Had something happen in our county that raised a few eyebrows and figured I would throw it out and see what the emotions are. Recently, a company in the area elected a 21-year-old chief. I had heard (nothing factual, just strictly hear-say) that some of the members had issues with this. Many of them, of course, being the older and more experienced members. I am not sure if they are upset about being outranked by a younger, less experienced individual or reasonably feel that he is incapable. Just curious to see what everyones opinion is on the situation.

I am a young officer myself. I was 21 when I was appointed to the fire sergeant position. I am confident in my abilities, both on scene and in station, as are the members under me. Our system is designed so the fire chief is elected in December and takes office in January (one year term). The chief then chooses his officers and presents them for approval of the company at the January meeting. The chief of course has his own opinions and courses that he feels an individual should have before being placed in the position. Of course, no chief would place anyone in an officer position if he/she were not comfortable being represented by this individual or having this individual making decisions be it on the fireground or in the station. I would hope that the general membership electing a chief, no matter how that particular stations system is designed, would abide by the same guidelines. I feel that as long as the individual has the knowledge (station workings, incident stabilization, personnel issues, etc.)and maturity and has demonstrated such, then age should not be an issue.

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Speaking from having been a young officer Lieutenant at 26, there is no way anyone has enough experience at 21 to do the job. Be it as an incident commander or as an administrator.
On scene, ther is just too much to learn to be competant at 21. It's not that he or she may not be mature enough, but life experience in the fire service is what 3 years. Just not enough to call on when things go bad and YOU are now responsible for lives other then your own.

As the leader of the department, you can get respect over the phone and thru email, but hte minute someone sees you it is over. You are now a kid playing grownup. And that is jsut how it is regardless of what you know.

I walked in the door in 1994 as a LT when I was transfered to Georgia and I was 26 with 10 years in the fire service and got absolutley no respect from the older guys. And very little from the younger ones. And I was well trained, with 10 years on the line.

Electing a 21 year old chief is a bad call no matter how you slice it.
Thanks for the info siren. My station has requirements in place. I think I should have been a little more specific in my discussion when I mentioned about our area. We have 11 different departments run by 11 different chiefs and all with a different way of doing just about everything. I'm not certain how their system is set up for elections and what-not. Don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about any stations. And I'm not trying to bad talk them. Please don't take it that way. It sparked numerous discussions in our area and I was curious to put it on a national level. I'm sure they have requirements also, I'm just not sure what they are because I don't run there.
Well, knowledge is one thing, but seasoning through the experience of seeing many different types of incidents and situations is a huge benefit for any leader. Unless this is a department with thousands of runs a year, and this member has made half of them, AND has been an active line FF for three years, I can't see how he could have enough experience.

Were there others who ran against this individual? What is the median age of the department? I'm kind of curious about some of the behind-the-scenes details.
Not sure about the median age of the department. And I think I heard that the AC was up for it also. Not sure if anyone else ran for it.
Two words: Good luck.

It's unfortunate that this department has put this young adult in this situation, because unless the fire company runs more fundraisers than it does emergency calls, this is a recipe for failure - not success.

They have set him up for failure. I only hope that lives are not lost in their ignorance to place an inexperienced, unprepared young adult in this position.

Nothing against this young man. I'm sure he is quite flattered by the supposed confidence they have placed in him as any young firefighter would be. His willingness to accept the position demonstrates his inherent immaturity. His false sense of readiness for the position is driven by his lack of life experience in knowing the possible and the impossible, and the difference between the two.

I'm confident that he's a fine, well intentioned, highly motivated young man but that's where my confidence would stop. I don't blame him, he doesn't know what he's in for, again, due to his inexperience and immaturity. I blame his system for allowing him to be put in that position in the first place.

And as for your comment: "Of course, no chief would place anyone in an officer position if he/she were not comfortable being represented by this individual or having this individual making decisions be it on the fireground or in the station."

I chalk that up to naivety. I've seen too many a chief who did exactly that just to reward those who voted for him or to appoint yes men that will tow the line without question. Again, giving inexperienced, ill prepared young firefighters the false sense of belonging in the positions they're placed in prematurely.

I agree with most of the replies here. There are real qualifications to consider. There are standards to follow. There needs to be quality control. There's a big difference between being a fire chief and being a leader. That doesn't get accomplished with warm-body based election processes.
I don't know the 21 year old chief...don't know what he knows...don't know his resume'...etc. What I do know is there is no substitute for experience....the longer I work as a firefighter, the more I realize just how much I still need to learn...No substitute for experience (caviat...I mean good experience, not habit of doing things one way not knowing if there is a better safer way). But I don't know this guy so thats all I can really say.
I don't really know how to start this but I'm just going to go for it. Your complaining about this "hear say" and if you were truly active you would know if this was factual or not. Another reason is your bitching about a 21 year old having a officers position, but yet at 21 years old you yourself received a officer position, or maybe you want to be chief of your department but you cant because your department does not want to take you out of diapers because they cant trust you. Maybe he has shown his peers something that you have no clue about, professionalism, or knowledge. And one reason they put younger guys at lieutenant and captain positions is to gain leadership experience and maybe during your office you showed them what a fucking rum dumb you are or showed them that, that is the highest position you can handle. While, he may have showed the guys that he knows what is going on, and impressed the guys by his knowledge and skills. Or maybe he was the only one with the classes mandated by the state, and if he did not take office, maybe they would lose there funding. It seems like the "older" generation of firefighters are always downgrading the "younger" generation. I get it all the time I am only 19 but yet have more classes (I'll list below) than most of the older guys, and you for that matter, and I do have experience. Also there are many older guys that have recognized me as a young guy that knows what to do and what is going on. Also in my department, most of our officers ask the younger firefighter's what they think they should do before they do it on a fire scene. And my department’s officers don’t need to give orders to us. Because my department all the members know what there doing on a fire scene. My fire department is compromised by mostly older guys, they like to keep the younger guys involved. Another thing most department’s don’t realize that the younger firefighters are going to be the department, and if you don’t train them now then the department is just going to be run in the ground. My department is really into training the younger members into leaders, that’s able to protect the citizens and there families.

