Iowans Notified Fire Certifications Were Issued Erroneously

Jan 27, 2017

More than 2,000 firefighters across the state are being notified this week that their fire safety certifications were issued in error. These notifications come after the arrest on Tuesday of a former employee of the fire training safety bureau. During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks to Kyle Gorsch, State Fire Marshall Special Agent in charge of the investigation by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

According to Gorsch, these certifications typically require three things: documentation from a local fire chief to vouch for a firefighter’s skills, completion of an examination at a fire safety evaluation site, and the passing of a written exam that tests the knowledge base required for the certification.

“The investigation revealed that there were scores issued to these [written] exams that were not accurate. The former certification manager for the Fire Service Training Bureau has been charged in accordance with that,” says Gorsch.

“In many cases, there were certifications issued with passing scores when in fact those individuals had failed those exams.”

An investigation of records from 2012 to 2016 showed that 9,231 certifications had been issued during that period, which was as far back as their documentation allowed them to investigate. Of those 9,231 certifications, just over 2,300 were issued to individuals who had not actually passed all of the certification requirements.

Although the certifications are not required by state or federal law, Gorsch believes they are important for firefighters to pursue because they bring a level of professionalism to their departments. The falsely certified firefighters are receiving notification of the error this week, and they will be offered free opportunities to take refresher courses and re-take their exams. If they receive passing scores, they will be allowed to keep their certifications.

“We are utilizing Iowa State University Testing Services to score all of our exams coming in, and we have much more oversight of the program, so we’re confident that we have good footing underneath us and we're moving forward to do the job the right way." 

Also during this hour of River to River:

  • Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley talks about an inmate death at Iowa's State Penitentiary and a Des Moines man who was exonerated of charges after it came to light that drug evidence had been planted on him by the Des Moines Police Department. 
  • Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton talks about his reaction to Trump's executive order on immigration, threatening to punish so-called sanctuary cities. 
  • Mason City Globe-Gazette reporter Molly Montag tells us about an oil spill north of Clear Lake that leaked more than 130,000 of diesel fuel into a farm field. 
  • IPR's Clay Masters gives us an update on the Iowa Supreme Court's decision on the lawsuit against three northwestern Iowa drainage districts.