I've been a captain on a small p.o.c department for six months now. My department runs around 100 straight fire calls a year around the same for EMS, so I haven't been able to get much experience as a cap yet. I owe it to my department/ my fellow firefighters to be the best I can be, with the same call volume I've been reading books like mad. Long story short I'm looking for any books that you would recommend and/or advice. Thank you all for the help- stay safe!

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1) It's great that you recognize you're limited experience and are looking to expand it.

2) Books are great; classes, conferences and presentations are better; hands on is best.

Most Fire Academies offer a wide range of classes.  If you haven't yet, I'd recommend Strategy and Tactics, Engine Company Operations, Ladder Operations, Fire Officer I, Fire Instructor I, Flashover training, Self Rescue/Bail out, Building Construction and anyone giving a presentation on The Art Of Reading Smoke.  Click the link, there are FREE PPT downloads.  Go here and SHARE.

Books can only take you so far; imagine plumbing or framing a house after only reading how to do it.  Firefighting is a hands-on trade where you learn by doing.  Take as much training as you can.  If none of the above is possible (for any number of reasons) set up training to match as realistically as you can your typical response.  Catching the hydrant (or water shuttles), size up, communication, advancing the line, searches, ventilation etc.  Do what you can at your fire house or find a house getting torn down to play in.  You and your crew will be learning at the same time. 

One final caveat: Overkill.  If you can set up a scenario, play it out.  Bring in the engine and run it like it's a real scene, initial size up, 360, forcible entry, advance the line, find and extinguish/primary search.  When the job is done, pack everything up and then discuss what went right or wrong, why, and how to make things better.  If you simply repack and do multiple evolutions the guys start to get bored and grumble.  Do it again the following week and rotate positions.  It's the after action discussion that lends the greatest learning opportunities.  When you're done, buy the crew ice cream.  Nobody hates someone who buys them ice cream.

Read Rick Lasky's "Pride & Ownership."  It's a widely read book that you'll probably just want to buy.  Other than that, I like department/company histories.  A pretty good one is Brent Lewis' "A History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department."

Subscribe to periodicals - FireRescue, Fire Chief, JEMS, etc.  Leave them in the bathroom.  Trust me, they'll get read!

There are also a ton of online resources that are readily available.  I've got too many to list, but if you'll PM me, I'll give you a direction to a page that's filled with them.  Also, subscribe to JEMS eNEWS, the Secret List, etc.  If you have Twitter, you can subscribe to pages like Fire Chief, Fire Engineering, etc.  They'll push you the latest news.

Most importantly, find a way to go hands-on.  Train in the dark, during the day, in the rain.  You'll get to know your gear better and how to relate to it in less-than-perfect conditions.  Also, train with not only your department/company but with those with which you have aid agreements.

I don't know if your area allows live burns, but there have to be buildings you can use for firefighting techniques, from breaching block/concrete walls to popping doors.  Our county gives a break on property taxes when a property owner donates a structure to us.

Last, if you have spare time, do walk-throughs or outright preplanning.  That restaurant you frequent with your family?  You and your people will be shocked at what might be behind the batwing doors to the kitchen.  You'll be surprised at how many people will welcome you into their places of business, so it's a good deal PR-wise.  Make sure to call ahead!

subscribe to all of the trade mags (in PA its a tax deduction to boot), fire engineering has some decent online simulation stuff. LSU has a huge collection of fire releated power points, articles...etc here. Some of it is dated but all good stuff 

Do you want more training?  Is it that you want to make sure you can walk the walk and talk the talk?  I need more info to help you.  I'm the Fire Prevention Specialist/Training Officer here at our department, we are a small full time/reserves department we run about 300 or so calls a year.  Send me a message and I will try and help you out the best I can.

I have a few that were not covered yet.  These are just a few small things to help you out.

When you do work details, dont issue orders and sit and watch...get in there and get your hands dirty first, dont tell anyone to do something you would not do.  The crews respect officers who still work at drills and work nights and do not hide in the chiefs office.

When critiquing calls or drills, offer your own mistakes made in the past as examples, when they see their officers are not perfect but became decent firefighters and respected officers anyway they will work harder to do the same.

Dont criticise or reprimand your people in front of others; pull them asside and talk to them, telling them what they did wrong and asking them to explain how they can make it better.  Work with your crews to make them better and never let them feel sub-standard or make them feel beneath you.  Talk TO them and not DOWN to them.

