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    Default Words of wisdom

    I found this gem on www.thehousewatch.com

    The High-Horse Fire Department

    How It Works To Derail Good Firefighting

    by

    Aaron Lipski

    I keep hearing these phrases, over and over and over again, to the point that I’ve finally realized that they encompass the complete plan, beginning, middle, and end, of many of our comrades in the Fire Service.

    “The most important thing is that we all go home in the morning.”


    “Oh, well, the fires all go out.”


    “Safety is our top priority.”


    Nice as these ideas are, they are often espoused by people who have demonstrated throughout their careers that they are incapable of ensuring any of them in practice. It is hard to argue that we should all strive to get our brothers and sisters home to their families at the end of their shifts, but can that really be the end of the plan? We could all stay in quarters for our entire shift and accomplish that. Unfortunately for the card carrying membership of the HHFD, our public often requires much more than that, and on a moments notice.

    It is impractical and unsafe to base our entire (un)willingness to train and drill on the assumption that after a while all of the fires we respond to will go out. In this statement is lost the necessary standard of focused speed and skill in getting water on the fire and all that goes with it. But, many in our midst lean on their rigs after good workers saying just that, as if it means anything. These are good people to use as backdrop firefighters in wedding pictures, their gear is always clean.

    I’ve been unable to wrap my brain around the “either-or” mentality sweeping the internet lately regarding the safety culturists vs. the extinguishers. It was always laid out in pretty clear and graphic terms for me as I made my way up from Cub to Captain.

    “Hey kid, stay low as we make our way in so we don’t have to visit you in the burn unit.”


    “Watch where you swing that axe so we don’t have to dig around on our hands and knees for Smith’s eyeball.”


    “Big fire, big water.”


    “Ours is the only race where the stopwatch is started before we know we’ve been entered to run.”



    These and many other hundreds, thousands even, of statements were passed down from older, street wise-ned firefighters. Of critical importance, each statement defines in its own way a specific action or behavior to be learned and practiced: crawl (while pulling a hoseline and while searching), be aware of your surroundings while swinging tools around in the smoke (if you aren’t aware, take the time to find out), learn to recognize what your tank water can handle or at least slow down and what hose and nozzle will reach and penetrate the fire, and, of course, get off your duff and get out the door when the bells sounds. The idea is to achieve safety through learning and mastering our primary job functions.

    To do it the other way is the Fire Service equivalent of telling a Cub Scout baseball team that it doesn’t matter if they win or lose as long as they have fun playing and feel good about themselves. More accurately, it’s the same as telling them all of that and never taking them out in the backyard to swing a bat or field grounders.

    Simple, Yes? But the lesson to be heeded is that Fire Service training demands more than axioms and always/never statements. Instead of coming up with more soft-skill feel-good one-liners, take the time to define what is and isn’t working with the equipment you are charged with using. I’ve had the good fortune to train many firefighters from many different Fire Departments across the nation and am always astounded at how similar the Firefighter personality is. The B.S. meter is always on and the leakers always show themselves early. Don’t be a leaker. Go out and practice and drill, even on your most basic skills. I promise you, as sure as the sky is blue, your overall performance as an Engine or Truck crew will begin to exceed even your high standards.

    Whatever you do, don’t just sit in the barn with the High Horses.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 08-15-2009 at 05:11 PM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    thats awesome. I may have to put that on the board in the firehouse.

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    Thumbs up

    AMEN !!!! Thanks Cap.

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    great find, really what a lot of wise firefighters have been trying to get across to the safety sallies.

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    As a safety sallie, naaaaaaaaaaaaa.

    As far as the training aspect, I agree. Now that I am at the station full-time I am always taking one or two people aside for a 20 or 30 minute "quickie" training session and pushing for us to increase our training standards, which are already higher than all the combo and VFDs around us, but could stand some tweaking here and there.

    That being said, I still don't see entering certain types of structures as needed operations in our area, no matter how well trained you are.

    But we have already beaten that horse into glue.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-15-2009 at 10:05 PM.

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    Post Umm..............

    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post

    But we have already beaten that horse into glue.

    Problem with Glue is that it causes things to get stuck.

    And when things get stuck, they lose relevance..........
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    As a safety sallie, naaaaaaaaaaaaa.

    As far as the training aspect, I agree. Now that I am at the station full-time I am always taking one or two people aside for a 20 or 30 minute "quickie" training session and pushing for us to increase our training standards, which are already higher than all the combo and VFDs around us, but could stand some tweaking here and there.

