Greater Educational Opportunities Ahead
Several occurrences at the recently concluded International Association of Fire Chiefs Conference focus attention on the fact that the fire service itself has recognized the thirst of its members for broader knowledge. It is also aware that immediate steps must be taken to meet this demand if it is to continue to attract the caliber of personnel necessary to improve the standards of the service.
Practically all men who attended the Administrative Institutes conducted by the IAFC immediately prior to the conference were unanimous in the opinion that these sessions were the finest ever held. The clamor for more of the same to be held in conjunction with the conference was substantial. The conclusion was that if similar institutes were scheduled, the annual meetings of the IAFC could be the most productive and rewarding educational sessions offered by any association.
A number of speakers at the conference pointed out to the assembled chiefs compelling factors which tend to reinforce the growing demand for better educational opportunities. One of these, City Manager E. Royden Colter of Windsor, Ontario, bluntly stated that the effectiveness of the fire service in the future depends to a large extent on the type of people recruited and the ability of chiefs to guide them.
Chief Irving D. Merrick, Poughkeepsie, N. Y. Fire Department, in reporting for the Civil Service Classifications Committee, urged paid fire chiefs to seek legislation permitting the employment of 18-year-old youths as fire fighters. He based his argument on the fact that our education system makes little or no provision for fire training on the junior or community college level. Because of this a number of interested young men are lost to the fire service.
He further pointed out that many young men conclude their formal education at the high school level and find jobs which they are reluctant to leave in order to enter the fire service upon reaching the age of 21. He stated the committee’s belief that recruitment, man-management and man-development remain the most critical internal activity of the fire chief and his command officers.
Sustaining members of the IAFC are aware of these needs and two of them have taken action to facilitate top-level officer training. During the conference James Weintraub, vice president of the Uniform Fabric Division of Raeford Worsted Co., a division of Burlington Industries, presented the Association with a check for $1,000. The grant, to be made annually, will provide four scholarships to eligible fire officers who wish to further their professional training at a recognized institution of higher learning.
Following this, Alfred J. Houghton, publisher of FIRE ENGINEERING, presented a $500 scholarship on behalf of the Magazine Publishing Division, the Reuben H. Donnelley Corp., a member of the Dun and Bradstreet group. The scholarship becomes effective in 1963 and it is anticipated that it will be made annually to an eligible fire officer wishing to take advantage of the opportunity.
It is possible these two grants may stimulate similar action by others as well as encourage those colleges and universities now offering fire administration or technical fire protection training to increase and broaden their activity in this field. It may also tend to encourage other institutions of higher learning who have hesitated in the past to offer suitable courses.
Following the conference, a unique incident occurred in the City of New York which offers further encouragement. Speaking at the dedication of the first phase of the city’s new fire college facilities, Deputy Mayor Edward F. Cavanagh recounted his part in the planning for this project while serving as fire commissioner. He then made a remarkable statement. He visualized the time in the near future when the opportunity to gain recognized college-level training will be presented to New York fire fighters at the FDNY fire college site. The future effect of this possibility on the personnel of the world’s largest fire department could be electric.
Much, therefore, has been written and spoken about the need for higher-level education in the fire service by recognized leaders and authorities in the field. Some excellent action has been taken and desirable momentum has been gained to help speed the matter toward concrete programs of much wider scope. The opportunities for advanced education arc growing and the pace can be speeded up if complete advantage is taken of the available aids by interested personnel.
Despite the many obstacles and roadblocks yet to be surmounted, the desire of the conscientious fire fighter to prepare himself to serve the people to the best of his ability is a powerful force. If properly cultivated it could prove irresistible, and without doubt, would open a new era in fire protection.