In the quiet Wisconsin woods along the western shore of Lake Michigan, some of the brightest fire service leaders assembled in a mansion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to produce Statements of National Significance to the Fire Problem in the United States. One of the treatise's 12 points...
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He continues, "I think it's very important for us (in the fire service) to transition into a profession. For us to be accepted and respected around the table with other governmental officials, we need to be professionals. That's not to say that traditional training is not important, because it is very important. I think the work of FESHE has a done a lot to standardize what we do as a profession."
In one area in particular, "recent landmark cases in fire investigation have underscored the need for education to testify on the witness stand. Before, it was just the number of years on the job and rank that could qualify you as an expert witness. Now, courts are asking where you received your formal education in fire, combustion, dynamics and analysis. All of it is coming together to raise the bar to become a professional," Collins explains.
Professional standing in the halls or city and county government also spurs the need for college degrees.
"It's what the city managers, the people who are making the decisions, expect," Collins says. "Higher education accentuates critical thinking, creative thinking and problem solving. It also allows us to understand that it's not just the fire service that is at the table, (but it also portrays) the whole picture of local government. It allows us to see ourselves as part of the team. We have alumni who come back and tell the students: 'You can be the best technical person there is and generate a technical report that is 100% accurate. But, if you do not have the grammar right…the report will discredit you.' "
EKU offers traditional brick-and-mortar classes as well as online delivery.
"The online programs are so flexible," Collins explains. "We take a full semester course and condense it into eight weeks. Yet the courses are comparable programs: The content does not change, nor do the instructors. I believe the online courses are actually harder than the on-campus variety."
As Patrick Giacobbe, a retired corporate training manager and new recruit to the staff at the Florida State Fire College reiterates:" (The Wingspread Conference Report) calls for professional status, increased mobility, career development. …I see the time for talking about higher education in the fire service is well past its prime. It's time for action."
PAUL SNODGRASS, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a firefighter with the Sarasota County, FL, Fire Department and a former fire chief. He is on the faculty at the University of Florida and an adjunct fire science instructor at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL, and Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, CA. Snodgrass holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Augsburg College and a master's degree in education from the University of Phoenix. He has been writing about, designing and teaching online courses since 2005. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.