Check out our latest article posted from FFN member (FETC) over at FE.

Happy Holidays!



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Hey FETC, 

  I have seen this many times in the fire service . The article states a lot of strong points, in the fire department we call them fast trackers . These people are great at taking test , but when they try to apply what they learned most of the time things do not go well. I am not here to bash them and this article not doing it as well , it is just stating facts. In our department you just have to spend six months in that rank before you can move up and take another test . I have stated that they should have to spend more time in that position as to maybe one year before you can take another test to get to know the job. I feel that just because you read a book or take a class does not make you an expert. I am probably stirring the pot on this matter , but I have seen this as well when I have to take a class or I am giving the class in the fire department. I am not here to say I am the best firefighter out there , but I have learned a lot from the older firefighter and the classes that I have taken .  



Remember the first time you tried to post at, you got a very respectful reply from Bobby that you had to post under your real name? Same thing happened to me, by the way.

And if you have also noticed; trying to promote discussion on various topics is tough wherever you post it.

With regards to your latest article, I call it "biting off more than you can chew". I would guess roughly 30% of fire departments in this country can profess to be an "all hazards" department, but the other 70%? They are going to be departments that have to choose what services are delivered based upon the wishes of their citizens.

I agree with the book smart; street stupid analogy. I wonder why the young ones want to move up so quickly and you touch upon it a little, but I also believe that the pay bump and the percieved instant book deal that they will get when they hit 10,000 likes on Facebook.

The reason so many veterans of the fire service are scurrying to get their thoughts down on Kindle is because they see the disconnect that is coming to a community near you.

Keep putting it out!


Art (my real name)

The truly smart book smart and fireground stupid people know who they are.  They look to the senior firefighter on their rig like the "90 Day Wonder Shavetails" during WW2 looked at the grizzled old Sargeant in their platoon to guide them when they came across situations they had trouble with.  These are smart people they use their strengths but count on the more experienced guys to get them through and teach them about the real world.  Honestly a SMART officer will do this their entire career because there will almost always be someone who knows more than they do about something they are dealing with.


The truly dangerous "Book Smart and Fireground Stupid" officers, or even firefighters for that matter, are those that are so arrogant or stubborn that they believe know the answer, no matter what.  These guys look at the veteran firefighters, the old timers, with disdain because they see them as in the way of the "New Wave" fire service.  The veterans to learn from are those that have been there and done it, but still keep their eyes and ears open and are learning all the time.  These guys are the true leaders, the honest future of the firefighting profession because they are always looking for better, safer, and easier ways to do things.  They are not enamored with pretty new toys and will quickly tell you if something is junk, but they will also just as quickly try to get that new piece of equipment if it makes the job better.


Let me be clear, I am not against getting a college degree.  In fact I have my Associate's Degree and have been contemplating going back to finish my Bachelor's Degree.  But on the other side of that with 35 years spread between career and volly FDs even this far into my career I am still taking classes, learning from guys that have seen and done more than me, and when I teach I am always looking for that idea, that piece of equipment, whether purchased or homemade, that some firedepartment is using that can make the job easier or better or safer.  Some of the coolest things I have ever seen come from some small town volly FD building it out of simple necessity.


If I can be brutally honest for a moment, while a college degee looks nice on a resume if you want a job today as a firefighter basic firefighter certs and a paramedic license will serve you better than a Bachelor's Degree.  There is always time after you are hired to further your education.

Sorry my title was more for shock/awe.  I honestly think we all have seen, know or even worked with people who are book smart.  The issue is not new, the book and subsequent movie "Band of Brothers" had a good example for which I use for leadership classes. The soldiers didn't respect Captain Sobel... and they showed it. The group looked up to Lt. Winters and would follow him anywhere. They had two different leadership / personalities.  Same goes for the fire service.

The sad truth is we may be creating a generation of book smart/fire ground stupid firefighters in some locations.  How?  Through the lack of actual incidents, particularly actual structural fire incidents. 

Because of the lack of actual structural fire calls, usually combined with less realistic training for structure fires, if any at all, those actual physical and mental real world skills are going away.  The firefighters who were there for those heavy fire war years are retiring or are gone already and their knowledge and experience are going right with them.  Add to that the fact that some of these new whiz bang firefighters look at that grizzled old veteran as a dinosaur to be ignored or even worse ridiculed for his ancient thoughts on firefighting.  Nevermind that the vet saw more fires in a month in the old days that the new kid may see in his career, the "old guy" is a relic with nothing of use to pass on.

I have known guys that could quote chapter and verse from the IFSTA Essentials on how to do something but just could never make their bodies actually carry out that same tactic for real.  I can't tell you how many times, as an instructor, I have heard students stand there and explain in minute detail how to do something and then when i said "DO IT" just could never make it happen for real.

