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There are some out there (usually politicians) who like to maintain the Neandertal stereotype of your typical firefighter: A big lovable guy with an ax who is willing to break down your door and rush in to save everyone from a fire, but not too bright. Essentially big kids who never grew out of their love for big shiny trucks and flashing red lights. (Ok so maybe the shiny truck part may be true)…

They do this because it is advantageous for them come contract time. If they portray us as ignorant grunts without much on the ball it’s easier to pay us less. Politicians and bureaucrats like to look down on firefighters because we are fiercely blue-collar, working types who are more comfortable AT the bar then BEFORE the bar. They usually underestimate us at their peril.

The truth of the matter is much different from what they would like everyone to believe. As this video shows not only is firefighting highly dangerous, but it is also highly technical. It’s just that the kind of education we need and get has historically not been given in a college setting. More and more that changes every year. Now there are many college programs that specialize in emergency services. Degree programs in fields like Fire Science, Emergency Management, and Public Safety are now featured in many colleges. These programs are formalizing the lessons firefighters have learned over hundreds of years of responding to emergencies.

But for the most part our training takes place on dusty parking lots, vacant buildings or behind the station. Our classroom is the firehouse kitchen table or the apparatus bay. That’s where older veterans teach the newer rookies  lessons learned the hard way and how best to use the tools of the trade and yes that includes an ax. More and more of our people are opting to get college degrees if they don’t already have them especially officers. Leading people who are so willing and capable of extraordinary things requires professionalism and dedication.

Our society and infrastructure get more complicated and are ever-changing year after year. We have to stay on top of these changes or risk our safety and that of the general public. For firefighters that is simply not an option.



  1. Old NFO says:

    The fireground is ALWAYS changing… Every fire is different, and you can’t ‘teach’ that per se. You have to learn the basics, but the real knowledge comes in the field (and from the old hands).

  2. Rick says:

    I agree with Old NFO.
    Time is the besr teacher

  3. Dustoff says:

    Make me three.

    Even medical is changing every day. Heck just look at CPR.

  4. Mike47 says:

    Slightly off topic but related… Stockton FD (about 45 miles South of Sacramento, CA) stopped ALL EMS activity this morning, as a result of a labor dispute with county ambulance services. ALL meds, oxygen, trauma kits, etc. were ordered off the fire rigs entirely. Stockton FD (a Class 1 fire dept.) will render no medical aid to anyone until the dispute is over. This was at the insistence of the County.

    While technology advances, cooperation goes backward.

  5. Well I FIRMLY believe the fire service was entirely misguided in their foray into full blown EMS delivery. There never was a clear vision and the mission was poorly devised and executed. Insted of EMERGENCY services we are in the business of providing primary healthcare for two thirds of Philly. (the POOR two thirds) This out of control demand has wreaked havoc on what is still our primary mission…fighting fires. In the end both EMS and Firefighting have suffered horribly as a result. Jack of all trades… master of none.

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