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Fighting Fire With Books

A plan that may send hundreds of Baltimore fire fighters back to school in order for them to move up the ranks sparked a good discussion on Facebook  this week.
Baltimore fire officials say in order to prepare the next generation of leaders in the fire service, they need formal education in addition to their experience in the field.

In Baltimore, education requirements will mean applicants for officer positions have to complete a series of Maryland Fire Rescue Institute and National Fire Academy courses. Captain and Battalion candidates would need to earn more college level credits in fields relevant to their work - such as fire science, management, business or public administration.

By 2019, the department is asking captain candidates to earn 30 college credits and battalion chief candidates to have an associate’s degree, and deputy chief candidates will need a bachelor’s degree.

Baltimore Fire Officers Association Local 964 has raised concerns over requirements because of expense and time for fire fighters. Local 964 says new department standards impose an unfair ceiling on the careers of fire fighters looking to move up the rank. 

Baltimore Local 964 President Michael Campbell told the Baltimore Sun, "You can't fight fire with a book.”  He said, "To ask our guys, who are severely underpaid, who have to work two jobs just to feed their families, to tell them now they have to go to school to get promoted? I think that's ridiculous."

On Facebook, some liked the idea of continuing education, but believed book learning would not replace practical real-world experience.
See what others had to say below:

"[Y]ou should at least be more intelligent than your equipment. That doesn't necessarily mean you need a college degree but further education through the fire department is a must.”

“I agree. Look at HAZMAT responses. The chemicals are getting more volatile and dangerous. A higher educated responder means a more safety conscious responder. Also, departments with a large industrial base will be better educated to deal with situations within industrial complexes. Just to name a couple of reasons higher education is needed. Don't we want our emergency responders making educated decisions before going into harm’s way? I worked up the ranks in the "old school" departments, but education is what gave me the tools to progress upward.”

“Unfortunately you cannot get a degree in common sense, experience or being a leader.”

“The only problem with this plan is you can’t teach common sense. End of story. As a 23 year veteran of a paid department, I have seen some really smart officers that were dumb as a box of rocks. wouldn't trust them with my life. Again that piece of paper can be a false hope for a better leader.”

Tell us your thoughts about the issue and join in the discussion on the Frontline Blog.

Comments (1) -

  • Reid Shimabukuro (Federal Fire Fighters Of Hawaii)

    12/19/2012 3:12:13 AM |

    We've been seeing this trend in our department for several years now.  Young, educated firefighters with little to no experience in firefighting.  There is a place for these guys and starting at the bottom is not a disgrace to their degree or intelligence.  This is a profession that requires not just common sense but field experience.  If your goal is to use your degree to make a living the fire service is probably not for you.  

    If you have a passion for helping a stranger or your community then you should have no problem with starting at the bottom.  When you reach the top it will be so much more rewarding and you will be able to pass the torch with pride.

    This profession is clearly not for everyone!  Respect the road that your brothers have paved.  Honor the Fire Service with integrity! Last, don't let your ego overshadow reality....you may not make it home one day!

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