Strive to do what is best for the firefighters and the department and always be seen fighting for them.

Most important;  Do not become a nozzle hog at fires (like me!) let your younger people take it in with your guidance and give them experience they need.

Best of luck to you!


Your situation sounds very similar to mine. Small department. 10 years service. I was promoted to captain last November. Since then I've tried to read everything I can find on-line. I'm sure you know the sites, FFN, Firehouse, and just googling subjects. One of the best books I've found is "Street Smart Firefighting" by Robert Bingham. He tackles many fundamentals of leadership.  The book also discusses the evolution of our tactics and why the old ways aren't always the best ways. Good luck. I'd be happy to communicate with you in the future. 

I don't come from a large department compared to some of the folks here on the FFN. My department has 16 fire stations and averages about 12,000 runs annually. Having retired a couple of years ago, and working one of the more rural fire stations, I too found myself looking for ways to enhance my knowledge base and I applaud your efforts to do the same.

Reading books is not a bad way to increase your mental powerpoint imagery, which is how I describe recalling things I saw and learned from training or reading when I was on scene to a call that was not typical. 

You should consider attending some of the free training out there for firefighters such as the Homeland Defense training in Anniston Alabama, the National Fire Academy or state sponsored fire department training programs. Many sources are available online to gain access for free to a lot of very informative fire service training programs.

Finally, this website is a great source for a myriad of training and ideas to help you out with your job.

Some of the best information doesn't even come from the fire service. Self improvement and leadership are very important and will boost your confidence and inspire those who chose to follow you! I have read a few and my suggestion is to find something that relates to a subject outside the fire service that you enjoy. Scouting is one of my favorites. Hasn't it been said fire fighters are boys who never want to grow up?


I also learned about residential construction by building my own home and researching all the systems in it. I am no professional house builder but I do know when someone is talking BS about construction methods.


I would say most importantly get outside your area and talk to the guys/gals in other departments that do it differently. May be formal or informal training but get out and see what works for other guys.


Be safe Jerrad

How refreshing it is to finally see this. Finally a Captain of a small dept. actually ASKING for help! GREAT!  While I didn't read every word of every comment from the others, I didn't have to. Everything I would have suggested to you is exactly what has been suggested. I see myself a bunch of years ago in your shoes.. small POC dept.  Promoted to Captain and having to prove to my peers that I CAN and WILL be successful.

Be prepared to have some tough times. Sadly, there are guys that will challenge you and your decisions. The best way to fight back is to be right more often than not, and when your not.. admit it. Know your stuff...you already can and are learning by reading. Books teach the rules - experience teaches the exceptions.  It will take lots of time. Having the advantage of small call volume, you have ample time in between runs to better yourself for the rest of your entire career.  The Captain is the playing coach..therefore it's unacceptable to feel you don't have to work. In fact.. you will be working harder.. just at a few different things. Get used to that. Like Moose said.. you no longer own the nozzle. lol 

Keep yourself and your crew intact, and safe!! All the best of luck to you!

Thank you all for the great advice! I happy to say ive read some of the books that have been suggested, so I'm on the right track lol. My wife has joked with me that my personality has changed in a good way since the promotion, she says I stand up for myself and my crews a lot more now. The thing I keep coming across in classes and reading is basically "officers are in place to support the guys, remember where you came from, and be ready to fail." Thank you all again! Please keep this talk going!

Other books to consider at any point in your career. Collapse of Burning Buildings by Vincent Dunn Deputy Chief FDNY. , The Fire Offficers Guide to Building Collapse by the Late  Professor Frank Brannigan, and an oldie but goodie Strategic Concepts In Fire Fighting by Edward P. McAniff former Chief of Department F.D.N.Y.  My  friend Batt. Chief John Salka has many books and articals that are wonderful for any officer or firefiighter. Also consider a subscription to the F.D.N.Y. officIal magazine W.N.Y.F. (With New York Firefighters) I know this all N.Y.C. written stuff but we've learned alot since 1865 both in NYC and from many other sources. Capt. RRR

We have a newer captian in my volly department aswell, and when he began his office He was in the same situation you are. The "I'm not going to pull your leg, I've never done this before" kind of situation. 

The biggest thing he did to not lose the respect and the power from his Lower brass and his firemen, was to not demand respect, not demand things get done, but to do things. He helped, he taught what he knew, he didn't just bark orders, he got in there and did the same things we were doing. And every experience for all of us was a learning experience. He learned to lead, we learned to trust him.

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