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Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast with Chief Jacob McAfee

Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast with Fire Chief Jacob McAfee from the Fresno City College - FCC Fire Academy.

“The bottom line in leadership isn't how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.”   (Maxwell, 1998)

Excerpt from the book by John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You


I believe LEADERSHIP is influence.  It is our ability to influence and inspire others to be more and do more every day.  It should be our absolute truth to invest in the mentoring and advancement of those that come after us and anyone else who will listen.  If it is not, it is at least your responsibility as a leader to make the commitment to pass our knowledge and experience so that we can thrive as a fire service.


  • Why I decided to join the fire service:

After graduating from high school, I was playing college football and just being a College kid. My friend had just completed the USMC boot camp and came to visit.  By the end of the week, I had decided to join the Marines and what better occupation to do while I was in Firefighting.  I thought that sounded pretty sick!  I made a commitment to change my life and take the risk.  After nine years of service with two deployments to Iraq, I left the military.  Overall this experience is what shaped who I am today.  From that time, I was committed to continuous self-evaluation and improvement that eventually turned into a drive to lead and inspire others and organizations to be great.  I have since completed two Masters degrees, an ABD in my doctoral program and have had the pleasure of working with some great people and great organizations such as the Institute of Fire Engineers, CPSE, CA State Fire Marshal, Cal-EMA, AHA, and all of the DOD entities from CA-NY.  


My personal mission statement is: To first and foremost INVEST in people, be a servant leader anchored in core values, dedicated to influencing and inspiring others to be better every day, through leadership, passion, and mentoring.


  • Importance of a plan:

Before you can follow through with a successful plan you have to find your "WHY"! Why do you exist?  What makes you passionate?  If it is a life of service, brotherhood, sisterhood, becoming a firefighter, MAKE THE COMMITMENT!  Once you know your why and you make the commitment to your why; you can make a successful plan.

I use the acronym plan ahead to stay in track with my personal and professional goals. While in a formal environment this changes, however, it is a good starting framework.



  • Predetermine your course of action:  What is your vision/end state?
  • Layout your goals:  To make goals reachable use SMART goal setting.  Goals should be developed that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and time-bound.
  • Adjust your priorities:  This is key as you move forward in the process of becoming a firefighter and doing everything it takes to improve your chances.  Honestly, I love whiteboards.  I like them because my priorities change daily and it allows flexibility and keeps it written down.  I also believe it breeds creativity but that's another topic for some other time.  Makes sure you prioritize goals or tasks daily based on what's important now.  If needed just move some lower-level priorities to the top the next day but always account for it.
  • Network:  Build and utilize a strong support group and find mentors.  This is critical to pushing through challenges at times.  No one is truly successful by themselves.
  • Action plan:  Create a plan of action.
  • Head into action:  Don't sit idle, actively make the movement towards your vision.
  • Expect problems:  IF NOBODY OUTWORKS YOU!  You will be successful at some point.  Put your head down and go to work each day.  Remember - you will hear No and run into challenges.  Failure is a myth.  Think about this.  If you go for an interview and don't get the job what have you failed at?  Are you not any worse off than you were when u walked in?  Learn from it, reflect, get better and live on.
  • Always recognize your success along the way:  A key failure is not recognizing the little wins along the way and allowing yourself to get frustrated.  Pull yourself to that small goal when you reach it take a moment to recognize that accomplishment, then move on to the next one.
  • Daily, review your plan:  Stay the course.


Staying fit emotionally, mentally, and physically:

Be fit, it's not about just you anymore.  You are entrusted to perform by your community, your firefighters, and your family.  Maintain a high level of physical fitness.  You can be provided with the newest, shiniest, most insane equipment and tools but if your not healthy enough to use them the tool is useless.

Invest in a lifelong commitment to be better and make others better.  Manage your time! The testing, interviews, academy, EMT, etc ARE NOT EASY! Study!  Be humble and always maintain a positive attitude.  Use your support network.

