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Career profile Fire Chief

Also known as Battalion Fire Chief, Engine Boss, Fire Battalion Chief, Fire Captain, Fire Chief, Fire Management Officer, Fire Marshal, Fire Suppression Captain, Forest Fire Specialist Supervisor, Section Forest Fire Warden

Fire Chief

Also known as Battalion Fire Chief, Engine Boss, Fire Battalion Chief

Interests Profile
  • Enterprising
  • Realistic
  • Social
Pay Range
$43,640 - $129,470 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • Monitoring
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Administration and Management
Core tasks
  • Analyze burn conditions and results, and prepare postburn reports.
  • Recruit or hire firefighting personnel.
  • Plan, direct, and supervise prescribed burn projects.
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What does a Fire Chief do?

Fire Chiefs directly supervise and coordinate activities of workers engaged in firefighting and fire prevention and control.

What kind of tasks does a Fire Chief perform regularly?

Fire Chiefs are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Assign firefighters to jobs at strategic locations to facilitate rescue of persons and maximize application of extinguishing agents.
  • Provide emergency medical services as required, and perform light to heavy rescue functions at emergencies.
  • Assess nature and extent of fire, condition of building, danger to adjacent buildings, and water supply status to determine crew or company requirements.
  • Communicate fire details to superiors, subordinates, or interagency dispatch centers, using two-way radios.
  • Serve as a working leader of an engine, hand, helicopter, or prescribed fire crew of three or more firefighters.
  • Maintain fire suppression equipment in good condition, checking equipment periodically to ensure that it is ready for use.
  • Instruct and drill fire department personnel in assigned duties, including firefighting, medical care, hazardous materials response, fire prevention, and related subjects.
  • Evaluate the performance of assigned firefighting personnel.
  • Direct the training of firefighters, assigning of instructors to training classes, and providing of supervisors with reports on training progress and status.
  • Perform maintenance and minor repairs on firefighting equipment, including vehicles, and write and submit proposals to modify, replace, and repair equipment.
  • Schedule employee work assignments and set work priorities.
  • Monitor fire suppression expenditures to ensure that they are necessary and reasonable.
  • Participate in creating fire safety guidelines and evacuation schemes for nonresidential buildings.
  • Maintain required maps and records.
  • Drive crew carriers to transport firefighters to fire sites.
  • Inspect stations, uniforms, equipment, or recreation areas to ensure compliance with safety standards, taking corrective action as necessary.
  • Direct firefighters in station maintenance duties, and participate in these duties.
  • Evaluate fire station procedures to ensure efficiency and enforcement of departmental regulations.
  • Recommend personnel actions related to disciplinary procedures, performance, leaves of absence, and grievances.
  • Perform administrative duties, such as compiling and maintaining records, completing forms, preparing reports, or composing correspondence.
  • Direct investigation of cases of suspected arson, hazards, and false alarms and submit reports outlining findings.
  • Recommend equipment modifications or new equipment purchases.
  • Supervise and participate in the inspection of properties to ensure that they are in compliance with applicable fire codes, ordinances, laws, regulations, and standards.

The above responsibilities are specific to Fire Chiefs. More generally, Fire Chiefs are involved in several broader types of activities:

Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.

What is a Fire Chief salary?

The median salary for a Fire Chief is $78,870, and the average salary is $83,170. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Fire Chief salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Fire Chiefs earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Fire Chiefs earn less than $43,640 per year, 25% earn less than $59,130, 75% earn less than $103,170, and 90% earn less than $129,470.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Fire Chiefs is expected to change by 8.3%, and there should be roughly 5,300 open positions for Fire Chiefs every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$43,640 - $129,470
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Fire Chiefs?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Fire Chief are usually higher in their Enterprising, Realistic, and Social interests.

Fire Chiefs typically have very strong Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Also, Fire Chiefs typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Fire Chiefs typically have moderate Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Fire Chief tend to value Independence, Support, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Fire Chiefs strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Second, Fire Chiefs strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Fire Chiefs strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Fire Chiefs must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, integrity, and leadership.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Fire Chiefs, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

What education and training do Fire Chiefs need?

Fire Chiefs often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Fire Chiefs usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Fire Chiefs

  • 0.7% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 12.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 31.3% completed some college coursework
  • 22.0% earned a Associate's degree
  • 25.3% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 7.7% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.7% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Fire Chiefs

Fire Chiefs may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as public safety and security, customer and personal service, or administration and management knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Fire Chiefs might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Personnel and Human Resources
Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.

Important Abilities needed by Fire Chiefs

Fire Chiefs must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Fire Chiefs need abilities such as problem sensitivity, oral comprehension, and oral expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Fire Chiefs, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

Critical Skills needed by Fire Chiefs

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Fire Chiefs frequently use skills like critical thinking, monitoring, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Fire Chiefs, ranked by their relative importance.

Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.