Impact Of Test Scandal Could Reach 560 Iowa Fire Departments

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Hundreds of volunteer fire departments in nearly every pocket of Iowa have members who were improperly awarded nationally-recognized certifications by the state fire academy.

The Fire Service Training Bureau has sent letters to 560 mostly volunteer agencies notifying them that “one or more firefighters on your department may have been” improperly granted one or more certificates, despite failing their exams.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety announced last week that 1,706 firefighters and emergency responders were improperly granted 2,278 certifications between 2012 and 2016.

Those individuals will be required to retake the tests before June 30 or be faced with starting the certification process from scratch. The bureau is offering free refresher courses and retests across the state starting Feb. 11.

The bureau’s former accreditation manager, John McPhee, was arrested last week and charged with misconduct and tampering with records. A complaint accuses McPhee of failing to grade tests and simply assigning random scores. He pleaded not guilty last week.

Bureau officials identified the improper certifications after rescoring tests for which the exams and answer keys were still available. An undetermined number of other tests could not be rescored.

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