THE Captain

Doug Mitchell

The Captain

Heard in the kitchen: “Yo bro, who’s the boss coming in tonight?” “Ah, think it’s the Captain.”

A Senior Captain once told me that this rank has both extremely unique challenges and rewards.  He said: “The Captain is the Captain.”  I know that sounds redundant, but when you look at the dichotomy of the position, it makes sense.  

In our organization, uniquely, the rank of Captain is the only one for which there is just one.  Each company has a Captain. With 25 firefighters assigned to each company, for each member, the Captain is the Captain.  Each company also has three Lieutenants. To them, as well, the Captain has no equals.  Even in the level of management above the Captain, the Battalion Chief, four Battalion Chiefs are assigned to each Battalion. 

The Captain has responsibilities in function and form that other officers do not: A balance on the fire floor, and in the office, of leadership, motivation and mentoring.  As the Company Commander, you set the tone and policy for the company.  They are ultimately responsible for the actions and inactions of the members on and off the fire floor. A trusted Captain simply stated: “It is better to keep them out of trouble… than get them out of trouble.”  The Captain needs to know his people…

There is a point in pretty much every day that I wish I was at the firehouse.  The reality of it is, whether I am there or not, management style aside, when you are the Captain you’re the Captain.

For more information about Captain Mitchell’s work, instruction and how to contact him, please visit the following links, and be sure to check out his amazing book, ’25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD’, from Fire Engineering Books:

Captain Douglas J. Mitchell, Jr.

Fire Department City of New York

Doug is a Captain in the New York City Fire Department with 27 years of fire experience, the last 21 with the FDNY. He is currently assigned to the Bronx’s 7th Division. Doug served as the FDNY’s Executive Officer of the Probationary Firefighters School and is a member of the FDNY IMT.  He was a Lieutenant in the Bronx, a Fire Marshal in Queens and a Fireman in Manhattan. Doug previously served for Fairfax County Va. Fire & Rescue Department and with Howard County MD Fire and Rescue.

He has lectured and conducted hands-on-training programs nationwide and at the FDNY’s training academy.  He is a principal member of the NFPA 1400 committee. He co-wrote Fire Engineering’s “25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD” in 2013. He has a Bachelor’s degree from University of MD Baltimore County.

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