Richmond County fire chief adds trainer to captains' job descriptions

Heavy hiring means wider training roles

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James  Jackie Ricciardi
Jackie Ricciardi

In an effort to alleviate pressure on the training staff and improve safety, Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James is changing the job description of captains in his department.

The fire department began a new training strategy Saturday that moved captains to the four ladder trucks and Station 19, which is in line to get a new ladder truck next year, and designated them as the first incident commanders and safety officers.

Traditionally, a captain was assigned to each station, was responsible for overseeing it and had contact only with his or her shift. Now, the captains on each truck are responsible for all of the stations, but only on their shift. Each ladder truck is responsible for the stations in its area.

“We need to utilize the captain’s training abilities,” James said. Part of the job description of captain means they
have a Fire Instructor 1 certification.

Because hiring did not occur consistently before he became chief this year, James has been filling about 40 vacant spots, which has occupied his dedicated training staff. Since the three-person training department has been busy with new recruits, the staff has had difficulty getting to all 19 stations James said.

“Although it has been the responsibility of the company officer to train their individual companies and the battalion chief’s to conduct multicompany training with their battalions, it has been difficult to standardize training,” James said in a department memo. “Part of this difficulty lies in the chronic understaffing of the Training Division.”

He said by making the captains’ trainers for their given territory, it will free up the training staff to develop courses to share with the department.

James said the captains’ new job description will also include more emphasis on safety.

“Every time I hear that a firefighter is being transported to the hospital, or I look at the list of personnel on salary continuation or workers’ compensation, I ask myself what could have been done to prevent that injury,” James said in the memo.

The captains will now serve as safety officers on scene because ladder trucks are sent to every structure fire, he said. Before, a safety officer wasn’t always on scene, James added.

He conceded the change is a significant shift for the department but he said it addresses safety concerns and will be a way to enforce new standards.

“The captains will have to turn training in, the firefighters will sign something saying what training they participated in, and the battalion chiefs will make sure it’s happening,” James said. “This
will be the same for every territory.”

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augustafireofficer 10/01/12 - 10:36 pm
Augusta Fire Chief's New Idea

I am a Officer on the fire department and this is the first we have heard of this plan. I suspect the new Chief has a hidden agenda and is hiding behind this plan. If Chief James is confident with this plan it looks like he would have a least discussed this with his own department before putting it in the media. Chief James went from a Sgt. to Chief in a short time skipping ranks and was never a station officer Lt. or Capt.(Thanks Again Ronny Few!!) and has no idea of the job in the station or fire scene. He has never even commanded a fire in his entire career. His inexperience is showing as we all suspected it would. This idea will put the most experience firefighters outside the burning buildings, putting in the new inexperience firefighters inside by alone. Instead of being safer you will have more injuries to firefighters and the taxpayers.This is a untested plan and that will get us hurt or killed. In the artical he stated that all Captains are certified training officers, this is false along with several other statements Please interview the officers in the department on this issue. I promise we will paint a different picture of this plan. The fact of the matter is we try and be as safe as we can in a unsafe enviroment but we cannot prevent all injuries to ourselves at all times. Firefighters get hurt and killed unfortunatly That is the job. We knew this when we joined the department. Augusta you have another Ronnie Few in the Fire Chiefs office. Please take a stand!! :(

RunningMan 10/01/12 - 10:17 pm
Take Your Concerns to the Chief

Why not take your concerns regarding the new plan to your Chief, instead of making them public in this forum? Seems like you might have a hidden agenda as well.

augustafireofficer 10/01/12 - 10:51 pm
Running man

Its kind of hard to when we had no idea this was happening. I have no hidden agenda. I love the department and my city thats the bottom line. I just want my fellow firefighters to go home safe to thier family. I have no ill feelings towards the Chief, He isnt a bad guy, He just doesnt understand the job and is making a decision that he is not qualified for. Go to any station and talk to the officer and you will get the truth.

SemperParatus 10/02/12 - 05:23 pm
Say it ain't so

According to the firefighter's comments above, "Chief James went from a Sgt. to Chief in a short time skipping ranks and was never a station officer (Lt. or Capt.) and has no idea of the job in the station or fire scene. He has never even commanded a fire in his entire career."

Are you kidding me? The Augusta Fire Department's new chief has never served as a captain or lieutenant in a fire station?

Based on what credentials did the administrator and commissioners make the decision to promote Chris James to fire chief?

Sweet son
Sweet son 10/02/12 - 05:58 pm

Thanks for pointing out the irregularities in the hiring process for the chief. If he had no experience for the job then what did he have that would make the Commission place him in the job? He already seems like he likes a lot of coverage in the press for his actions. We will just have to wait and see if he can step up or fall on his face. Even if he fails miserably he will remain in the position. Kinda like good ole boy stuff but we all know that phrase usually applies to whites.

Might be pulled for this one so don't even bother to send me an email.

chuck666 10/03/12 - 02:07 pm
Fire Department weaking every day.

I'm an Officer with the Augusta Fire Department for more than 25 plus years. The Augusta Fire Department in the past year has been weakened to its lowest point I have seen in my career. I don't blame Chief James for taking advantage of his friendship with many local politicians in obtaining his Chiefs Job. When Chief Few came to Augusta he helped Chief James obtain the rank of Training Chief in only a few months. Chief James was also given the opportunity to go to EMT and Paramedic Schools while on duty. Chief James served as The Training Chief of The Augusta Fire Department for more than 10 years. In that time frame Chief James was allowed to sit in his office and work on obtaining his educational degree. I don’t have any hard feelings for Chief James taking advantage of the opportunities given him. The issue I have with this time frame is that he was the only Fire Department member given the opportunity to advance his education while on the clock. The 10 plus years as Augusta Fire Department Training Chief he did little to nothing for the men and women on the department. He only helped himself. During this time frame he also learned how to play politics. He has friends on the Commission and State Senate level. It is funny that when Fred Russell started to support Chief James for Fire Chief the three Commissioners that where calling for his firing as Administrator haven’t asked for his removal from that point onward.

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