Deemed to Comply: Firefighter Driver Licensing In California

Executive Summary

Deemed To Comply from California State Firefighters.
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The issue of proper training, education and qualifications for apparatus operators is a key issue. National statistics have demonstrated time after time that apparatus accidents are a leading cause of firefighter injury and fatality. This document is being provided to the volunteer fire service as a tool to assure high quality consideration for apparatus operators who are chauffeuring emergency vehicles under emergency conditions. The document consists of a problem statement, documents from the DMV, and documents from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, samples of program activity in the field and a recommended course of action by a local fire chief.

The position paper is not intended to be a legal reference but rather a supportive document for the training and education of the volunteer fire service.


Assembly Bill 1648 was authored by Assemblyman Jeff Jeffries in order to clarify the licensing requirements for a firefighter in the operation of fire department equipment. A copy of that Bill is attached to the downloadable position paper.

Problem Statement

Recently we have been notified by members of the volunteer fire service that there are areas of the state that are interpreting this law in a fashion that is having negative impact on local volunteer firefighters. This was brought to our attention by an attendee at the Redding Workshop. These local interpretations are being provided by a variety of authorities ranging from the CHP, DMV and in some cases local fire authorities. Some of these interpretations are contradictory to the intent of Assembly Bill 1648.

The purpose of this position paper is to provide a fundamental document for each volunteer fire chief as to what the law states and what the authorities are with respect to the interpretation of this law and to develop a set of recommended compliance practices. This inconsistency makes it more difficult for the volunteer fire service to function. The issue needs to be remedied on a statewide level. Adoption of some recommended practices should help with consistency in providing firefighter safety.


Michael S. Williams

Michael S. Williams

Williams founded the Fire Services Training Institute in 1995 to find solutions to the challenges confronting the volunteer fire service. He has been an active member of California State Firefighters Association (CSFA) since 1994, having served on the volunteer and public relations committees, and as a southern division deputy director. He sits on several local organizations including the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council, the Tri-Counties Training Officers Association, Santa Barbara Chapter of CAER and is a founding member of the Santa Barbara PIO group Emergency Public Information Communicators (EPIC). He has been the author of many articles and a columnist for a local newspaper on public safety matters. He is also the co-host of Community Alert on KZSB AM-1290 in Santa Barbara. Williams has been a member of the California State Board of Fire Services since 2008. Prior to becoming involved in the volunteer fire service, Williams was a California police officer for 12 ½ years and a POST certified Field Training Officer. He is a licensed private investigator and security consultant specializing in self-insured, government and insurance defense assignments.

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