We live in a glorious age of information – the internet has provided unlimited access to a vast wealth of knowledge. Never in the history of man has one been able to gather information as efficiently as we are able today. But most people take this for granted. We ignore information we don’t agree with and allow ourselves to be fooled by charlatans feeding the masses misinformation. Nowhere is this more obvious than social media, especially within the American Fire Service. There are many voices out there preaching acronyms, science, aggressive attack, modern materials, and everything in between. Unfortunately, those deafening voices are drowning out the basic tenets of the fire service, inundating it instead with misinformation and opinions. At the end of the day, it’s all about knowing your enemy (the fire/the building) and knowing when, how, and why we perform certain tasks. It’s about getting your hands dirty and going above and beyond the call of duty to serve those we swore to protect.
Education is important. Those of us who care about the job have always known that. But we have to stop thinking that we know more about fire than anyone else. A lot of research confirms what we’ve known for years, while other research teaches us that what we thought we knew is, in fact, wrong. But research only goes so far it simply cannot provide us with an all-inclusive guide to fighting fire. NOT ONCE did I see NIST/UL/FSRI provide an instruction manual on how to fight fire or blatantly state that your tactics are wrong. The best researchers can do is provide you with information that you didn’t have beforehand. A good firefighter takes that information and uses it as another tool in the firefighter toolbox, taking it out when the job calls for its use. Those organizations providing us with research aren’t there on the fire ground when those jobs call you to action. They are not recording information about you and your fires. There is no acronym on a billboard behind the building telling you what to do on this job. YOU are the one that must make those decisions. Your department’s actions will affect the outcome of the incident, so you better be ready to put in the work. No matter how much you want to believe this job is based on science, it’s truly based on hard work and determination. You can understand the science better than Steve Kerber himself, but if you can’t pull a hose line or make a push to save an unprotected victim then you are useless. At the same time, if you don’t understand your enemy, you become a liability on the fire ground. Great, you know every hose load ever and can cut a roof like a boss, but if you can’t read the smoke or know what the fire is doing to the building then you’re just pretending to be a firefighter.
Experience matters. Anyone telling you otherwise is misinformed. There are some caveats there though. Experience without actually knowing the how, what, and specifically the why is a waste of time. If you can’t address the all-important “why”, then you didn’t truly gain experience, you were just there. The guys teaching based on experience know the ins and outs of the event and can tell you why. To discount what guys with experience say is foolish and a poor reflection on you. Those who don’t learn from fire don’t teach (at least not effectively) and definitely don’t write, so let’s ease up on the arguments against experience.
We get so bogged down in advancing our own agendas and infighting that we forget it’s the dedicated and hard working firefighters that make a real difference for our citizens on the fire ground. We have two sides battling each other while lackadaisical firefighters are allowed to skate by, infecting more brothers and sisters with a propensity towards laziness. Our infighting is allowing the mutts to gain traction; we need to cut the crap and realize we are only arguing with other passionate firefighters who care about the job. The focus needs to be on lifting each other up and making those around us better because when we stop and look at the facts, we’re really not that different. The only cowards and cowboys out there are the ones that don’t care about the job or their citizens, yet we throw these insults at each other on a daily basis. We need to weed out the mutts and become mentors to our young members so they become the best firefighters they can be. Get out there and train, train, train. Pull lines, throw aluminum, and learn fire behavior. Move with purpose and work hard to make sure our citizens have the best fire protection in the world. This requires long hours of hard work, effort, dedication, and study. We can type all day and tell people they’re wrong all day, but what does that accomplish? Let’s move forward together with the basic goal of knowing our enemy and doing our job as best we can. Actions, not rhetoric, speaks louder than any acronym, blog, term, or study can ever do.
Keep It Basic!