These are my classes: Basic Firefighting For Jr's., Electrical Hazard Awareness, Hazardous Materials Awareness, WV Firefighter Lv. 1, Auto Extrication Awareness, Auto Extrication Operations, WV Firefighter Lv. 2, Arson Detection for the First Responder, NREMT First Responder, WV First Responder, WV Delmar Firefighter Lv. 1, WV Delmar Firefighter Lv. 2, Incident Command Systems, Pipeline Safety Training, NREMT EMT-B, West Virginia EMT-B, OHIO EMT-B, PENNSLYVANIA EMT-B, Emergency Vehicle Driving, Advanced Airway, Combitube Course, WV Fire Officer 1, ISO Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, EMS Continued Education, Glucometer Course, Aggressive Search Tactics, Basic Life Support Instructor, RIT operations
Wow. In posting what you did, you have really made yourself look immature. Fist off, I am simply claiming it as hear-say because that's what it is. I do not want to imply that any of it is true, because it may not be. And by implying such, I may wrongfully offend someone. I don't know what your definition is of active, but I am one of the top call runners/fundraisers for my department (busiest in my county), so so much for that statement. As I said, this is not in my department so I am not as up on the happenings in his department as I have no need to be. None of it was meant to be considered bitching and I'm sorry if you took it as such. It wouldn't make much sense to be 'bitching' when I am a young officer myself. It was merely an example. As for your training, it's quite an impressive list. However, all of the classes you have listed are either listed under my list also or incorporated into the classes I have. It is a shame that you have all these classes and preach about maturity and professionalism and yet do not have the ability to act such in a post. It was simply meant to be an opinion discussion to see how others would feel if being outranked by a younger member and it reads as though your own insecurity has led to you feeling the need to talk yourself up to others. And there's also a hint of 'I'm better than everyone else'. You have some very valid points in your statement, however, they it could have been worded a lot differently. Our officer positions are quite the contrary of your post, in fact. Our chief WILL NOT appoint someone to the position who has not demonstrated the capabilies or obtained the needed certs. (I believe I stated that in the discussion box above.) And my position was held open for me BECAUSE I was the only one with the requirements for it. I have a very good rapor in my station and elsewhere and everyone is very confident in my abilities. If they couldn't trust me, I wouldn't be where I am. I am severly disappointed that you had to use curse words and word your post the way you did. Maybe you should read things a little more closely and not just 'shoot from the hip'. Appears to me that you have a lot more learning to do than you think you do.
I have often wondered about the knowledge of a fire chief, Let me explain
I have been in the fire service for a total of 17 months I've worked hard to get my mod 1 and First responder certification's in that regard I have on my own learn what I could and am still learning.
In Oct I was elected Fire Chief of our department we have 15 certified and about 8 non. When I was approached about taking the job I questioned their choice of why me, Let me explain I am 44 yr old I was in law enforcement as a reserve for 2 years, I currently am a Superintendent for a construction company, the answer I got when I questioned it was your older, you have the ability to manage people, and you have common sense. The knowledge I have in fire fighting is limited but as should any fire fighter do I constantly learn on my own and by the mistakes I make. Here's the key being young, inexperience what ever, set your pride aside and turnover the position of I C to a experienced fire fighter. I made a promise to my fire fighters that I would never do anything to hurt them or put them in harms way.
In my area I know of a few chiefs that are rather young. However, for the most part, those companies with young chiefs seem to being doing a better job of recruiting and retaining members. Those companies seem to be able to get a full crew out the door, no matter what time of day, and once they get there get the job done in a quick and professional manner. I know in at most of these companies, the chief maybe young, but is also second generation firefighter, and grew up in the station. These companies are now some of the most progressive, well trained companies in our area. Just because these chiefs are young in age does not mean that they are uneducated or inexperienced. I too am one of those second generation firefighters that has been running around the firehouse since I was in diapers. Over those many years, I was given quite a bit of knowledge from not only my father, but most of the department members. When I was old enough to become a junior member, I already had quite a foundation of knowledge from those years of standing back and observing. To put it simply, I have a lot of respect for some of these guys, that are willing to take on the resposibility of being a chief at such a young age. I believe that it is helping mold the next generation of firefighters into something great.
you never seen me on a call, so you should not be preaching that I'm immature. and i dont have to talk my self up, i am well known in my area and surrounding countys. and about the "I'm better than everyone else" its called confidence i hear that all the time but its cause im confindent w/ all my skills and knowledge.
Your points are well made, and from the perspective of a veteran who was a SGT at 20 years old applauded. However...
A young LT or SGT are way down the chain of command and have Captains, SSGt's, etc to make decisions above their pay grade.
My point being, nothing beats experience, both life and job in making informed decisions on the fire ground. Youthful impetiousness can get ff's killed when there is not enough experience to know when to pull the plug and get out.
I agree totally that the mistake was made and now all have to live with it. He can fail or succeed based on several factors.
1. Utilize experienced officers and ff's to make deisions on the fire ground. (the Chief is still responsible however)
2. rank and file must work with not against the chief..this isnt an age issue, it works the same in every department.
3. Spend time with seasoned firefighters and LISTEN. Dont get the Im the Chief attitude. LISTEN, what they share with you from experience can be the piece of information that saves or loses a life.

I still believe this is a disaster waiting to happen, but at the same time think with the proper guidance he can get thru the year safely...and thats really what matters...right.

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