Becoming a Fire Chief is a daunting task as it requires high-level education, extensive fire training and comprehensive work experience as a firefighter. This job title is achieved through promotions. They hold a supervisory position in the fire department, and manage and oversee the team of firefighters. Besides this, these professionals help in medical treatment efforts, hazardous material clean-up, and fire control and rescue.
The Fire Chief, also known as head of the fire department or chief of the fire department, is one of the highest firefighter officer ranks. These professionals are supposed to fulfill the below-given requirements:
- A diploma in high school or GED or equivalent
- A valid driver’s license
- Clear criminal record
- Certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fire science
- CPR certification, EMT or Paramedic certification
- Extensive on-the-job training as a firefighter
- Continuing education as a firefighter
- Qualify the requisite examinations and demonstrate excellent performance on the job
- Strong physical stamina
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Skills Required for Becoming a Fire Chief
Candidates aspiring to be a Fire Chief must have the following skills:
- Stress management
- Effective communication
- Problem-solving and analytics
- Time management
Aspirants are expected to possess knowledge in:
- CPR, emergency first aid, and emergency procedures
- Public safety methods and theories
- Fire control and investigation techniques
- Evidence gathering techniques
- Emergency response techniques
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Difference Between a Fire Chief and a Firefighter
Both the professions differ in terms of education and experience. To become a Fire Chief, aspirants need to complete additional training than those who want to become a Firefighter. Fire Chiefs are more experienced than firefighters. Firefighters report to Fire Chiefs while Fire Chiefs report to Fire Marshals or Fire Commissioners.
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How Long does it take to Become a Fire Chief?
It takes 10-12 years to become a Firefighter Chief. Aspirants must have at least 4-5 years of work experience as a firefighter and 2-3 years of experience as a superior officer (Firefighter Captain, Deputy Chief, etc.)
Here is the stepwise procedure to become a Fire Chief:
Step 1 – Work as a Firefighter and Get Promoted
Fire Chiefs start their career as entry-level firefighters and attain the position of Fire Chief through promotions by fulfilling their responsibilities and accomplish their tasks effectively and efficiently. As a Firefighter, aspirants are required to take up continuing education and acquire a higher degree in fire science to climb the ladder of hierarchy.
Step 2 – Acquire Advanced Skills and Credentials
Firefighters who want to become Fire Chiefs are expected to complete formal education in relevant subjects such as fire dynamics, hazardous material handling, safety codes, combustion and fire chemistry. Renew your knowledge and obtain new credentials by continuing education. You may take more specialized coursework in management and service administration.
Step 3 – Develop Strong Connections in the Community
As a Fire Chief, you will have to do various administrative tasks like introducing pilot programs and new policies, enforcing fire codes, etc. Strong connections in the community will help you seek required support to get the job done efficiently.
Step 4 – Apply for Fire Chief Job Opportunities
Search for the Fire Chief jobs via the internet, your connections or other credible sources. Prepare your professional resume and apply for the jobs.
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Fire Chief Job Description – Duties and Role
The job of a Fire Chief is exhausting, demanding, and physically draining. They will have to deal with noxious fumes and smoke that may adversely affect their health. Carrying heavy firefighting equipment while going through buildings and climbing the ladders is a part of their job.
Though the job of a Fire Chief comes with high levels of emotional and mental stress, it is rewarding too as it gives you the satisfaction of serving the people at the time of emergencies. This job provides you with a sense of fulfillment and gives you an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.
According to the IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs), the concerns and thoughts of Fire Chiefs must be focused on the safety of employees and people. Fire chiefs perform the following job duties and responsibilities:
- Providing training to firemen in firefighting and rescue training.
- Developing, implementing, and reviewing firefighting procedures and policies in confirmation with provincial and federal regulations.
- Recommending changes to firefighting laws.
- Recruiting and providing training to volunteer firefighters.
- Assigning tasks to firefighters and overseeing their performance.
- Working with emergency response committee in case of hazardous situations in order to control the fire, rescue people, cleaning up residue and debris, etc.
- Maintaining and managing the firefighting apparatus and fire station.