You represent the fire service when you decided to pursue your dream.  Everything you do now is bigger than you.  You remember that firefighter you looked up to when you were little, be that hero.



Not realizing that every day is an interview.  The fire service is a small tight-knit family. Let your character and work ethic be your guide.  Every interaction and conversation you have could be a new opportunity.  EVERY DAY IS AN INTERVIEW act like it.



  1. Commit.  Once you make the decision be all in.  Live in the moment.  You can't control the process, it is not changing.  If the interview is three hours and the written is right after oh well.  If time is short and questions confusing OK.  You cannot do anything about that.  What you can control is the level of commitment and the character that you show.
  2. Make a plan and execute it.
  3. Always seek self-improvement and opportunity.

There are tons of training opportunities you can take advantage of through FEMA and TEEX independent study and many more. You can email me and I can give you a white paper on a large volume of training opportunities for you to stay relevant and improving in the process and beyond.


Top 10 things to do that increase your odds of getting a job.  (Not in any specific order).

  1. Complete a CPR course.
  2. Obtain your National Registry EMT Certification.
  3. Complete an Accredited Firefighter 1 & 2 Academy.
  4. Use test preparation materials.
  5. Practice interviewing.
  6. Stop by stations (put a face to a name).
  7. Stay physically fit- Complete the CPAT/Biddle or other physical agility tests your State requires.
  8. Maintain a strong peer, mentor and support network.
  9. Apply, Apply, and Apply some more.  There are opportunities everywhere.  Don't corner yourself because you only want to work at department "X" your goal is to get a job.  Remember there are a few agencies you can apply for a position: Department of Defense (use USAJOBS) and search 0081 for job series, BLM, US Forest Service, contract firefighting, Indian reservation (BIA), and City or County municipal departments.
  10. Volunteer, get experience.  There are ways to get experience while you are on the testing circuit. Some opportunities are Red Cross volunteer, EMS provider, fire department work-study, fire volunteer, and Team Rubicon, to name a few.


Chief Jacob McAfee works with the Center for Public Safety Excellence as a CFO and CTO peer reviewer and as a CFAI accreditation assessor. He is a member of the IFE and he also teaches mentoring for the CPSE.  He teaches and facilitates department strategic plans and standards of cover development.  He currently works as the Fire Chief of the Fresno City College Fire Academy and the Director of Fire Technology.  If he can help you in any way, please contact him anytime.   You can reach Chief Jacob McAfee with the contact information below:

Phone: (714) 454 - 2838





*Maxwell, J. C. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


Listen to this episode

Chris Baker, has over thirteen years of experience in volunteer, combination, and career, fire departments in California. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Associates of Science Degree in Fire Service Command, Company Officer. Chris is a California State Fire Training certified Fire Officer, Driver-Operator, Fire Instructor, and Lead Firefighter I Certification Evaluator. He has over nine years of teaching experience in the California Community Colleges System as an Adjunct Instructor in the EMS discipline, Firefighter 1 Academy Instructor, Fire Science Instructor and Adjunct Instructor at the Fresno City College, Career Technology Center, Accredited Regional Training Program. Chris is a member of the California Fire Technology Directors’ Association and the California Training Officers Association. He served as a volunteer Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) for both hiring and recruitment/retention. Chris also served as a Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and the FY 2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). He is a Volunteer Advocate Regional Manager, Region IX (CA, NV, AZ, HI) for the Everyone Goes Home Program through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Chris also serves as a volunteer member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section serving in their staging area. He was a member of the 2018 and 2019 Safety Stand Down committees. Chris is a member of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He is a member of the Board of Directors and Public Information Officer (PIO) for the National Fire Heritage Center located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Chris is the co-host of the Fire Engineering: The Future Firefighter Podcast. He writes blog articles published through Firefighter Nation and the Fire Engineering Training Community on mentoring the future generations of the fire service.


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