What They DIDN’T Teach You In Fire School

Ron Baran discusses the importance of learning to be flexible and able to adapt to any situation, as textbook maneuvers are just a guide.


Many years ago, on the last day of training at rookie firefighter school, one of our instructors gathered the class together for a last-minute pep talk. This instructor was the youngest of our six teachers and he was the one that we most related to. He sat on a desk in front of the class and told us...


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A different method may be employed when opening up walls or ceilings to verify whether the fire has spread into an adjoining room or area. Since we are just doing exploration or verification in the wall or ceiling, a much-smaller opening is required. One-foot-by-one-foot observation holes made in the plasterboard at strategic intervals will let us see whether the heat or fire has reached this area. The benefits of this method are that it is quick, it does not require much time or effort, and these observation holes limit the damage made to the building.

Rookie fire school classes teach the basics. They give students a foundation of knowledge that they will need on the job. Once the students have completed their basic fire training, they are now considered to be “qualified” to fight fires alongside seasoned firefighters.

The completion of basic training only signals the beginning of a new learning process, often called “on-the-job training.” This is a never-ending formal and, at most times, informal process of developing “know how” or necessary job skills. These skills can be learned only by observation and “hands-on experience.” To gain this experience we must be open and ready to learn from every call, from every situation and, most of all, from everyone with whom we work.


Ron Baran is a battalion chief and 29-year veteran with the City of Montreal Fire Safety Service. He is a certified Fire Prevention Technician and has taught and lectured on various fire fighting subjects nationally and internationally. Baran has developed numerous fire and safety programs, public education videos and training courses. He is also a member of several national and international firefighting organizations and has served on the board of directors of an international fire training service. Baran is also a media specialist for his fire service.