their involvement in the firefight. Challenges to reintegration following deployment were: “coming down off the high”; feeling disoriented and detached; being cognitively preoccupied with the fires and needing to “offload”. This paper argues that the typical experience of non-clinical emergency service workers: a) involves substantial emotional rewards and b) follows a typical pattern of readjustment that may present challenges to the workers reintegration into their normal life. Suggestions are made as to how managers may better assist firefighting staff to reintegrate to their normal work role following deployment to the fireground.