Commissioner questions fire department hiring practices

By: Kate Tillotson Email
By: Kate Tillotson Email

January 26, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Is the test to become an Augusta firefighter too difficult?

That's what Commissioner Marion Williams is asking after getting complaints from people who failed it.

39 years ago, Commissioner Williams was a firefighter himself. On his test, he was asked questions like, "Where's the post office?"

That's nothing like the questions being asked today.

To do firefighter and EMT Dustin Colson's, job you must first pass a test.

"It wasn't anything too strenuous," Colson told News 12. "It was something if you have common sense I believe anyone could pass it."

But not everyone is.

In fact, Commissioner Marion Williams has received at least five complaints that it's too difficult--specifically for those with limited knowledge on fire equipment.

"For new people who are trying to just apply for a fireman's job to ride the tailboard, the test may be a little much," Williams told News 12. "I think there ought to be a test, but I just think the test is kind of keeping people out that we want to include in."

At human resources, there's currently a job posting for an entry level firefighter--one of 17 in the county.

We can't show you the test questions, but we can tell you it's made up of ten sections, including basic math, reading gauges and spatial sense.

Augusta Fire Chief Howard Willis says it's fair and that applicants should be held to competitive standards in this new age of firefighting.

"We do EMS, we do hazardous materials, we do high angle rope rescue, we do water rescue and then going out into the public and teaching fire safety education," he said.

Those are all reasons why firefighters like Colson want to keep the test competitive.

Of course, he says it wasn't scary: "No one person or group of persons should feel disadvantaged by that test. I felt it was equal on all playing fields."

Williams hopes questions aren't too specialized.

"We ought to have a test to test a person's ability to think but not necessarily about the fire department, because you've got to learn that," Commissioner Williams said.

Commissioner Williams also wonders why Fire Chief Howard Willis was not required to take a test for his position.

At Williams' request, the hiring practices of the Augusta Fire Department will be discussed on January 29 at 1 o'clock.

Read more on this topic and tell us what you think at our News Blog.


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