I am a big proponent of advanced education in the fire service.  I believe though, that that book knowledge without real world experience is dangerous and leads to poor performance in the real world.


And whats even scarier Don, is that these brand new students fresh out of Firefighter I actually think they are ready to be officer without any realworld experience...Its a scary time to be in the fire service, especially if you are old enough to have seen the old ways when fires were up and membership was up and they took training, and LISTENED to the senior firefighters on calls instead of disrespectfully telling them "I took firefighter I and I know what Im doing"...

Sometimes I want to take those young kids and smack em' in the head with a halligan...

The officer thing is where I much prefer the standards of my career FD and i am sure others as well.  In order to test for MPO you have to have 4 years on the job, in order to test for lieutenant you have to have 6 years on the job.  It doesn't matter what your education is, what other FD you came from and your rank there, or how good of friends you are with the Chief, the time, and hopefully the experience has to be there before you even qualify to test.

I like to look at those punks and give them this line..."When you have as much time in this building as I do in the crapper here, then tell me how much you know!"  I actually had a 2 year firefighter want to challenge me certificate for certificate...LOL, I brought in a folder with over an inch of certs and classes and my Associate Degree.  Funny thing, I never do that, but he needed to be shut down.  He never opened his folder, never said a word, and I haven't had any trouble with him since.  He thought he was going to pin me as one of those old guys with no education, no certs, and no formal training.  Yeah, NO!

I get weird looks from people some times when I talk about earning your way into the brotherhood.  It isn't what you say, it is whether or not when the shit hits the fan you can do the job and be counted on and it really is that simple.

Back when I transferred to the house im at now, another guy joined at the same time as me from another department.  He used to brag about how much training he has and how he wanted to be officer...

After 3 months of being a member here I was asked to be Captain, he complained that he wasnt picked.  I asked what training he had, CERTIFIED training and he said "Oh a lot, I forgot how many..."  but when we asked the fire coordinators office for a copy of his training records it had 2 classes listed; Essentials, AVET...thats it.  When confronted about that he then proceeded to say "Oh no, my training was mostly in-house at drills at my last department." Ok, so we call his past chief and asked what kind of training he took in-house there and the chief laughed, and said "Im looking at the training attendance and out of 24 drills last year he made 3..."

Now I am Asst Chief and he is still complaining...

In my first department on Long Island NY, you had to be a trained interior firefighter for 8 years before you were eligible to run for Lieutenant of either Engine or Ladder company.  You were forced to wear a bright orange helmet when you joined until you took your basic firefighter training and passed an in-house skills review with an officer.  Today...(chuckle)...If your daddy was a member before you and you take essentials you are chief of department within a month...

I like that line about the crapper!

Too many wannabe overnight sensations wearing white helmets near me and its scary...most of them 10 years or more younger than me...


I know that kind of guy very well.  That is exactly why I burned that guy to the ground with my stack of certs.  Unfortunately for your department this guy sounds almost delusional in his belief that he should be an officer.

I believe you should have a certain amount of time on the FD before you are allowed to seek promotion.  I'll go even one step further than that, I believe you should have to have a set mount of time on the FD before you can take Fire Officer 1 and Training officer certification classes.  Frankly, both of those demand an experienced firefighter, not just someone who can take a class and pass the test, 

Don, you and I must be brothers separated at birth...LOL

I agree with that 100%, how can someone with little to no experience teach firefighters at drill how to do something they themselves can barely do right?????  I would rather have the guy in his 50-60's with TONS of real-life experience be training officer for our department than a newbie fresh out of basic firefighter training.  My area though...I am just dreaming...we have 20 active members, 7 interior qualified (10 if you count the 3 that have been in for 20 or more years yet only have in-house training that say they are interior firefighters simply because they have put on an air mask and followed someone else into a fire a few dozen times...) yet our department still thinks they need 3 chiefs, 2 captains and 2 lieutenants (if you have not figured it out, basically all of our interiors are officer, 2 captains being fresh out of Firefighter 1) dont get me wrong, the two captains that are fresh out of training have the right attitude at least, and know they are officer only because there is no one else and they have told me dozens of times they look forward to learning how to BECOME officers by learning from myself and the chief.  Good start I guess.

Perhaps we are long lost Brothers...well, we are Brothers all the same anyways!!

The circumstances you mention are part of a growing issue in the volunteer fire service.  The youngsters coming in and moving up and the old guys backing off or getting out.  The "old guys" if they really were veteran firefighters could help these young guys by mentoring them.  Unfortunately, we had some old guys that were on for 20 years but only had one year of experience 20 times.  They never put themselves out there, they never pushed the training envelope, they showed up, did as little as possible, and then took the credit when things went right and finger pointed when they didn't.

It is up to us to mentor them, teach them, LEAD them, to the promised land of being an experienced, respected, firefighter that becomes a great leader in their own right.

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