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Pros and Cons of being chief

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  • Pros and Cons of being chief

    I am an Asst. Chief of a small rural volunteer department. We are looking at appointing a chief in January. What kind of job qualifications does your dept. have? And what are the pros and cons of being chief of a volunteer department.

  • #2
    I can't give you first-hand insight, but I can tell you our requirements. Keep in mind that I'm giving you the rolled-up minimum profile of a crew member who would be eligible to run for the chief's position (all of our officers are elected):

    1. State Mod 1 certification (88 hrs.)
    2. State command certification (16 hours, I think...I haven't taken it yet)
    3. Driver/Operator certification on all apparatus (required for all officers)
    4. Minimum of seven years service with our company (prior experience doesn't matter), spent as follows (all minimums): 2 years senior FF crew (time as a junior firefighter or fire police doesn't count), 2 years Lieut. or Capt., 3 years Asst. Chief or Deputy Chief

    In practice, it takes longer than that. All officers must have all driver/operator certifications, but these take at least two years to complete and training can't start until Mod 1 certification is completed and the crew member is at least 21 years old. Since Mod 1 certification classes come up in the county only once or twice a year, it takes a year or two for anyone to actually get to take them. The years in the officer ranks are sequential (you have to start at Lieut., etc.).

    The sum of all this amounts to at least 10 years service with our company, assuming that someone could move up through the ranks at 2-3 year intervals. Add to that the certifications and the need to convince the rest of the engine crew that they want you in that position (our white helmets are pretty stable, but the crew tends to dump red helmets early if they don't feel that they are doing the job). Given that the Chief has been Chief for 17 years, and our six current officers have a sum total of about 50 years just as officers between them (and almost 100 years combined firefighting experience), that seems unlikely. As a result of these requirements, there are currently only three members (two active and one inactive due to temporary disability) who would be eligible to run against the incumbent chief if they wanted to. None of them want to, by the way.

    I leave the "pros and cons" up to those who've been there...I could only repeat what our Chief and Deputy have said over the years.


    • #3
      I am an Assistant Chief of a small all volunteer department, and have held this office for a number of years. I was also the Chief for 3 years, and there is a tremendous difference. The time requied became a real problem as I do travel in my work, not to mention that your phone never stops ringing.

      It is much more political and public relations than one suspects going in. The public gives credit for everything that goes right goes to the firefighters, and credit for everything that goes wrong goes only to the Chief.

      If you have the time to put into it, and have the desire or apptitude to deal with the political and PR side it can be a rewarding experience.

      A critical aspect of the success of being a Chief is the support and working relationship received from the other officers. Without it, the saying "it's lonely on top" becomes very true, yet you can't be "one of the boys". Even as an Asst. Chief you still have a toe in the "one of the boys" world.

      Good luck with your decision.....


      • #4
        Being the Chief requires a commentment from your family, job and of yourself. The chief of my department has been Chief for over 30 years now and has announce that he is not running for Chief next year. I have been the Deputy or Assistant for over 5 years now. Has the senior assistant chief of two stations there is alot of work that needs to be done. You must have the properly trained officer below the Chief. Somebody that can handle the everyday decisions. The Chief job is to set the goals for the upcoming year. Meet regularly with the officer. Make changes to those goals. I believe that any officers has to be a doer than a watcher. You can't make other people do a job if you won't. Also you will neveer be a good friend to all. But if you are straight forward in a nice way with your answers. Make suggestions to the younger officers. Let them take control of a scene but be there if they run into trouble. Be patient and communication with members below you. Most of all demand the best in training. I hope that this may help you. Mike



        • #5
          I am also an Assistant Chief of a small Volunteer Department. I think we all can agree on the importance of having technical skill and knowledge in the fire service, but I feel once you get into the chief ranks expecially the Chief its time to start focusing on you managment skills as well as people skills. If you were not qualified in the technical skills you probably would not be at the Asst. Chief position your at right now. But if I were to become the Chief I would really be trying to work on Managment skills and how to work with people on a good fair manner. You will be dealing with all types of problems and I'm sure you would like to have the training on how to handle all kinds of problems with todays fire service as fair as possible. Try to get involved in classes such as Command officer leadership or Managing the fire service these classes were of great help to me. There are also alot of good books in these area's also through Fire Engineering publications. Good Luck and stay safe !!

          Ronald Kay
          Assistant Chief
          Washington Twp. FD


          • #6
            Let me begin by also stating I'm an Assistant Chief in a Rural/Suburban Volunteer Department.

            I agree with Ron's comments 100%. I have seen many technically trained Chiefs who have failed in their duties due to the fact they were not able to manage people, both on the fire scene and behind the scenes. Many would rather do everything themselves than delegate assignments to junior officers. This does nothing to prepare them to move up when you leave.

            Our department also has set requirements for its officers. A Chief officer must have been a Captain for 2 years, have completed IFSTA level one, Hazmat Command school, and hold a curent EMS certification. A Captain must be a permanent member of the department More than 1 year, IFSTA level 1, EMS certification, either Rescue OPs, Initial Fire Attack, or Ladder Co. OPs.

            To move up from probie to chief takes a minimum of about 5 years, that is if your company backs you. Being a volunteer department, popular vote carries the most weight. While these requirements seem lax, they are much better than no requirements, which we had 10 years ago, and many of our neighboring departments still have. These are the minimum requirements we allow, however most of our officers will complete as many state and private fire service schools as they can.

            10 years ago we had the "Hat Racks" or "Coat Hangers" as I called them. These are the people who just wanted the white hat and coat, but did not want the duties of the position. That's not the case today. They also realize they are held responsible for their actions and non-actions in the legal system. This also weeds out many.

            But to summarize, yes you need to be highly trained in your skills as firefighter, but you will be more successful as the Chief if you are a good manager. Good Luck, be safe!


            [This message has been edited by fyrescue (edited October 23, 1999).]


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