Promoting From Battalion Chief to Fire Chief in the Fire Service

Are you considering promoting to fire chief? If so you are in the right place. Take a look at what it takes to be promoted to fire chief and see if you are ready to begin your firefighter promotional exam prep journey to become chief of a fire department. 

Fire Chief Duties & Responsibilities:

1. Department Manager 

The fire chief is responsible for making sure everything within a fire department organization is running effectively and efficiently. That means the fire chief is responsible for hiring, scheduling, training and supervising all subordinates in the department. The chief might not do all of these duties directly but are responsible for making sure they are done by delegating. It is the chief’s responsibility to make sure their personnel follow all policies and guidelines of the organization. 

2. Goals 

As the fire chief it is your responsibility to set and meet goals that are meaningful for the entire fire department. Chiefs meet with their local community boards and committees to go over short-term and long-term plans for their station and demonstrate what they are doing to meet said goals. You must be able to speak publicly and answer questions in front of large groups in regards to station activity. 

3. Personnel 

Fire chiefs are the ones that do the hiring of new employees. They handle the interview process and determine what applicants should join their team. Chiefs are also responsible for handling complaints and disciplining firefighters as deemed necessary, including dismissal of personnel when necessary. 

4. Maintenance

Fire chiefs are responsible for ensuring the maintenance of everything in their stations, apparatus, and safety equipment. They must develop a process for inspecting the equipment regularly to make sure it is in working order and being properly maintained by their crew. 

5. Administrative

It is the fire chief’s job to maintain and review all fire records, such as incidents reports, personnel files, and injury claims. They do this by preparing all necessary reports and ensuring those below them complete their reports as well. Chiefs are also responsible for making sure the budget is developed, met and maintained. The fire chief may also be asked to be involved in public education and other fire related programs throughout the community. 

6. Emergency Operations

If a fire chief is on the scene of an incident they typically will be the incident commander. They must direct all fire personnel on the scene and ensure an effective and safe response. It is the fire chief’s job to ensure everyone is safe and the incident is handled properly. Chiefs may also need to liaise with other departments and organizations on the scene of a major incident. If you want to be chief you must be a problem solver, someone who works best under pressure and can control an emergency scene. 

7. Leader

As a fire chief you must be a leader, a great one. You must motivate and support your personnel consistently. You must have a good relationship with members of the community and local community leaders that you report to. To be effective a fire chief must do what they say they are going to do. A well respected fire chief will always lead by example and be willing to get dirty with the troops on the front line.

Steps to Becoming a Fire Chief 

  1. Previous experience as a battalion chief (or captain)

  2. Obtain a college degree, typically at least a Bachelor's Degree

  3. Pass a written exam

  4. Pass a chief officer assessment center

  5. Pass an interview process, usually a panel from the city/county

The Takeaway

Becoming a fire chief is going to be a long journey that requires a lot of preparation and dedication, but it is definitely worthwhile if you desire to be a leader. As a fire chief you have the opportunity to inspire positive change in your fire department and to improve your community. When the time is right for you, step up and get working on your goal of earning promotion to fire chief and start studying for the promotional exam.