COLORADO SPRINGS — 287 years ago, one of the first fire companies was co-founded by Benjamin Franklin, and for a long time it’s been a workforce dominated by men. Now it’s common to see women firefighters on the job and in leadership roles in the fire service.
I was recently invited to a unique promotion ceremony at the Stratmoor Hills Fire District, where Chief Shawn Bittle says he’s had an idea for a long time that is now a reality. It revolves around how to encourage advancement in his department.
Chief Bittle says, “If you talk to 100 different firefighters, they will tell you 100 different things. Things like you need to take this class, or that class, get this training, or get this certification. In the end, it's really up to the organization to decide what you need.”
When Chief Bittle arrived in Colorado from Missouri in 2020, he says he knew he wanted to lay out a clear road map of how to advance up through the ranks. “We expect so much from our firefighters, and we assume that they're going to know what they need to accomplish to advance their career. In my career, I've never had a clearly defined map like the master firefighter program to be able to show a firefighter on his first day if you want to succeed in this organization here is your road map. I think it's really phenomenal, and I wish someone would have provided this for me when I started.”
The Chief also says he imagined when he established the program and hung the plaque at the firehouse with the long list of certifications, it would be 5 to 7 years before anyone would complete all the certifications.
Turns out it only took 3 years for senior driver engineer Tara Bosch to blaze a new trail and become a master firefighter. Tara says, “It's exciting to be the first one for our agency, and hopefully it encourages others to continue the process and strive for bigger things.”
To reach the level of master firefighter at the Stratmoor Hills Fire District requires 31 certifications, a 100 question written test, and demonstrating proficiency and knowledge at 6 testing assessment stations.
Chief Bittle says Tara blew them all away. “You know, she is certainly ambitious. She is a true professional, and she wants to be a good leader for her crew and ensure their safety so everyone gets to go home at the end of the shift.”
Louis Hall is a Driver Engineer, and Tara’s current partner. “I think that she is what every firefighter should strive to be. I have worked with her full time for over a year now and she's dedicated, and she’s relentless about it. Tara’s very compassionate towards the people here at the department who are doing the same thing, and the patients we take care of. Seeing her really get after it is inspiring for me to want to keep up that same pace.”
Master firefighter Tara Bosch will be officially promoted to Lieutenant in April.
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