1. #1
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    Unhappy Loss of Experiance

    In most major departments in the bay area (SF, Oakland, etc.), there is soon to be mass exodus of experianced personnel due to retirement. For example, in SF, almost 300 Firemen are expected to be gone within 3 years. This experiance cannot be replaced, as fires arent around like they used to be anymore. I personally am frightened for the future of the fire department in General. A lot of the new people coming in have NO IDEA what being a Fireman is, with little respect for the traditions and aggressiveness that SF and the Fire Service in general is known for.

    Are there any other regions in the US dealing with this same issue?

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    There will be a lot of retirements in the near future just about everywhere. Part of the problem is that cities and towns put off hiring new personnel until it becomes crunch time...then they hire like crazy, only to repeat the cycle in the next 20 to 30 some odd years.

    Traditions can be passed on to the next generation. While we don't have the "big ones" like we used to, there are enough calls to gather experience. Training is also a big part of the job. We have to take "Generation Next" under our wings and teach them to cherish the past, honor the traditions and to keep on learning!
    ‎"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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    Send me a application. I would love to move back tomy home state.
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    One thing i have always had respect for is learning what the older salty dogs have gone through in the past. Learning what techniques have worked for them and what they would do in certain situations, listening to them have saved me from getting burnt once or twice.

    So my advice listen to them, thier war stories dont just give great dinner topics, but may help you out in the future.

    It bothers me that, and i may be out of line, but alot of firefighters think that when we look at past teshniques is what we should no longer do. well also we should look at what has been working and not write off the veterans as being resistant to change. Dont get me wrong I am all for finding new and better ways to old problems, but sometimes we dont find better ways to old problems just new ones. If we dont learn form the past we can never push forward.

    I hope I made sense.

    [ 12-20-2001: Message edited by: ggtruckie ]


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    Personally, I find that "experience" is way overrated. I've seen our "veterans" do some strange things over the years (opposing hoselines, sticking a hose in the window from the outside with crews operating inside, lots of freelancing on the fireground--particularly by Chiefs). Experience doesn't necessarily make a great firefighter, though I agree it can be one of the factors. There has to be a huge amount of common sense, and the desire to learn the "new" techniques and put them into practice in the right situations. I find it much easier to work with someone that is willing to learn, share ideas and come up with a safe, effective way of doing things. I remember calling to have a roof ventilated once..three of us operating up in an attic, very hot, very smoky, unable to locate the fire. When the ladder company cut the hole, it cleared up almost immediately--quick extinguishment, minimal damage. My B/C (who wasn't even the IC at this particular fire) criticized me later on for calling for having the roof opened up. This was an "experienced" fire officer, with almost 30 years service (who thank God is now retired.) I've never quite figured that one out.

    Anyway, I feel that any department can, and will, survive the loss of all of this "experience." I would recommend a review of your training, both probationary as well as on-going, to ensure that the basics are covered. I completely agree that, as structure fires become less prevalent, they're going to take more and more training to be able to deal with effectively. A lesson can be learned from the military on this one, I think...they train endlessly for skills that they (thank God) rarely use.

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    I think on this one you need to consider that years in the fire service does not constitute experience. It's only a long time on the job. I've know guys with 5 years in that have fought more fire and seen more things that a 15 year "vet". Which one in your opinion has more experience. A lose of experienced vets is something you can't replace. I agree with that. The knowledge they take with them is irreplacable. All I can say is learn as much as you can from those old leather lungs before they go.

    Just my opinion.

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    Firecap, I think you are dead wrong, there is NO substitute for experience. The downtown area of the city that I live in is full of densly packed 3 story attached wooden houses that are over 100 years old, most have common attics. When working in those conditions, and presuming you are a relativly inexperienced firefighter, who would you want working next to you, another inexperienced firefighter, or one who had fought a hundred of similar fires berfore. I'll go for tha later every time. Experience means you have learned from your mistakes, so hopefully no one else has to make the same ones.

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    I have to agree with 286. Experiance has no subsituite from what you have posted it seems that ya'll have alot of bad and dangerous habits that were never corrected.
    Maybe as you've stated that a review of the training to ensure that the basics are properly learned and practiced may be needed here to correct some of these dnagerous situations that you gave.
    Truckco also hit it on the head when he stated that a firefighter w/5 years from a busy company really has more experiance fighting fires than someone with 10-15 years from a company that hardly ever turns a wheel.
    I'll side w/experiance on this on.

    [ 12-20-2001: Message edited by: FFNOLA ]


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    This is not meant to be a slam against any person or station or department. It is my opinion and observation and should be taken as such. Like is said often "opinions are like a55h01es... everyone's got one " Here's mine:

    I agree, there is no subsitute for experience. I also agree with Gonzo-- that the older generation firefighters are charged with the duty of training and sharing their experience with the younger ones, but the problem is, many of the "old timers" just want to "put in their time" and "get the hell out! " Truck 12 tillerman is right, the fires don't happen like they used to. I know this because I've been told that a thousand times. The funny thing is that if a probie doesn't ask for a drill, a lot of the time there won't be one .

