As published in the Record Journal Wednesday June 19, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
Change recognizes shift commanders’ responsibilities, requires equivalent to associate’s degree in fire science
WALLINGFORD – As of Thursday, captains will no longer exist at the Fire Department.
A job description change that takes effect Thursday morning will give each of the four incumbent captains at the Fire Department the title of battalion chief, Fire Chief Peter Struble said Tuesday.
Captains are also known as shift commanders in Wallingford. The change gives them the recognition they deserve, he said.
“The title really needs to match what they’re doing in the field,” Struble said, adding that he has sought the title change for a long time. The new position was approved by the Town Council last week.
“It’s a big part of it for shift commanders,” Struble said of the morale boost new titles will provide. “It’s recognition for what they’re doing.”
Struble said that his duties, along with those of Deputy Chief Stephen Alsup and Richard Heidgerd, are purely administrative. Captains, however, handle the “oversight of all the emergency operations of the Fire Department,” Struble said. A job title change was sought to reflect the immense responsibility of captains, he said.
Accompanying the title change are new qualifications for the position, Struble said. All four current captains already meet the new standards, which include a higher level of certification — the equivalent of an associate’s degree in fire science, he said. The new job title does not include increased compensation.
The department encourages its firefighters to educate themselves, Struble said. Tuition assistance is offered for those who choose to attend the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks.
“A lot of this is of their own initiative,” Struble said of firefighters furthering their education. As part of the alteration to the title and job description, the existing fire lieutenant position was also revised, Struble said. The position will now require further education that previously was only preferred. All current lieutenants meet the new standards, Struble said. A firefighter must become a fire lieutenant before they can attain the position of battalion chief.
Revisions in the department mirror the structure of departments of similar size in the state. Struble said fire departments in Norwich, Danbury, Hamden, East Haven, East Hartford, Manchester, West Hartford, Branford and Milford also have battalion chiefs. Meriden has a similar structure, but instead of battalion chief, the position is titled assistant chief, Struble said.
The title change will potentially offer battalion chiefs further training opportunities at the competitive National Fire Academy in Maryland, Struble said. When scouring through applications for new trainees, the academy is more likely to accept an officer with the title of battalion chief, Struble said. Town Councilor John Sullivan called the change “wonderful,” adding that at no cost it provides training benefits to the department.
“I just can’t tell you how much I support that Wallingford Fire Department,” he said. In agreement was Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, who said, “by the time Chief Struble has brought something before the council, it’s well researched and there’s good reason for it.”