Absence of certified training, what would qualify you to be a firefighter?
We hear alot about experience, but what should that experience include?
Mere years in the service doesn't automatically qualify you. Many have stood on the peripherals and never really gotten active to the point that they would dress in turnout gear, don SCBAs and initiate an interior attack. "Oh, he can run the pump, so he doesn't have to dress for the fight".
So, the question is: if you do not take state sanctioned firefighter training, what measuring stick do you use to measure competency in your firefighters?

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The only way to go is some type of 3rd-party certified training. For most places, that means IFSAC or ProBoard training that is certified to the Firefighter II level before conducting interior or other hazard-zone activities at a structural firefight. For states that don't have IFSAC or ProBoard-certified training, a state fire academy training program that meets all of the NFPA 1001 standards for firefighting professional qualifications is the next best thing.

In many cases, the "absence of certified training" might as well read the "absence of training" for a lot of departments. Here's a couple of quotes from a well-known former fire chief "I don't care how it is any place else." and "We have our own." If you certify your firefighters to IFSAC, ProBoard, or a similar standard that meets the NFPA 1001 competencies, then you don't have the problem of trying to defend local training that ignores state and national standards if your department ever has a LODD.

Stay safe, everybody.
This is an interesting debate- many many career departments can go multiple shifts without a call.

I have a friend who is a permanent firey with the MFB here and in 5 years, he's done one interior attack....

Is he a firefighter or not? He's certianly qualified, but lacks the experience if it's going to be based on turn outs, etc.
You have departments that, for a myriad of reasons, do not "certify" their firefighters. Nor do they have "certified" instructors on staff to do in house training. If their training records were reviewed by their state's DOL, would they pass muster? Or would they be cited for a lack of quality in their training?
If there were grant money available and a pre requisite to getting the money was the number of certified firefighters on your department, would you see the money go elsewhere because you are a department that doesn't send your people to outside training? Do you lose points on your ISO reviews for this reason?
And if you were to go into a court of law because there was a civilian or firefighter death, how would you mount your defense when asked for your "credentials"?
Our chief runs a variety of drills every week....we run three drills a month plus whatever extra training he deems necessary on the weekends (OSHA, EVOC etc.). Since joining, I've participated in hydrant, hose handling, confined space, ladders, exterior burns, tool handling etc. etc. and a smattering of classroom trainings (OSHA, railroad incident, road and intersection safety among others)--does that make me a qualified firefighter? Nope. Not even close. Nor am I cleared in my department for interior attack.

I'm close to being cleared in terms of training hours, but do I feel qualified? Nope. Not even close. There's simply too much that I don't know yet to make me feel that I would be an asset going in. That's why I opted to seek out the FF1 certification class. No one in our department is required to take it...but I don't do anything in my life half-assed, and I want to be the best firefighter that I can be.

Interestingly enough, for a small and not particularly busy department, more than 75% of our members have taken the state FF1 class. There's a culture of competency in our department fostered by the chief which is enforced by the line officers and senior members. They want us to be competent, not only for our safety, but for their own safety as well.
Our SOP's state that you have to have a specific number of training hours under your belt, including SCBA and OSHA, before you are allowed to go interior, and those records are strictly adhered to. This number is waived, however, if a member opts to take FF1, but that is not a requirement.
Well said. ;)
The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle

I think that sentence encapsulates the entire thought process of your post, Spence. Nicely stated.

I think every department has a couple of members who "play firefighter". Does the recruitment and approval committee know that when they bring that individual on board? I suppose it depends on how thoroughly they "vet" someone before accepting them as a new member. Check out Tiger Schmittendorf's (Tiger5) blog post entitled "Recruitment and Retention Toolkit: The Interview Process" for some methodology on interviewing prospective members to avoid bringing on just another warm body vs. a qualified candidate.

But just because you've brought a "bad actor' into the fold, doesn't mean that the situation has to remain that way. Push your members to train harder and smarter, let them know you expect them to push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of, engage them in the "everyone goes home" mentality.... You might find that you're seeing less and less of the "funhouse firefighter" member at weekly drills, but the members who DO show up will be better trained and a more safety conscious and tactically experienced firefighter.

There's not a thing wrong with selflessness or bravery.
However, those are subjective concepts, and thus, are pretty hard to measure.

Training and professional qualifications need to be measurable, so they need to be objective-based.

That is why objective-based training established by a recognized 3rd party is the "Gold Standard" for firefighter qualifications.

It's kind of hard to define "selflessness" as a professional qualification if you're the chief or the training chief defending yourself on the stand after a LODD.

Stay safe,

Surprise, I have a thought or two on this subject.

Coming from the old school of joining a volunteer department at 16 and going thru the junior ranks where training an interior firefighter consisted of live burns, live burns, and umm live burns. I really believe that you can be a solid firefighter without "certificates". We all know guys who have paper covering their walls that can't do jack on a fire ground. And for every one of them there are many who dont have paper, but Id damn sure rather have one of them on a handline then the rocket scientist who hasn't a lick of common sense.

