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Augusta fire chief making changes in department's educational requirements

Promotion policy is altered by fire chief

Saturday, March 17, 2012 1:22 AM
Last updated 1:56 AM
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Now that he has the opportunity to make some changes, Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James is altering the department’s educational requirements.

Fire Chief Chris James says new rules will be enforced.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
Fire Chief Chris James says new rules will be enforced.

He is relaxing them on paper, acknowledging they were not enforced consistently under the previous administration.

Before Feb. 24, each rank from lieutenant on up listed a bachelor of arts or science under “job requirements,” but people were being promoted without holding the degree. James also did not agree with requiring a college degree to qualify for lieutenant but only a high school diploma for the jump to sergeant.

The only position that requires a bachelor’s degree now is the deputy chief’s position, the person directly under James.

The first two ranks past firefighter, sergeant and lieutenant, do not require any traditional education above a high school diploma. In order to qualify for captain, the applicant must have at least one year of college credit hours.

To make battalion chief, special operations chief, fire prevention captain, fire marshal or chief training officer, the applicant needs an associate’s degree or two years of college credit.

James has also created a position called the “shift commander.” That person will oversee the entire shift, including the two battalion chiefs, and be responsible for one battalion. That person also needs an associate’s degree or equivalent college credit.

“I do agree with having educational requirements,” said James, who has a master’s degree in business administration from Brenau University. “Once you start managing personnel, you do more problem-solving, presentations and report-writing. Those qualities from formal schooling are important.”

Along with numerous certifications, each promotion requires spending at least three years in the rank below.

James said he will enforce the new requirements starting with this year’s assessments for promotion, which will be the first since 2008, even though policy states they be done every two years.

He is granting a grace period, however, to allow his people to catch up to the requirements, if necessary, in most positions.

People who qualify for a promotion to a job that requires a year of college credit will have 11/2 years to get it.

For jobs requiring two years, they will have 21/2 years to get it.

The deputy chief must have a bachelor’s degree coming in, however, because in the course of four years there will be another promotion assessment.

People currently in a position without the required education will keep the rank, James said, because they were promoted before the requirements were enforced.

James hopes that firefighters moving up the ranks will see the value in having more education.

He said other fire departments he has studied are doing similar things.

“It is in line with other fire departments our size,” James said. “Once you are a manager, it is not just a technical job.”

Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said that although there is no higher education requirement at the sheriff’s office, having college credit adds points to an applicant’s score during the promotion assessments and improves that person’s chances of being promoted.

Along with the education requirements, Augusta fire department’s promotion process includes a written test and a practical test that vary depending on the rank for which the applicant is testing.

Each applicant is ranked by score.

At the end, James is given a list ranking from the best to worst, and as the positions become available, he moves people up. 

Right now, the fire department has a few high-ranking positions unfilled, including deputy chief and James’ old position, chief training officer.

He also knows there has been some grumbling among his people.

“It will be a process,” he said. “But I believe this is the best direction for this department moving forward.”

Comments (6) Add comment
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Riverman1
93740
Points
Riverman1 03/17/12 - 05:10 am
2
2
Firemen are involved in all

Firemen are involved in all types of special planning with local hospitals, schools and industries. They have to know each facility well and know the plans of how to handle special situations at each location. Plans are constantly being updated.

It appears Chief James is moving towards realistic education goals for all. Lower requirements for the lower ranks, but making some college necessary for higher ranks.

Richmond Cty firefighters are greatly underpaid. You need these brave people who know the area and facilities unique to the county. They deserve raises before any other public employees.

allhans
24886
Points
allhans 03/17/12 - 06:27 am
0
0
Lieutenants in the armed

Lieutenants in the armed forces must have a college degree. Maybe fire departments are not as important.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 03/17/12 - 06:35 am
0
0
I believe in furthering

I believe in furthering education and having requirements but I'm wondering how these firefighters will be able to attend classes since most of them work odd schedules. There is always on-line schooling I suppose and can the degree they are required to get be in any field?

justus4
113
Points
justus4 03/17/12 - 08:04 am
0
0
Good administrative
Unpublished

Good administrative moves....but James had better master the "media Opns" because his every decision will be plastered everywhere, and notice that the previous head guy was MIA and completely out his league but little "media" attention or observations. Hmmm... wonder why? James also need to "control" the access and subject matter because he can expect the traditional complications from the usual suspects.

wondersnevercease
9218
Points
wondersnevercease 03/17/12 - 09:12 am
0
0
Yes...dumb it down
Unpublished

Yes...dumb it down ....................................

fftaz71
108
Points
fftaz71 03/17/12 - 09:21 am
0
0
ICL...one of the things about

ICL...one of the things about a firefighters schedule is that they often are able to swap portions of their shifts with other guys. When I went to college in NY we had firefighters in our classes...most of them were either paid to be there (b/c it was firefighter related) or swapping time with someone else.
Alhans...a LT in the armed forces is not the equivalent of a LT in the fire dept.-in the military an LT may be in charge of up to 250 people. A better comparison would be an NCO or an enlisted officer vs a commissioned officer. In the fire service, the LT position serves more as a learning position although the LT is able to be in charge in the lack of other officers presence. LT is where the firefighters start learning how to be managers.

allhans
24886
Points
allhans 03/17/12 - 11:50 am
0
0
fftaz71. Thanks!!!

fftaz71. Thanks!!!

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 03/17/12 - 12:08 pm
0
0
When firefighters were
Unpublished

When firefighters were battling the fire in my home, I didn't care if they could add, just extinguish the flames.

Riverman1
93740
Points
Riverman1 03/17/12 - 02:02 pm
0
0
One other point someone in

One other point someone in the media is getting wrong about firefighters. They are not interchangeable with anyone simply trained in a general way. Firefighting in any large community requires special knowledge. Their education is our money in the bank.

Sure it's not personally beneficial to support firefighters while loudly supporting law enforcement (not that BOTH don't deserve raises), but it's incredibly detrimental to the community.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 03/20/12 - 07:12 am
0
0
lets see...the chief who has
Unpublished

lets see...the chief who has a mba believes in education but relaxes the requirements to become a LT. requiring just college credits!??!?!?! so you go to college for 2 years drop out and now qualified to be a LT in the richomond county fire department.....i just don't get it, i always thought in order to be promoted a degree would be a necessity..oh yeah i forgot this is richmond county

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