BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Fire Department has implemented a new standard, making education a major factor in promotion to hire ranks.
The new policy is staggered into three phases over the next seven years to give candidates enough time to finish training courses and get college credits, according to the Baltimore Sun.
"In order to prepare for the next generation of leaders, they've got to get formal education in addition to their experience in the field," Chief James S. Clack, a college graduate, said.
Local fire unions disagree with the change, saying some standards, like requiring a battalion chief to hold an associate's degree and a deputy chief a bachelor's, is not realistic.
Union leaders say it is unfair for those who cannot afford or have the time to invest in pursuing more education.
"You can't fight fire with a book," president of the local fire officers union, Michael Campbell said. "To ask our guys who are severely underpaid … to tell them now they have to go to school to get promoted? I think that's ridiculous."
Chief Clack told the Sun that the move goes along with national trends of higher positions going to those who are more educated and experienced. He hopes that the move will encourage inter-department promotions.
The department already pays up to $2,500 per year for college expenses and also offers many required non-college training courses.
Currently, four of the department's 10 deputy chiefs do not meet the new requirements as well as two assistant chiefs. Many other in the department are believed to not meet the new standards as well.
Those officers who do not meet the new requirements will not be demoted, Chief Clack said.
Those opposing the move say the money and time needed to invest in more education is too much to ask of firefighters, while Chief Clack says it's a matter of keeping up with the times.
Eventually, higher-ups will need a certain number of college credits in a relevant field like fire science.