    That being said, I still don't see entering certain types of structures as needed operations in our area, no matter how well trained you are.

    But we have already beaten that horse into glue.
    if your "standards" are higher than your neighboring FD's... it makes glad to live far, far away...
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    The primarily volunteer state firefighter's association was in favor of minimum standards but it died it legislative committee, in part because the career side opposed it saying it was not sufficient. Interesting enough, they had no real dog in the fight given that Firefighter I was already required for entry into the state retirement system.

    We tried.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    The primarily volunteer state firefighter's association was in favor of minimum standards but it died it legislative committee, in part because the career side opposed it saying it was not sufficient. Interesting enough, they had no real dog in the fight given that Firefighter I was already required for entry into the state retirement system.

    We tried.
    Sure.. blame the career guys for your shortcomings...
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    We actually don't have shortcomings.

    New members are required to complete a skills checklist encompassing Firefighter I skills that we utilize in our operations. We do not require FFI for firefighter-level personnel.

    Firefighter I is required for first-level promotion to senior firefighter. There are other requirements futther up the ladder. Most rural combo or VFDs do not have these minimums

    The fact is, there were some career elements that worked to block a minimum training proposal that applied only to the volunteer service, as Firefighter I is a requirement to enter the firefighter retirement system.

    To be fair, there was also some disagreement within the state firefighter's association, especially with some combo departments, that felt that the proposed 50-hour course was not sufficient and that the minimum should be Firefighter I. It was made clear in the discussion that this was a proposed minimum and as a department, they had the option to require a higher minimum standard if they wish. Some still opposed it, for whatever reason, even though there was the local option to increase the minimum.

    Due in part to the opposition from both the career and combo quarters, we currently do not have a minimum training standard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    We actually don't have shortcomings.

    New members are required to complete a skills checklist encompassing Firefighter I skills that we utilize in our operations. We do not require FFI for firefighter-level personnel.

    Firefighter I is required for first-level promotion to senior firefighter. There are other requirements futther up the ladder. Most rural combo or VFDs do not have these minimums

    The fact is, there were some career elements that worked to block a minimum training proposal that applied only to the volunteer service, as Firefighter I is a requirement to enter the firefighter retirement system.

    To be fair, there was also some disagreement within the state firefighter's association, especially with some combo departments, that felt that the proposed 50-hour course was not sufficient and that the minimum should be Firefighter I. It was made clear in the discussion that this was a proposed minimum and as a department, they had the option to require a higher minimum standard if they wish. Some still opposed it, for whatever reason, even though there was the local option to increase the minimum.

    Due in part to the opposition from both the career and combo quarters, we currently do not have a minimum training standard.
    Blah blah blah blah, blah blah. So now the combo departments are against you too?

    It must be some vast conspiracy theory to keep the VFD's down....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Psssssssssssst ... We are a combo department, and in terms of runs, we are either the first or the second busiest combo FD in the northwest corner of the state.

    To tell you the truth, I have no idea why many of the combo departments were against it. This would have been a minimum and they would have had the ability to set their own minimum standards higher if they wished. But there was a lot of opposition by the combo departments to the 50-hour course v. Firefighter I as the minimum, even though the proposed 50-hour course would have been more than sufficient initial training for most of the volunteer, and some of the small combo departments in the state.

    The discussion at the conference got pretty heated when it was brought up 4 years ago. In the end, it was voted to be forwardedto the senate committee that dealt with that area. it died in committee due to both lack of active volunteer support and opposition from certain combo and career departments. So all aspects of the fire service had a hand in it's failure.

    Fact is we have no issues with training as we generally receive maximum credit when we are rated, and have more people, including volunteers, trained to higher levels than any combo department in the area.

    We are actually quite proud of our training v. most other departments our size. The numbers of certified personnel prove that.

    We have 2 members that teach for LSU FETI and 2 members on the regional USAR team.

    Fact is we do need to go home everyday and every class I teach is focused on that mission.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-16-2009 at 09:09 PM.

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    Yep...higher standards. Ladders are an entry level skill in Wisconsin, taught to all firefighters. Not a special operations skill, or a skill that simply isn't seen as important enough to become proficient at.

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    Ahhhhhhhhh the ladder discussion.

    Are refinary operations an entry level skill?

    Fact is we rarely use ladders as we have very few 2-story structures. While a basic skill, it's simply not a critical skill. We teach it one and 2-man raises are a part of our introductory skills checklist but it's not a critical skill. We don't spend a lot of time on ladders because in our area, it's really not that important.

