For those with aspirations of becoming a firefighter, Fire Alumni is hosting their 5th Annual Firefighter Workshop this Sunday at Las Positas College. I had an opportunity to speak with California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover yesterday about the event where she will be speaking while she was quick to share her passion for fire services.
With over 20-years of service, Fire Marshal Hoover was appointed State Fire Marshal by Governor Edmund G. Brown on November 21, 2011 after serving as Acting State Fire Marshal since July 1, 2009. But she also has ties to Contra Costa County where she served as an inspector for the Riverview Fire District.
The Riverview Fire District was created in 1975 which combined the Antioch Fire Dept., Pittsburg Fire Dept., and West Pittsburg portion of Contra Costa County Fire District, and Areas F3, F4 of the Island Fire District into one District. In 1997 the district resolved and become part of Contra Costa County Fire—Hoover stated that as inspector, East County was her portion to cover.
Needless to say, she is connected to Contra Costa County and that is a good thing for the County.
“One never forgets where one comes from or who one serves with,” said Hoover. “It’s always an honor to be asked to participate in events such as the Firefighter Workshop this Sunday. I feel it gives me the opportunity to sit and chat with folks concerning a subject I am passionate about which is the fire service.”
The event will highlight what Fire Chiefs and those within the Fire Districts are looking for in candidates. They will share their best practices, knowledge and dedication to the arena and this will allow attendees who attend the perspective needed so they can avoid the pitfalls during the hiring process.
The event offers advice for those looking to get hired and shares the emotional side of being a fire fighter and what is required from within.
“The fire service is a profession that has a long history of public service. That public service comes with a price. Our public expects us to be available and ready to meet their demands. It is our job to make sure we can articulate what we do, why we do it, and how we do it…and how we help make a positive impact on the lives of our citizens every day,” said Hoover.
Hoover explained how fire services goes beyond the traditional thought of fighting fires. They provide the public with important information that will keep them and their family safe from fire, help businesses identify hazards that could and would have a negative impact on their business continuance should there be a fire or catastrophic event, and we review construction documents to ensure that people can work in a safe environment and should there be an event, they can exit quickly and the fire department can do their job effectively and efficiently.
“We are also the responders to medical emergencies and the call people make when they find they need help. We call ourselves the fire service but we are so much more,” added Hoover.
One of the things Fire Marshal Hoover shared was how the profession requires strong communication and can break down complex fire science for the public to understand.
“This profession requires that a person is able to take information and translate it to a solution…and the information is getting more technical every day. Our work environment has changed; buildings are built with different construction components that impact firefighting and materials that we place into structures burn at a higher temperature and release more toxics. Homes are built tighter for energy conservation so the time for a structure to go to flashover has reduced which means we need to stress the importance of fire safety and making sure that occupants can get out of their homes before the fire reaches that critical point; and when the fire department does arrive people have safely evacuated and we can just deal with the matter of putting the fire out,” explained Hoover.
One characteristic Hoover stresses for those interested in joining a career in fire services is understanding the role of teamwork and how Districts are looking for team players.
“We have an obligation to each other. We work as a team and the team needs to be collectively ready to perform when called upon. That means well trained with the right equipment and in good physical condition. Each person knows that this job comes with hazards but it is each of our responsibilities to think about safety,” said Hoover.
Hoover also pointed out that the fire service and expectations of the fire service is evolving and there is consistent change.
“Our communities are going through change; we need to be part of that and be part of the change management team. Being part of a successful change management is about providing a business case, effective communications, effect education and training, alignment with the strategic direction of the organization (community), provide a counseling to assist with change related fears and stay in contact (it helps with the monitoring and fine tuning the needs of the firefighter, department, and community),” explained Hoover.
This Sundays event will be rich in networking opportunities between fire chiefs, experts, and folks making hiring decisions, but will also be educational and Hoover explained how she can use this as an opportunity to observe.
“I think what I am most looking forward to is the chance to share thoughts back and forth…I know I get the opportunity to speak but I also want to hear from the people that will be in the event. And, I am looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues that I have worked with over the years,” said Hoover.
She praised Fire Alumni for putting on this workshop and for their dedication and hard work to educate new recruits on a career in fire services.
“I know many of the folks involved in putting on the event. These are dedicated individuals who are committed to helping provide a fire service that is ready for whatever the future brings. I honored that they invited me to be part of this effort,” said Hoover.
The event was founded by East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Brian Helmick and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Bob Atlas along with Engineer Judon Cherry five years ago.
Fire Alumni has worked with over 1,000 candidates during its first four years and this year will set milestones for candidates served. They provide the playbook for what they are looking for and are honest about it.
“Consider us tutors for a future in fire services. The speakers are not just anybody because they are credible and subject matter experts,” said Brian Helmick.
For some firefighters, the hiring process could be 2-6 years with all the education. Bob Atlas explained how this could cut it to less than 2-years since expectations are known ahead of time.
“If we can help prepare candidates for the job and not to just pass a test and entrance materials, but instead focus on the job, personal qualities, moral fiber the job requires, later on we can pass onto them how to pass an interview. We want good people to start,” explained Atlas. “When they understand the expectations to the hiring process, then we would have better people online sooner—that’s what it’s all about.”
February 24, 2013 at from 8-5 pm
Las Positas College
Mertes Center for the Arts
3000 Campus Hill Drive
- Being the Ideal Candidate
- Preparation for the Job
- Chiefs Interviews
- How to Remain Motivated
- Technology in the Hiring Process
- Application and Resume Development
- Discipline and Accountability
- Changing Paradigms
- Written Exam Prep
- The Playbook
Firefighter Workshop 2013
Fire Alumni Website