Promoting from Lieutenant to Captain in the Fire Service

After being a fire lieutenant and gaining knowledge and experience it may be time to consider a promotion to fire captain. Are you ready to begin your firefighter promotional exam prep and test to become a captain and take over this new leadership position? Let’s find out. 

Lieutenant Recap

As a lieutenant in the fire service you are responsible for the emergency response of an engine or truck company as well as management of resources and personnel. As a lieutenant you are given a lot of responsibility and control, but as a captain the responsibilities and expectations get even greater. A big career change like this may not be for everyone.


1. Daily Operations

A fire captain is responsible to oversee the daily emergency and nonemergency operations of a fire station. This means, you assign work tasks, make sure said tasks and regular duties are performed to your fire department standards, and if there is a problem it is your job to resolve it. Supervising apparatus/equipment maintenance is also part of the responsibility of the fire captain. They must ensure that personnel are keeping all equipment properly maintained and in working order. 

2. Incident Commander

A fire captain is usually the highest ranking officer on the scene of an incident initially and therefore in charge of the scene until a chief officer arrives. A captain is responsible for directing his crew to perform firefighting, rescue, and medical aid tasks. A captain must be willing to do the work of those below him also,so it is important for the captain to maintain his skills as well as his command presence. A captain must have the confidence to handle any and all emergency situations, just like you must have the confidence to make the decision to promote. 

3. Training

Captains manage the training of their crew and new personnel. It is the captain’s job to ensure every member of their crew is fit to do the job and is given the opportunity to improve their skills. The captain also must remain up to date on all new technology and advances that may benefit their station or apparatus. Records management is a large part of training that falls onto the captain for completing training reports to document completed training. 

4. Management

Captains receive reports and input from lieutenants and the rest of the personnel in their station. The fire captain is then responsible for making administrative decisions based off the input. As a fire captain you are responsible for making the tough decisions sometimes so your management skills must be up to par. Those decisions could be split second decisions on the scene of an emergency like all firefighters face, or more long term staffing or training decisions. As a captain it is your responsibility to do what is best for your crew always. Management includes all of the not so fun stuff, like making sure equipment is up to date and ordering new equipment and supplies when necessary. 

5. Goals

It is the fire captain’s job to set and meet goals for their station and for the individual firefighters. As a captain you need to motivate your crew to get the job done well and reach any and all goals. Having goals and objectives for your team is an important aspect in leadership and motivation. A fire captain should serve as a coach, mentor and leader for those under their command. 

6. Public Involvement

As a fire captain you may be asked to work face-to-face with the community more. For example, you may be asked to go to schools to do presentations or do public education activities for members of the community. You may also be asked to speak to the media on behalf of your station. In addition, captains may be asked to be on special committees and participate in group meetings with other members of fire service leadership.

Steps to Become a Fire Captain:

  1. May be required to have a College Degree 

  2. Promote to lieutenant or other rank for set amount of time

  3. Pass a written promotional exam

  4. Pass a fire officer assessment center

  5. Participate in a chief’s interview

Remember, every fire department will have their own requirements so be sure to find out the specific requirements for the station you are applying for. Also, every station job duties may vary. It pays to read the specific job requirements and qualifications for your department.

The Takeaway

If you want to be a leader, it is time to get to work and begin the process of getting promoted to the rank of fire captain. Don’t let your fears and worries hold you back. Besides, you are still riding in a fire engine and responding to emergencies instead of being stuck behind a desk all the time.