    We probably spend a dispropotrinatte amount of time in other areas such as brush fire operations and refinary operations/industrial firefighting and foam operations because the nature of our district demands it. To us, those, not ladders, are critical skills for new firefighters.

    Same with vehicle extrication.

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    Very interesting.. I didn't know ladders where only built for multiple stories.. I mean really, Who needs a ladder for single storie buildings.. Oh wait, if you don't go into most buildings/You don't get ontop of most buildings huh?

    Here's one for ya, I'm almost willing to bet more FF's where injured operating on or around ladders, Than where injured making an aggressive attack.. Your safety sallie classes are really missing out on this one..

    My question to you LA..

    Why on god's green earth did you show up in a thread that specificly stated WISDOM in the title??

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    Very interesting.. I didn't know ladders where only built for multiple stories.. I mean really, Who needs a ladder for single storie buildings.. Oh wait, if you don't go into most buildings/You don't get ontop of most buildings huh

    Basically that's what we teach during the introductory program. Throwing ladders to roofs and deploying roof ladders. The ladder initial skill set is basically designed around laddering for single story residential ventilation operations.

    We teach throwing ladders to windows and transferring through windows later on. Again, given that we have very few 2-story residences, it's a skill that is rarely used (if ever in some of our firefighters careers) so it's not taught during the initial training.

    Here's one for ya, I'm almost willing to bet more FF's where injured operating on or around ladders, Than where injured making an aggressive attack.. Your safety sallie classes are really missing out on this one.

    That's a strong possibility, but I would also be willing to bet that many of those injuries occur during window transfers and window rescues, which due to our limited exposure in those types of operations, is greatly reduced within our district.

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    Yep...higher standards. Ladders are an entry level skill in Wisconsin, taught to all firefighters. Not a special operations skill, or a skill that simply isn't seen as important enough to become proficient at.


    And i would be willing to bet ya that your housing stock has a significant percentage of 2-story structures.

    Here, I would estimate that it is well less than 1% of our residential structures.

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    What the hell does a two story house have to do with being proficient with ladders?

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    The more 2 story homes you have the more they will be raised, especially in an area where chimney fires are an issue.

    Here, we may raise 2 or 3 ladders a year at incidents. Some years we may only do it once as the majority of our ventilation operations utilize a PPV fan and not a roof cut.

    Back in the northeast, the departments I served with probably raised ladders on a minimum of 15-20 runs a year, and many of those required multiple raises, with the same call volume.

    You can bet that the department that raises ladders 10x or more a year is more profiecient, and yes, the housing stock plays a role in that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post

    Yep...higher standards. Ladders are an entry level skill in Wisconsin, taught to all firefighters. Not a special operations skill, or a skill that simply isn't seen as important enough to become proficient at.


    And i would be willing to bet ya that your housing stock has a significant percentage of 2-story structures.

    Here, I would estimate that it is well less than 1% of our residential structures.
    Ladders are a BASIC skill set that is taught in entry level firefighter in Wisconsin. The actual ladders part of the class is 6 hours long, BUT from that point on we utilize ladders for hose strtetches in to buildings, and other uses. We build the skills and confidence by using them in conjunction with other elements.

    You once again make excuses and go off on tangents about things being more important than ladders. Your whole training program sounds like a freelance mishmash instead of something even close to resembling a standardized BASIC RECRUIT program. Refinery firefighting is NOT a basic skill. Wildland firefighting can be a basic skill depending on what exactly you are considering wildlland, grass and scrub brush versus pine groves.

    In reality you are crippling your guys in the circumstance that they move to another fire department, because they can say, "I was on Bossier Parish for 5 years" and the training officer as part of a testing process could say do a one man 24 foot ladder raise to the roofs edge and your guy would say..."UM, we never learned that." making your guy look like a boob and bringing your entire training program into question.

    Basic skills accepted nationwide are not special operations, not something that you don't teach because you don't value them. You could teach a ladder refresher once a year to your guys in 3 hours. It isn't like it takes up so much time that it would interfere with teaching proper vest wearing, stopping at green lights, looking for garbage cans to see if someone is home, and the proper way to tell someone their family is going to die because they didn't have smoke detectors.

    We use our extrication tools perhaps 5 or 6 times a year and yet we set up practical skills training at least twice a year. This includes going to a junk yard and having them set up scenarios for us to work on. By your standards we shouldn't bother since we use the tools less than 5% of our calls. The problem with firefighting is you never know which set of skills you will need when the tones go off, that is why we practice them all.

