Firefighter Training in Minnesota
Department of Public Safety – State Fire Marshal Division
One of the most defining features of Minnesota’s fire service has been its reliance on volunteers. Although the mostly-volunteer model has been an effective and cost-efficient way of delivering services for decades, departments are having a harder time maintaining adequate numbers of firefighters on their rosters or responding to calls with sufficient levels of staff. Firefighters have less time available to commit to the fire service, and the requirements of the job have increased. Firefighters typically receive much more training now than in the past, both at the beginning of and during their firefighting career. This is in part because fire departments handle more types of calls, and relatively fewer fires, than in the past. They also must stay up to date on ever-changing tactics, technology, and building materials.
As the needs of Minnesota’s fire and rescue services change, the State Fire Marshal sought a broad review and evaluation of firefighter training accomplishments, an assessment of the status of fire service training, and the development of recommendations for the future.
MAD consultants used the following questions to guide their assessment of statewide firefighter training:
- What are the key accomplishments of statewide firefighter training?
- What changes have occurred (or are likely to occur) in fire service and in communities that are served, and what are the implications of those changes for statewide firefighter training?
- Do existing models of statewide fire service training meet the needs and goals of the fire service?
- How might Minnesota improve statewide firefighter training, both for the existing fire service and for the fire service as it may change in the near term?
To answer the questions, MAD staff conducted independent research and collected stakeholder input through a variety of methods, including:
- Interviews with fire service-related committee members, fire chiefs and training officers, and public and private training providers;
- Conducting a survey of fire chief and training officers, focusing on current training practices, sources of training, training budgets, training needs, and other topics;
- Organizing and conducting 16 listening sessions in eight cities around Minnesota, with attendees including firefighters, fire chiefs, training officers, training providers, and others; and
- Researching fire service training models in other states.
In total, more than 600 firefighters participated in the study.
MAD consultants synthesized the information provided through the surveys, interviews, listening sessions, and research and summarized the findings into themes. The resulting report provided background on fire service training, described and analyzed the current training model, summarized the accomplishments of statewide firefighter training, and provided recommendations for improving Minnesota’s firefighter training model.
In their report, MAD consultants made the following recommendations to the State Fire Marshal and the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education:
- Continue to support shared services between departments;
- Explore ways to measure training effectiveness to ensure that funds have an impact; and
- Adapt to the changing fire service model, which is increasingly emphasizing the importance of medical-focused training and tactics involving the availability of fewer responders.
The State Fire Marshal distributed the report to the fire service and is considering next steps.