IAFC member Lt. Al Rufer discusses the great debate taking place in many firehouses across the country: do you promote the firefighter who is state certified and has 10 years of experience, or do you promote the firefighter who has their associate’s degree and five years of experience?


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Every person is different, but just on what you have here, I would go with more experience. You learn so much more out in the field, and you can bring an extra 5 yrs with you. And in all fairness....the guy with 10 yrs has paid his dues and then some. We all are more knowledgeable than we were 5 yrs ago. But....that's just my opinion !!!!!
In MOST cases I would say go with the firefighter with more experience.

However, I think it's more fair to judge such a scenario in an individualistic manner. Judge who is the better firefighter altogether, as it can easily go either way.
This has to be decided case by case. Experience is irreplaceable but so is education. One thing to think about, you get an education by busting your a$$ you get seniority by sitting on your a$$. The firefighter that has both is the one I want.
I'll be the first to say take the guy with an education. He (or she) has demonstrated competancy in the field (after 5 years you start to figuring things out) but also has competency in law, building codes, management and other non-operational areas.
Don't be afraid Vic, you're not alone. Take the guy with education.
One of the main reason is that, in the fire service there is a confusion between "being in the fire service" and "experiences".

You get experience if you do many times, the same thing. Just ask a FF "Are all the fires egal?" he will reply "No they are all different". That's wrong, but that he will tell you. So in this case, he is not able to gain experiences...

Also, let's make a little calculation: a baker make bread.If he makes 100 bread a day, 6 days a week, 45 weeks a year during 10 years. After 10 years, he had made: 100 x 6 x 45 x 10 = 270000 bread, all the same. This guy as experience. Or, in fact, he had experiences if he had the intellectual capacity to improce its knowledge. If the 270000th bread is bad, as bad as the 1st one, the guy can claim he had experiences, this one is of no use for him.
How many fire have you fight during your 10 years of fire service?....

You must have a meeting with the guy and ask him really what he has done. Why he wants to do the job, the level he had, the level he will go to and so on.

Just two little stories: in 2007 I was in Belgium to give FF a 7 hours flashover course. At the end of one of these day, a professional FF, with about 10 years of service tell us "No need to be clever to understand that, for years, we were on the wrong way". 10 years of "experience" we destroyed in 7 hours...
An oher day, a professional FF from one of the biggest Belgium town tell us "I have learn here, in 7 hours, far much more than in 27 years in the Fire Service". 27 years to do the same wrong things, day after day...

Also, I love this one:

"Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read even the small lines in a contract. Experience is what happened when you didnt' read them" Pete Seeger


Best regards
Pierre-Louis
A good Firefighter learns from both experience and education. Don't confuse time on for experience. To often FF's want to relate how long they have been a firefighter, but how much experience did they get during their time on. Many firefighters don't run hundreds of fires per year so they must take advantage of training and education. Experience is the best teacher as long as we learn from it. Too often experience puts the test before the training and we learn the wrong way doing things because we got lucky.
Depends... the 10 year guy could have worked at Effingwoods FD, 100 calls a year, he maybe ran on 20 himself. Then again the degree kid with 5 years experience might be on a busy company that does couple thousand runs. That is why the employer has the burden of determining who is the best candidate for THEIR position.

Really not much of a debate... actually far from "Great"
Good workers, sometimes, can be lousy chiefs, and vice versa.
Quality education with field experience, can be basis for quality in manpower. One without another can't work. Number of years in the service, can't be the only parameter for advance, although some minimum must be set. After five years of firefighting, a FF can say: ''Now I know something, but not all.''
With years in the service we grow up as persons and with experience we must be ready to learn whole time in the service, or the new technologies and knowledge will run over us.
Young ''tigers'' are ready to jump in and learn in run, while oldies think that youngsters would do anything to their hard deserved place in the service. It is normal change of generations that comes every few years, and it is normal that some persons think that they are in danger.
The danger can be if the responsible promote people who are eligible but not capable.
Just a brief jump in here, but typically never discussed and rarely seen anymore is a straight seniority system. You do your time, you will make promotion, unless you decline the promotion. While not foolproof and while not the "best" system, it could be viewed as the fairest, you don't see the same conflct and debates as you see now.
You can't put a price on experience!! Going through the Chicago Fire Academy 14 years ago, they told us to know the book stuff for the tests, but you'll learn 70% of this job out in the field. The book won't help you make life or death decisions in seconds...experience will.
So Jim how do you get said experience if you work at Podunk FD, 100 calls a year for the entire FD.

I mean, you work for Chicago, but many in the US won't see the same call volume as you in their entire life. I see people who are being "made" chief and are not even FF-1 and never ran a big fire.
Oh it's very easy: the FF go to the fire school; He spend 100 hours of course, but only 30 are usefull. After that, he goes to the fire. And that's a kind of game: as he know nothing, perhaps he will die. In this case, he loose the game. If he succeed, yeah!!! One point of experience! And next time he will play again...
And that's the same for the taxpayer: first time, the guy breaks windows, transform the house in swimming pool..; "Wahou!!! But what are you doing!!! You're crazy??" And the FF will reply "Sorry mom, but we learn nothing at school so we gain experience".

Just remember me... How many LODD do you have per year?

More seriously: experience is the killer as you believe you know. You must be educated first, then confirm what you've learn.

Jim, as many FF, does a classical mistake: as the course he get was of a poor level, the instructor he had talk about experiences. So Jim believe the key is experience. That's wrong. The key is a good education, with a correct link to the fireground. Our flashover course has 100% of usefull data. And if we discover some part of the course don't apply on the fire ground, we delete it immediatly.

Not sure the taxpayer will continue paying for "experience" as, of course he pay also for the "education" and pay the full price for the fire school delivering only 30% of usefull information. Like if you were paying the full price for the beeer and received a glass with 30%...

Regards
Pierre-Louis

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