- Making recommendations on the repair and/or replacement of fire equipment.
- Ensuring a safe, controlled, and effective response in the event of a fire.
- Making decisions pertaining to appropriate control techniques and response at the scene of the fire.
- Ascertaining that firefighters are taking actions in a proper and safe manner.
- Ensuring public safety and enforcing municipal fire codes.
- Investigating the reasons of fire after it has been extinguished.
- Organizing fire prevention awareness and education programs.
- Maintaining records on the loss of property and injuries.
How Much does a Fire Chief Make?
According to indeed.com, as of November 1, 2018, the average hourly salary of Fire Chief ranges from $13.83 for Supervisors to $38.85 for Division Chief. Also, Fire Marshalls and Public Safety Officers earned $19.97 and $15.47, respectively.
As per payscale.com (as of October 29, 2018), the median annual pay of Fire Chiefs was $74,969 while the average hourly income was $23.00. Fire Chiefs with less than 5 years of work experience made $57,000, while those with 5-10 years of experience took home $62,000. Fire Chiefs with more than 20 years of experience were paid $77,000 per annum.
Successful completion of a degree program (associate’s, bachelor’s or certificate) in fire service management or fire science increases the chances of promotion. These degree programs impart knowledge about public safety administration and officer training, and help aspirants advance to the position of a Fire Chief. Students can take classes in firefighting strategy, fluid and thermodynamics, fire codes and inspection, fire protection, fire investigation, etc.
The U.S. National Fire Academy offers several continuing education and training programs for the candidates. Aspirants may take up any of the following degree programs:
1. Associate’s Degree
Associate’s degree is a two-year course that intends to prepare candidates for the entry-level firefighting jobs. It is provided by various accredited community and technical colleges. The coursework covers exciting topics such as fire extinguishment basics, fire codes and laws, EMT basics, fire behavior and combustion, rescue procedures, chemistry of fire science, etc.
2. Bachelor’s Degree
Bachelor’s degree, which is a 4-year degree course, aims to enhance the competence level of the aspirants and equip them with advanced skills to assume management roles. The coursework focuses on fire control, fire defense planning, emergency management, fire prevention, hazardous materials management, fire investigation, etc.
3. Master’s Degree
Master’s degree is considered the most advanced degree in fire science. You need to study for 2 years to complete this degree. This degree is the best option for those who want to attain managerial or administrative roles in their career.
License and Certification Requirements for Fire Chiefs
According to the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMT or Paramedic certification, AED and CPR certification, and a valid driver’s license are some of the basic requirements to become a firefighter. Candidates possessing state certifications in fire inspection, fire investigation, hazardous materials, etc., are given preferences in the job. A firefighter holding various certifications in related fields have better chances of getting promoted to the position of Fire Chief.
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Becoming a Fire Chief in California
California state offers Fire Chief Certification which is awarded by the State Fire Training (SFT) only after assessing the technical, leadership, and management knowledge of the candidates.
The CPSE (Center for Public Safety Excellence) and the OSFM (Office of the State Fire Marshal) both provide professional recognition for Fire Chiefs. The CPSE awards the designation of Chief Fire Officer and the OSFM awards the designation of Fire Chief.
SFT takes into account the following criteria for awarding the certification:
- Community and professional development
- Professional organization affiliations
- Competency in the categories of external system relations, essential resources, training and competency, human resources, physical resources, goals and objectives, assessment and planning, administration and governance, etc.
Fire Chief Certification is awarded by the SFT to only those candidates who have been appointed as a Fire Chief and served in that role for at least one year in a legally organized fire service agency of California. The candidate will have to notify the SFT after completing one year of service as a Fire Chief for obtaining the certification for no extra fee.
Becoming a Fire Chief in Florida
The Florida State Fire Marshal, which is comprised of the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training and the Bureau of Fire Prevention, aims to protect the environment, property, and life from the destruction of fire.
The FFCA (Florida Fire Chief’s Association) is a leading education organization in Florida for fire and emergency services professionals, which aims to advance the fire and emergency services profession through advocacy, education, and proactive leadership.
For details, visit https://www.ffca.org
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