A fire chief is the highest-ranking member of a fire department. He organizes and directs the fire and rescue team to minimize the loss of life, injury or property. The fire chief not only leads his firefighters as they fight fires, but the chief also serves as chief administrator of the fire department. This makes him responsible for working with supervisors to create budgets and implement local safety ordinances.
Training and Education
A fire chief may work his way up the ranks to earn the title, but most municipalities advanced classroom training in addition to the work experience. Many cities require that the chief have a bachelor’s degree in fire science or a management development program. Others require a master’s degree. A fire chief may also be required to have chief fire officer and executive fire officer training from the National Fire Academy. Once the fire chief meets the standards for these credentials, he must continue his education and training to maintain them.
An effective fire chief divides his time between his office responsibilities and time in the field working with firefighters. The chief practices with his staff to develop the necessary skills to perform their jobs in any emergency. During an emergency, the fire chief is in command. In an administrative capacity, the chief maintains records of all fires and their causes, damage amounts and injuries, and he carefully monitors the budget throughout the year. The fire chief serves as a public liaison, and offers educational programs in schools and for civic groups.
The fire chief must have strong organizational and management skills. He must be familiar with computers and the software used to maintain records, as well as basic office equipment. Knowledge of building construction and safe building codes is essential, as is expertise in maintaining firefighting equipment. The fire chief must have the physical skills and stamina necessary to perform many
Job Outlook and Salary
O*NET Online projects that the demand for fire chiefs will increase between 3 and 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than the average rate of increase for all other occupations. O*NET lists median annual wages for fire chiefs in 2011 at $69,150. By comparison, the average annual salary for firefighters in 2010 was $45,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- FireFighterNation: Credentials vs. Competence
- Town of New Hampton (New Hampshire): Fire Chief Job Description and Selection Guidelines
- International City/Council Management Association: Fire Chief Job Description
- O*NET Online: Summary Report for: 33-1021.01 - Municipal Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Firefighters
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