The following article continues a series detailing various positions that our firefighters fill. From basic skills to top management, all roles are vitally important in making our Fire Company function well. We hope these articles help community members better understand how we function as a team using everyone’s strengths within a chain of command.
The captains and lieutenants are known as line officers. They are on the front line at the scene of a fire or accident and serve as crew leaders on the ground. The chief gives these officers their tasks and they in turn figure out how to get that job done. That means the officers receive orders and then turn around and give orders.
They know the abilities of all of the basic firefighters and understand their individual strengths. Thus, these officers know best which firefighter should be doing which job. They are well qualified to match the firefighters’ skills with the requirements of the job at the scene of an emergency. They depend on their years of training and service to help them organize and lead their ground crew.
In order to serve as a line officer, a firefighter has to be…
a very active member of the Fire Company
a senior firefighter
available to show up for calls
willing to go through the rigors of training
a capable person who can handles tasks well
physically fit with lots of stamina
The three company chiefs meet to choose their team of officers. That means the line officers are appointed, not elected. A certain level of responsibility comes with being chosen. Even though newly appointed officers might not feel ready for their positions, they know someone saw potential in them. They accept the positions assured of future leadership and mentorship.
In addition to being a line officer, they all have other tasks. Members of the present team have these individual responsibilities: in charge of confined space rescue equipment, in charge of engine bay, help with power equipment, in charge of managing turnout gear, and help with training.
When the officers respond to a typical call, two ride on the engine, one on the tanker, and one on the squad. When there is overlap on fire calls, they go by seniority since there is a respect that is learned in the ranks. They know each other well and call out, “I got it. I’m taking it.” In order to provide training and experience to his officers when there is a lower key incident, the chief will occasionally go to the back of the engine and say, “You’re up front.” That puts the officer in charge!
Thanks to Ephraim Stoltzfus (Captain 1), Junior Stoltzfus (Captain 2),
Mike Burkholder (Lieutenant 1), and Mark Beiler (Lieutenant 2) for taking part in an interview for this article.