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Firefighter Training and Certification

Reference Number: MTAS-242
Reviewed Date: 11/10/2022

Commission on Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education

Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) § 4.24.101, et seq., established the Commission on Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education under the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Comprising the commission of nine members, appointed by the governor (the commissioner of education is a non-voting, ex officio member), the commission makes recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on municipal firefighting issues and:

  • certifies fire training instructors;
  • certifies training and education programs prescribed by the commission;
  • recommends and approves curricula for advanced courses and seminars in fire science, fire engineering, and training in institutions of higher learning or other state-supported schools;
  • establishes classifications based on training and education for full-time, part-time, and/or volunteer firefighters who pass the certification examinations proctored by the commission;
  • certifies individuals who are not currently firefighters but who complete an approved recruit training program; and
  • administers the supplemental income bonus (educational incentive pay) provided for in the statute.

Various provisions of the statute elaborate on the commission’s powers in the above areas. Participation in the commission's firefighter certification program is voluntary as T.C.A. § 4.24.108 states that nothing contained in this law shall be deemed to limit the powers, rights, duties and responsibilities of municipal or county governments.

Full-time paid firefighters who successfully complete 40 hours of in-service training (appropriate to their rank and the size and location of their fire departments) are eligible for educational incentive pay ($800 for the 2022 training year). Volunteer firefighters who successfully complete 30 hours of approved in-service training (appropriate to their rank and the size and location of their fire departments) are eligible for educational incentive pay ($600 for the 2022 training year). T.C.A. § 4.24.202(c) requires that firefighters serving in the military receive their incentives if the military service prevented them from attending in-service training.

Vanessa K. Free Act

Under the Vanessa K. Free Act, T.C.A. § 55.8.194, requires training for drivers of emergency vehicles, and requires each person who drives an emergency vehicle in an official capacity shall be adequately trained to drive the emergency vehicle. Documentation by the agency providing training shall include:

  • (A) Training in the operation of the vehicle in emergency and non-emergency situations
  • (B) A review of all applicable laws pertaining to emergency vehicles
  • (C) Training to respond to actions of non-emergency vehicles

Each emergency vehicle driver shall take not less than two hours of training annually, and each emergency vehicle driver shall take and pass a comprehensive examination pertaining to subdivisions (A)-(C) every year

This applies to all law enforcement personnel, firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, rescue personnel, including volunteer rescue personnel, and emergency services personnel.

Minimum Firefighter Training

T.C.A. § 4.24.112 established minimum training requirements for firefighters

  • Requires that any full-time, part-time, or volunteer firefighter hired or accepted as a firefighter on or after July 1, 2009, complete a 16-hour class for firefighters before responding to a fire
  • Requires that every firefighter complete a basic class and live burn class defined by the Tennessee Fire and Codes Enforcement Academy within 3 years of joining a fire department
  • Provides exceptions for firefighters who already had 5 years of experience as of July 1, 2009
  • Provides numerous exceptions by county. (Population based exemptions in 2000, 2010, 2020 US censuses)

Even if a county is exempt from the training under the law, MTAS recommends that all firefighters take these classes regardless of an exemption as this is the minimum standard for firefighter training for the state.

The Fire Department Recognition Act, T.C.A. § 68.102.301 (passed in 2003), requires newly appointed fire chiefs to complete, within one year of their appointment, a 16-hour course taught through the Tennessee Fire and Codes Enforcement Academy. This law applies only to the chief of the fire department, but the 16-hour class, called the Fire Chief Orientation class, is open to all fire department personnel if seats are available (newly appointed fire chiefs have priority).