Promoting From Operator/Engineer to Lieutenant in the Fire Service

The next step in the promotion process in the fire service is from fire apparatus engineer to fire lieutenant. Do you think you are ready to begin your firefighter promotional exam prep in order to be promoted to a lieutenant? If you are unsure keep reading to see what the job entails.

Fire Engineer

As a  fire apparatus engineer/operator you are responsible for driving, operating, and maintaining the fire apparatus you are assigned to. If you decide to promote to a lieutenant you will be given more job duties and responsibility, which you can expect to come with a promotion every time you move up the career ladder. 

Fire Lieutenant 

1. Supervise & Direct

It is the lieutenant’s job to supervise and advise all of their crews on an incident scene as well as their daily operations in and out of the fire station. That means they will supervise the driver/operator/engineer on the way to the scene, but also direct and assist their subordinates once they arrive on the incident scene as well as while at the station or even out in public. 

2. Reports

With more responsibility always seems to come more paperwork. Yes, that means it is the lieutenants job to complete any necessary reports after an incident in a timely manner. I know first hand most firefighters do not like any sort of paperwork, you took the job for the action, not to sit at the desk in the office. As you move up the ranks you will spend more and more time at a desk unfortunately, but the other benefits may make it worthwhile for you depending on your interests.

3. Maintenance

It is the engineer's job to make sure the apparatus and equipment are all in working order, but it is the lieutenant's job to make sure everything, yes everything, is in working order on the truck and in the station. They do this through constant inspections of the apparatus, equipment, and fire station and checking in with their subordinates.

4. Training

A huge part of a lieutenant or any fire officer’s responsibility is to provide training and ensure their crew(s) are ready to respond to emergency incidents. This may mean lecturing on a topic at the whiteboard all the way up to hands-on drills on such things as hose pulls, ventilation, extrication, etc. Not everyone loves speaking in front of others but at this point in your career this material should be old news. Just remember, what you are doing is helping make your crew even stronger and ready to better serve the public. It always helps to stay on top of current trends and changes in the fire service by reading current publications.

5. Discipline

Another responsibility as a lieutenant is to make sure your crew follows all of the rules and regulations set forth by your department. The lieutenant must be able to initiate or take disciplinary action against those subordinates that break departmental SOPs/SOGs. When you are working with people on a team it can be difficult to discipline your teammates but you have to remember it must be done for the safety of your team. Before you decide to promote you have to ask yourself if this is something you will be able to do, because if you can’t you can put your whole crew in danger.  

6. Attitude

A lieutenant needs to be able to adapt and be flexible to fulfill the needs of his or her crew as well the fire battalion chief that they report to. Being a good company officer takes more than just work experience, you have to have a good attitude and be willing to help and encourage those around you. It can be challenging at times, but the right attitude will help any fire lieutenant steer the ship in the right direction.

Steps to Become a Lieutenant

Now that you know the job duties that a fire service lieutenant must perform, lets see what the qualifications for the position are. 

  1. Be an Fire Apparatus Operator/Engineer (usually for at least 2 years)

  2. Pass a written exam

  3. Pass an assessment center

  4. Pass an oral interview

Some departments will require certain certifications or classes to meet the minimum qualifications for the position before you can apply. Remember every department has different qualifications, so be sure to check with your local stations so see what the requirements are. 

The Takeaway

Going from an engineer/operator to lieutenant is a big step up in the ranks. Becoming a fire officer requires a conscious decision to want to be a leader and make your department a better organization. There is a lot more responsibility given to a person in the lieutenant’s position. Are you ready for it?