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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But it's inside book that you would learn eg the signification of warning sign on patient. A surgeon only working by experience is named a butcher.
Of course, you must practice, but you must not "test on patient".
You must learn on books, then practice in a the best condition you can, and then, you will go to the "real life".
But facing the fire, if you don't learn the theorical part then train with safety, going to the real life can turn to a nightmare.

Each part of educationnal process must be done. Carfully. Thinking the key is book is wrong. Thinking pratical training is the key is wrong. Thinking experience is the key is wrong.
The key is a correct mix of all.
Again, this is just my opinion, as you have yours. There really is no "correct" answer unfortunately. All I know is what I've learned but more importantly what I've seen and done. There absolutely is value in classes and knowledge as I myself have partaken in some of them. However, I know a lot of city firemen as well as suburban firemen. Things are done differently in each area. Suburban firemen do way more classes and degrees, but less experience. City guys do more experience and less classroom. A perfect balance would be great, but we don't live in a perfect world. And experience is how much a person has done or directly been involved with. Seniority is time on the job. They are two completely different things. So in regards to the guy with 5 years but all kinds of certificates or the guy with 10 years but little certifications, I would choose the guy with more experience. As long as its experience and not just time on the job. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm just voicing my opinion on who I would promote if it were my decision.
I agree, the small department I also work for does about 500 calls a year and very little fire-wise. You have to do what it takes to get somewhere busier, which usually means getting more certifications, college, or knowing someone!! If you can't, then burn towers or abandoned houses or just training in general is the only way to get people somewhat comfortable doing what we do. It's up to each individual to want to get better. That's what I teach my firefighters.
I will disagree with you there. I think seniority has "some" to do with it. I have workeed with guys who were firefighters for 30 years and shouldn't be firefighters much less officers. Time does not make you a leader, just means you have gotten by. I do agree with being fair, but for any departments safety, that isn't the way to go. I wish there was a perfect system for promoting, but there never is. I wonder why departments never get an acquired structure and light it up and then "run the assessment". See how people act under the real fire ground stress.
Nice answer. It makes me think about a training we have had on my fire dept with an oher fire dept. The guys who was set as "pumper chief" didn't want to be at such place. The chief of this fire dept wanted to promote him but the guys wasn't "cool" at this place. The result of the training was desastrous.
Maybe in all this discussion, we have forgotten one "point": the guy to be promoted. Maybe first step is to explain him what "promoting" means, what will be his job after this promotion and let him think of the challenge. In term of human management, it's better and this also give the opportunity to let him explain the thinks he will find difficult so on which he will need help. And also, if he don't do what his new job is for, we would be able to tell him.

On the fire ground, we often see people trying to perform basic job even if they are high rank and this create a big confusion. Of course, flowing water is far more funny than talking on the radio, but if you accept promotion, you must accept to loose some "old good times" things you were doing previously. :)
What are you disagreeing with Tyler, I already mentioned all that stuff. The point is that in a straight seniority system, you don't see the conflicts are you see here (education vs experience) for promotions.

I never mentioned it was the best systme, just that it is often overlooked and rarely do you see such a system in place. Yes, one could just "get by" and become a leader, but it doesn't mean such a system doesn't mean it is unsafe either as you seem to be indicating.
"Don't confuse time with experince"

Well said Rob!
this isn't fair, it risks putting an old idiot ahead of a younger guy that actually knows what he's doing. I say this with nearly 20 years in, so clearly I benefit from the seniority system.
I think the point of the debate is "all other things being equal, do you take experience over education?" So, assume same intellect, ability, similar stations, etc. No one will want to promote a book smart street stupid person, nor will they want a guy who's been on the job forever but has still has no idea what he's doing.
All other things being equal, I'd promote the one with the education.
90% of what officers do is NOT to fight fire, unless you're in one of the increasingly-rare mega-busy urban areas.

The education helps teach the "other" 90% of the job - planning, scheduling, counseling, evaluating, discipline, report writing, public speaking, etc.

If a job-related degree (fire, EMS, emergency management, etc) there's a more comprehensive background in the science behind what we do, more options for synergizing solutions based on things you can't learn at fires, and gaining credibility with the 99.9% of the world that doesn't understand what we do, but that does understand the value - and resulting credibility - from a formal education.
I'd have to promote the degree with 5yrs experience; reason being is that the firefighter with 10yrs might have been stationed somewhere with little to no calls. We have a few stations that almost never respond to a call unless its for a multiple alarm fire. What good is 10yrs with most of it just doing daily duties at the firehouse? This could also be said of the 5yrs candidate, yet they have a college degree and have that knowledge under their belt in addition to their experience. This is what I would go on without knowing any other information about either candidate.

-Jon LCFD
There is no real answer to this debate. Simply put there is no checklist that will tell you that this person will be an effective leader on the fire scene or in the fire station.

I've told this story on here before but the second worst chief officer I ever served under had every qualification required plus some, and had a management degree, but limited actual fire suppression or leadership experience because the majority of his career had been spent as a fire inspector in a department with a one man inspection division. He was not only a colossal failure as a fire ground officer, he was a petty tyrant in the fire station. I honestly believe he couldn't motivate buzzards to week old road kill. Were it not for a couple strong junior officers who held things together he would have destroyed the department. Thankfully he was short lived, as he decided to pursue other employment options elsewhere.

Ideally, like the linked article suggests. you would want a balance of the two, but if it's an either/or I'm going to put a slightly higher emphasis on experience over education.

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