    Less than 1 % of your houses are 2 story...no merchantile buildings with higher roofs? No industry with higher roofs? No mutual aid departments with 2 story of more houses or apartment buildings? Ah but what the hell 3 to 6 hours a year training for those people simply isn't cost effective...so now your "You are gonna die list" includes anyone on a floor above ground level or anyone trappped for any reason above ground level.

    You must be one cold hearted son of a gun to simply write people off as easily as you do.

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    OK, I understand, since you don't do any roof opps there is no need to be proficient with ladders.

    On a side note, just curious to who cleans the gutters down there in LA?

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    Makes a convienent excuse.Probably never use a ladder at a refinery either.Haven't seen too many refineries where the FD wasn't working in close co-operation with the refinery crews.Not a good idea to twist the WRONG valve. T. C.

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    Your whole training program sounds like a freelance mishmash instead of something even close to resembling a standardized BASIC RECRUIT program

    We have a very defined set of skills that new members must demonstrate to come off probabtion. They are based on operations we conduct, not skills listed in Firefighter I.

    Members are also required to complete a computer-based FFI program and pass a 100 question written test on our operations. It's actually quite formal.

    Refinery firefighting is NOT a basic skill

    When you go to more refinary, oil/gas well and battery tank fires than structure fires, it is a basic skill.

    Wildland firefighting can be a basic skill depending on what exactly you are considering wildlland, grass and scrub brush versus pine groves.

    Our brush fire training needs far exceed the material covered in FFI. We deal with some very fast moving fires in varied fuels with a lot of structural interface. Advanced brush fire operations here is a basic skill that takes priority over alarms, sprinklers and standpipes, as example.

    Again, our brush fire calls are 3-4x structure fires.

    In reality you are crippling your guys in the circumstance that they move to another fire department, because they can say, "I was on Bossier Parish for 5 years" and the training officer as part of a testing process could say do a one man 24 foot ladder raise to the roofs edge and your guy would say..."UM, we never learned that." making your guy look like a boob and bringing your entire training program into question.

    Firefighter I is required for any promotion. Firefighter I is encouraged but not required for firefighter level members. If someone wants to take it, we pay for it. Reality is I'm not training my guys for another department down the line. I'm training them to operate in our district with our hazards. I have a limited amount of time and we teach them the skills they need to perform here. If they want to take further training, it's avaialble to them at no cost. It's thier option. If they are thinking about a career in firefighting, most of them take FFI and beyond.

    Less than 1 % of your houses are 2 story...no merchantile buildings with higher roofs? No industry with higher roofs? No mutual aid departments with 2 story of more houses or apartment buildings? Ah but what the hell 3 to 6 hours a year training for those people simply isn't cost effective...so now your "You are gonna die list" includes anyone on a floor above ground level or anyone trappped for any reason above ground level.

    Mutual aid housing and commercial structure stock is identical. Short and wide. We have some commercial structures and we do train on ladders during weekly department-wide training nights a minimum of 2x a year.. We generally use those trainings to refesh on commercial raises and commercial roof operations, so it's not unfamiliar in the unlikely event that we have to operate on the roof at a commercial structure fire.
    In addition, we perform some type of ladder training 6-8x a year for daily company/small group training.
    We have one 2-story apartment building. Again, it's a skill that we refresh on but rarely utilize.

    Again, we don't run into the neighboring city, which does have a different structural stock.

    Training is all about using the time you have to your best advantage. Our training time is allocated based on what we do most - EMS, extrication, wildland and gas/oil facility operations. Structure fire skills are mixed in among those areas. Your priorities are not the same as ours because your district is not the same as ours.

    You must be one cold hearted son of a gun to simply write people off as easily as you do.

    Good chance that I am, but when it comes to protecting our guys, they take priority.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-18-2009 at 10:26 AM.

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    Makes a convienent excuse.Probably never use a ladder at a refinery either.Haven't seen too many refineries where the FD wasn't working in close co-operation with the refinery crews.Not a good idea to twist the WRONG valve.

    Our fire chief is the safety manager for the refinary in our district. We train quite often out there.

    Our policy is our personnel do not touch any valves unless we consult with facility operational personnel beforehand. Same policy applies to drilling rigs and batter tank farms.

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    When you go to more refinary, oil/gas well and battery tank fires than structure fires, it is a basic skill.
    Our fire chief is the safety manager for the refinary in our district. We train quite often out there.

    Our policy is our personnel do not touch any valves unless we consult with facility operational personnel beforehand. Same policy applies to drilling rigs and batter tank farms.
    Is that supposed to give us a warm and fuzzy feeling?
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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