Invalid firefighter certifications: "It's like a punch in the gu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Invalid firefighter certifications: "It's like a punch in the gut for the fire service"

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(KWWL) -

The Iowa Department of Public Safety says more than 1,700 Iowa firefighters and emergency responders have been issued improper credentials due to improper test scoring over a four-year period. State Senator and Cedar Falls firefighter Jeff Danielson says this is a "punch in the gut for the fire service."

"This is insult on top of injury," said Senator Danielson. "We've been struggling over the last decade or so to keep firefighters serving their community."

The department announced its former employee, Fire Training Service Bureau Certification and Accreditation Coordinator John McPhee, is charged with misconduct in office and tampering with records. McPhee turned himself in Tuesday to the Story County Sheriff's Office.

"It's like a punch in the gut for the fire service-because it's one of our own," said Senator Danielson. "The gentleman that was in charge of that was never actually grading the tests. He was just randomly deciding if you would pass or not."

The department says a months-long review found that nearly 2,300 certifications were improperly issued to 1,706 firefighters and emergency personnel from February 2012 through February 2016. That's nearly 25 percent of the certifications the agency issued.

"For a lot of us, the certificates and training we receive early is the baseline knowledge for the rest of our careers," said Senator Danielson. "It would be a functional equivalent of a college or university President, falsifying your graduation certificates."

Firefighters are required to pass both a written and hands-on practical exam. In order to pass the written exam, they must score 70% or higher. The certifications aren't required by the state or nationally but many departments require or recommend them for employees.

The department says it's notifying the affected individuals, and the bureau is offering a free training course and free test retakes.

"We should do everything we can to pick up the cost of making sure we keep those firefighters and EMS personal," said Senator Danielson. "Because guess what in some communities, they can just say it's not worth the trouble. I tried to do what I thought was right. Somebody else made a mistake and now I'm having to bear the burden of that cost.  My goal is to make sure we don't lose a single person who wants to serve their community."

Cedar Falls Fire Chief Bostwick says none of his firefighters have been affected. 

However, in other areas throughout the state, such as Butler County, some of their firefighters have started receiving those letters. 

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