Let's Talk Fire: Learning Something New Every Single Day

Uneducated firefighters should just stay home.

This guy is lacking any sense of what is going on behind him.
This guy is lacking any sense of what is going on behind him.

Education Is Supreme

Greeting truck monkeys and hose pullers. This time around we are going to look at something I feel is vital to the continuing success of the fire service. That something is making it our personal goal, either as an individual or a department in full to learn something new every day that will make us better firefighters. It is our duty to be the best we can and why not aid that goal by putting our best foot forward and making a real effort to be the best?

I am a firm believer the best firefighters are those who do not just come to drills, attend fire schools, and are present at every fire class. This helps but the best firefighters are those who take personal time to learn the craft. The cats who read the Essentials of Firefighting until their eyes hurt, or the ones who take the thermal camera to the grocery store to get a feel for different temperatures on the screen. These are the men and women I want to work with.

In this installment of Let's Talk Fire I am going to give you some great ways you can continue your fire education long after drills have ended and the chief has removed his foot from the probies brain center. So let's look at some ways we can better ourselves.

Training Video

Teaching Kids Is Great!!!

Providing safety classes to children is a great way to advance your knowledge.
Providing safety classes to children is a great way to advance your knowledge.

Study Like It's College

I know some of you nozzle heads partied a little to hard in college but think of those really hard tests. You had to be up all night cramming like there was no tomorrow, right? That is how we should approach the fire service. Get a good fire book and go full force on it. Learn every aspect you can learn. I am not saying devote all of your free time to this endeavor because I assure you that will drive you crazy but at least put in some effort to take an hour a day to devote to learning something new that will make you a better firefighter and ultimately a better person.

My first advice is look for books on topics you enjoy. I love interior attacks and rescue missions so that stuff really peeks my interest as far as the fire service goes so I am more apt to read that type of material. Maybe you like ventilation operations or even incident command and it's objectives. There is no reason you can not find a good site or book and just read up on new techniques and aspects of those topics. There are tons of free sites full of great articles and stories that can be found with a click of the button on a mouse.

Maybe you prefer physical training to reading, and let's face it most of us fire eaters do! Youtube is an invaluable resource to learn new skills and brush up on some of the old ones. We can get so much vital information from the internet but for some reason we kind of look at it as if it is not a tool for us in the fire service. Drills are great but sometimes we need more to fuel the beast that drives us to be the best we can be time after time, run after run.

The Reading Spectrum

I am a fire nerd, point blank. If I am at a drill or class I have a notebook and am taking notes like a maniac. It is my nature. I always recommend to my crew to at least explore some avenues of the fire service in text format. Firehouse Magazine and Fire Rescue magazine are great resources that keep a lot of aspects of our job up to date. They are very good tools to build on. I also suggest looking at some of the free publications available online for firefighters through FEMA. I will post a link in the sidebar to help you find this tool.

Just to show you the impact of the written word in the fire service look at "America Burning". This free publication was released in 1973 and showcased the difficulty the modern fires of the time were providing firefighters. That single publication began a new age for the fire service and we now use that text as a guideline on what we should do as opposed to what we think we should do.

Other text like firefighter case studies are valuable tools to the firefighter who wants to learn from other's mistakes to avoid making them on their own. If you know that a TV wire tangled a firefighter causing him to suffer burns and in the long run pass away than you know you need to be prepared just in case you encounter the same issue. These reports are free and will be included in the links on the side bar.

When it comes to reading the fire service generally gravitates to the Essential of Firefighting series of books. I like these for sure but I find the books released by Fire Engineering seem to be a bit more in depth and more detailed on their explanations of things. I would recommend these books to any firefighter be it the probie still looking for a hose stretcher or the seasoned vet who still insist we hit every fire with fog.

Making props can be a great way to learn a new thing

Physical Training gives us a real edge.

We learn by doing!
We learn by doing!

The Physical Spectrum

This is also a very big part of my personal training. Some firefighters prefer seeing as opposed to reading and there is nothing wrong with that at all. One very good aspect of this is to be able to make your own props for training. I have seen people recycle old out of service hose and use them to train on proper egress techniques. We know the rules of the lugs and such so this provides us a physical tool.

My crew which is the firefighters I brought into the service and have helped mature from yardbreathing probies into effective firefighters, are always looking for new ways to advance their selves. I run a library and after hours some time we meet and stretch a hose line and run simulated missions to recover downed firefighters. Sometimes we use tag lines and run rescue missions just to see how we are doing and where we each need to work on. If you have access to a place where you can do this it is great and you will learn a new thing every time you do this I promise. Maybe you realize you are a little slow on the crawl and need to pick up the pace or perhaps your dragging technique is exhausting you long before you can get the downed firefighter out of the situation. These are all areas where we will gain knowledge of the problem and now find a way to cope and adjust to remedy the issue all together.

One aspect of our service is it is ever changing. new regulations and recommendations come down all the time and we have to stay on top of them if we are to succeed as firefighters and fire departments. Lessons learned are lessons we can keep.

I say learn something new every day simply because if we do not we get left behind. 20 years ago a firefighter could run into a building and fog everything in site and that was thought to be OK. Now we know due to more foam in furniture and more intense fuel loads that a fog pattern will disturb and compromise a thermal layer and bring super heated smoke right down on top of us limiting visibility and increasing the danger of flash over. Our tactics change almost yearly it seems and it is our job and duty to be up to date on those changes.

In closing

I will leave you with my moto for the fire service. Learn from the past for survival in the future.

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