My qualifications for our non-certed firefighter would include:

1. physically capable of doing the job - this does not mean you need to be wither a world class marathoner or a former NFL linebacker. You need to be physically fit, and strong enough to get the job done. (If you dont know what this means...well you dont qualify)
2. a backbone - (see sirens blog) If you dont have the backbone to stand behind your words, I sure as hell don't want you on my handline.
3. common sense - If your gear is smoking, there is no way whomever was in the room still has a pulse...get the **** out of the building. Be able to use what god gave you and know when it is time to pull out. (Yes I am aware that some of this comes from experience, Ill cover that later...but a lot of it comes from common sense)
4. sense of service - the vast majority of us do the job because we were called to it. No different than career military, clergy, people in the medical field, etc. It is a sense of duty that keeps us there when others flee. IF you are here for the badge, or glory...you dont qualify...period.
5. willing to learn - an open mind that allows you to take in everything around you and know that you dont know it all. Somehow still be willing to earn at the end of your career as well as the beginning.


1. Time spent on the floor learning the aparatus - know where every peice of equipment is on the vehicles, & waht it is used for!
2. Fire ground aide before ever putting on a turnout. Follow the Chief or OIC around on scene, learning what they need you to be able to do when you are let loose on the floor.
3. A department academy - this does not have to be a fire academy. But there needs to be a set of criteria met before being allowed to put on gear. And more after, before being turned loose to fight fire in an uncontrolled environment.
4. Live fire training! This includes learning what smoke conditions to watch for, how hot is too hot, etc.
5. Burn, burn, burn. - Many departments see little fire today. the only way to prepare a firefighter for fire is with fire. Use video, as a training AIDE...not as a replacement.

There is far too much to include in detail here. However this is a basic outline.

We all need certain qualities to be good firefighters, but without experience and training we are only a good candidate. The two go hand in hand.

We have this conversation as instructors. Does a person have ten years of experience, or have they experienced ten individual years of participation? What do we have to fall back on if we don't have quality training? We did it this way before and didn't get killed. What if it's something that you haven't done before? For God's sake even if it's for CYA in some future court date take the class, get the certification, stand out in the crowd.
I can only hope that I live to see required certifications in my state for the fire service comparable to what the EMS folks do now.

The measuring stick you are looking for does not exist... Your question ultimately drives your answer... using the term "Qualify" I am sure the state you operate in must have "state certified standards" that qualify one to be a certified firefighter/operator. Without meeting this standard you are not qualified by the AHJ (most likely the state fire academy or fire marshall's office) as being certified in anything you say you are... Even the best in-house instructor, providing monthly training doesn't qualify you to any standard.

The pump operator scenario is a good one, as many train in-house and many never become active fireground firefighters due to age, size, weight, disabilities, desire, etc... ok lets play devils advocate now. How are you going to defend the in-house training program, the lack of training curriculum, the lack of the proper licensing to operate a vehicle that big/heavy, the lack of knowlege of braking distances, air brakes, engine brakes, with just a personal driving license, when you are involved in a MVC with fatal injury (or) water supply/human error while operating a fire apparatus pump with LODD or serious injury? I can go on another list of lack-ofs there too. Why do fire chiefs continue to take on this liability when the education and resouces are available to us in 2008?

Therefore to answer your question, IMO you are not qualified to operate in or on anything.
Last year one of our “gung ho” younger members completed Firefighter I, a New York State certified course that encompasses some of the older individual courses such as Essentials of Firemanship, Initial Fire Attack and so forth. This member, who had been with the department less than a year (with no prior firefighting experience), heard the NYS State instructor say that the class participants were now certified as interior firefighters. The member really got upset when our Chief told him that that may be true in other departments, but not in ours.

Although we strongly encourage all members to take either FF1 or Introduction to Firefighting as soon as they can after joining, it is not an absolute requirement – yet. We do train all members in the use of SCBA, and let them mask up under outside ventilation or overhaul conditions, and participate in live fire training attack exercises under the watchful eye of a senior member. But under no circumstances are they allowed to participate in uncontrolled, emergency interior attack operations.

In order to be considered “certified” interior firefighters, our members have to:

Have a minimum of 3 years solid experience in the department as an active firefighter
Complete the NYS FF 1 class
Complete the 32 hour County mask confidence class
Be in proper physical condition

No one can enroll in the mask confidence course without a letter from the Chief, who seeks consensus with the existing interior firefighter squad before making a final selection. Typically the members we send have shown a combination of willingness and maturity in their general approach to the business, and have participated in numerous controlled live burn drills.

For many departments, this may be a rather strict policy, and compared to those of our neighboring departments, it is. However an uncontrolled building fire of any type is an extremely hostile environment and, as we all know too well, a very unforgiving one.
We have that problem here in my small town of less than 800. There are a lot of people who do go to structure fires with no turnout gear on, and sometimes in shorts - in the summer. I would have to say, like many of the other members, that a solid amount of live training, and book training go hand in hand. I myself am going to school right now to get my associates in Fire Science, and I must say that I'm learning a lot throughout all of my courses ( All of which are taught by senior fire fighters ).

Even though I'm gaining all this knowledge through school, I still don't call myself a "firefighter." I mean, sure I can go on scene and watch other people go into a burning building and "save the day," but in the end, I'm still the same guy that doesn't have the EXPERIENCE to get in there. It doesn't matter how much knowledge you have ABOUT something, because you stick someone with all the knowledge about that subject in that job without any training, and that person will fail. Knowledge, training, and experience all work together to make a person better at whatever it is he or she does. As far as firefighting is concerned, I beleive the individual should have the experience, the training, and the knowledge.

As far as having all of that, you also need a big heart, a whole hell of a lot of guts, and some serious determination to run into a situation like that. Hat's off to all of you that are lucky enough to get in there and fight the good fight.

"Think Twice, React Once, Stay Safe!"

-Preston T

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