Managing a firehouse takes an incredible amount of skill. While being a fire chief does come with prestige and a higher salary, it also comes with a huge amount of responsibility.
In addition to keeping the department running smoothly, a fire chief needs to be able to work well with local officials and establish goodwill in the local community. He or she “must be a skilled communicator, a manager, a supervisor, a motivator, a mentor, an arbitrator, an organizer, a decision maker and an instructor,” according to FireEngineering.com.
What It Takes to Become Fire Chief
As a fire fighter, you must exhibit exemplary leadership skills to be successful in the role of a fire chief. Think about the officers you respect most at your fire house. Are there certain abilities and personality traits they seem to have in common?
You would probably describe them as trustworthy, honest, ethical, dedicated and passionate people. FireEngineering.com says the best leaders are good listeners who admit their mistakes and have positive attitudes. These are characteristics of a good leader.
There are also actions you can take to develop fire chief management skills. The first is to learn from others, especially as you make your way up the ranks. Don’t shy away from asking questions and figuring out what might be expected of you in a particular leadership role.
You should also strive to lead by example. Help your co-workers even when it’s not required. Get more involved at the station, and make connections in your community. Good leaders cultivate and maintain strong relationships, which makes it easier to accomplish what needs to be done.
Fire chief training requires you to invest in yourself through education and self-care. Firefighter health is directly linked to maintaining peak job performance; eat well, exercise and seek personal improvement. One way to improve yourself is to expand your knowledge by earning a BS in Fire Science to gain the theoretical and practical expertise necessary to be in a high-level position. A formal education allows fire professionals to learn new techniques and advance their current abilities, as well as develop management skills for better community leadership.
How to Succeed as Fire Chief
One of your most important responsibilities as fire chief is to be a great leader. You need to earn the respect of the people you manage and supervise while you establish and maintain discipline and efficiency throughout the department. This is no easy feat.
The following tips will help you become a good fire chief:
- Your biggest priority on the fireground is the safety of your personnel. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) says, “as chief, your thoughts and concerns have to revolve around your employees and their safety.”
- Accept the responsibility of leadership by making timely decisions and focusing on solutions to problems instead of getting frustrated. Your positive attitude will be reflected by your crew and make everyone’s job that much easier.
- Resolve conflict and face problems head-on. If a crew member is giving you trouble, address their actions and behavior, not attitude (which is a losing situation).
- Be willing to delegate. Encouraging your crew to share their ideas and take on new responsibilities, which will keep them motivated and get them working at their maximum potential.
- Act as a mentor. Share your knowledge instead of letting others struggle to figure things out for themselves. Provide praise and encouragement for their accomplishments.
- Take the time to listen to your crew and pay attention to them as individuals. Show interest in their lives outside of firefighting, too. Firehouses are like a family, and you are an important part of it.
- Never stop learning. “It’s your responsibility to stay abreast of new firefighting techniques and management styles,” says the IAFC.
- Take care of your own health and wellness in order to set a good example for others. Also, strive for self-awareness; acknowledge your biases and how they may affect the way you lead.
If you are looking to advance your career and training, consider a Bachelor of Science in Fire Science online through Anna Maria College. Our continuing education program features courses that provide the knowledge and skills you need to become a great leader.
For more information about Anna Maria’s Online BS in Fire Science, contact us today at 877-265-3201 or visit online.annamaria.edu/fire-science.
- Prziborowski, S. “What makes a good company officer?” Fireengineering.com. http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2008/07/what-makes-a-good-company-officer.html (accessed July 28, 2016).
- “Firefighter’s guide to education and training.” Firelink.monster.com. http://firelink.monster.com/education/articles/1339-firefighters-guide-to-education-and-training?page=1 (accessed July 27, 2016).
- Martin, K. “Being the new fire chief: Making a difference well worth the sacrifice.” Iafc.org. http://www.iafc.org/Operations/LegacyArticleDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=4320 (accessed July 28, 2016).
- “15 traits that make a great fire chief.” FireRescue1. http://www.firerescue1.com/cod-company-officer-development/articles/1425501-15-traits-that-make-a-great-fire-chief/ (accessed July 29, 2016).
- Pieper, S. “10 things you need to know before becoming a fire chief.” FirefighterNation. http://www.firefighternation.com/article/news-2/10-things-you-need-know-becoming-chief (accessed July 29, 2016).
- “8 traits every great fire chief has.” FireRescue1. http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-chief/articles/2184376-8-traits-every-great-fire-chief-has/ (accessed July 29, 2016).