Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Karen Shafer


Despite improved technology and equipment and a steady decline of structure fires, firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injury rates have increased over the past 10 years. Independent reports indicated poor decision-making by fire ground incident commanders (FGCs) as the primary cause of deaths and injuries. FGCs are vulnerable to skill decay given the expertise needed to manage an incident and limited opportunities to remain proficient. Guided by skill decay theory, the purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between skill decay among FGCs and experience, drilling and training opportunities (overlearning), years of experience, and time since initial training. A web-based survey was used to collect data from a convenience sample of 376 certified fire department officers. Findings from multiple linear regression analysis indicated that time since initial training in a fire command training program was significantly related to skill retention among FGCs (p = .008). Experience, drilling and training opportunities (overlearning), and years of experience in the fire service were not significantly related to skill retention. Findings may be used to strengthen fire service policies and reduce loss of life and property damage in the fire service and communities.