    It's difficult being an inexperienced guy in that department because the old guys expect you to know what to do when you get to a fire, but most of them are no where to be seen when you're at the station. Thank god for the guys that care and drill and tell you what they want you to do when you get to the big one.

    Stories at the dinner table are useless- show us what you want by going out when there isn't a fire and SHOW US what you want. Only then will we be prepared to get it done.

    Now, after that rant allow me to back peddle a bit. I cannot say that this was MY personal experience. I had some excellent people training me during my probation and was lucky to have both the experienced and interested around me. However, much of what I post has been observed by me since being hired. Perhaps this is why many of the "old timers" don't have faith in the new kids.

    [ 12-20-2001: Message edited by: Boney-t ]


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    Let me give you a heads up for your early career in SF. ASK QUESTIONS!!! If you have some of those loads in your station that won't help you learn, then unfortunatly you may have to do it on your own. If you show an interest, most experianced Firemen worth anything will help you until all hours of the morning. The experianced FF are leaving soon, as I started this post about, so learn what trickd you can from them. I am sure that you will have fine career as a fireman here as long as you continue to take interest in the job.

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    T12 makes a great point. Ask if you don't know or understand something and anyone worth there salt will be glad to help.

    If you look at any span in a departments history you'll always find a drain in the experience in the department when certain groups of guys retire.

    When i first got on the job the department hadn't kept the hiring pace up with the retirements.So we had a large influx of rookies over a 5 year span and in talking with firefighters from around the country this seemed about the norm.

    After WWII thousands of war vets came home and became firemen and when they left they left in large groups and took valuable experience with them. But the guys theytrained and worked with filled these gaps and will do the same with those who come behind them.

    It never really changes older men go and are replaced by younger men and the cycle goes on and on.

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    y'all made a good points but i'm 20 myself volunteer firefighter and i get harassed all the time about being so young and a fireman. but not all young firefighters are morons. For example if we have a fire in logan county(cause we come some of logan county and some of shelby county) the chief wants me in his truck cause I live in logan county and know it like the back of my hand. basically what i'm saying is at one time even the BEST FIREFIGHTER was a rookie at one time. with time will come experience. Sure first year might be a little rough but after that they should get the bumps worked out.sounds like they got big shoes to fill but i think my generation will step up and take the challenge. I admit before training i didn't know what a spanner was, i didn't know what the chief meant when he said drop a 2.5 inch and let's hit it with a defensive attack.

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    What I see happening in volunteer or combination departments is that these experienced firefighters no longer feel a part of a department that is recruiting and hiring younger blood. Then there's a breakdown of the comraderie that they live for, and they leave. They feel they have nothing to offer.

    Its important to incorporate their knowledge (if it's good knowledge, of course!) with new methods. Not all of them (some, I know!) are as resistant to change and advancement. Many are simply amazed by it.

    This probably isnt the only problem, but it's something that I've learned about over the short time I've been in the fire service.
    We're all in this together. FDNY 9-11-01

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    I just took Rick Lasky's Managing the Mayday for Incident Comanders course. In it he discussed this topic.

    One thing his department has done:
    They created a book. Every retiring member of the department fills out a simple questionaire. Advice for new people. One of the questions was something like: what is one building you would never want to fight a fire in and why?

    All of these are compiled and all new members read it. I thought it was a neat idea.

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    I kind of of see a good example of the "you can't teach old dogs new tricks" in my area. I think some of the older firefighters are having this difficulty because most of the newer and innovative techniques were only devised in the recent past. Up until then nothing changed that much and life was good. The older brothers are not used to getting up in the middle of the night and responding to a chest pains call or using a thermal imager to find a hot spot instead of a pike pole and the back of your hand. I just recently completed a cadet school, and when I returned to put my skills to practice, I had all of a suddden became cocky and an *********.
    However, there are the older ones that are open minded and can deal with change. I believe that their combination of expeirence and training/practicing/using the newer styles can create and a good balance between the fresh recruit and th old salt.

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    One of the beautiful things about the fire service
    is the combination of tradition AND innovation. The "experts" like to think that the fire service is loaded with "dinosaurs" Any firefighter who has been around the last 15-20 years has seen some big changes in the way fire departments operate. It is a popular theory to think that the numbers of fires are dropping everywhere in the U.S. The unprecedented number of fires in the late 60's to late 70's will probably never occur again....but there are plenty of Departments that still get alot of fire duty. Training and specialized certifications have really taken off in positive way over the years. We have become specialized and this is good. Experience is still THE best teacher. From opening roofs to starting IV's the more you do it, the better you get. Young guys have always been the life blood of the fire service. They have energy and force the older members to think and stay challenged. Young guys...ask the questions,train hard and RESPECT your elders. Old guys...answer the questions, train hard and dont assume that every new guy is some smart *** punk. We all know the big talkers (young AND old) who arent worth a lick when YOU are crawling down that hallway. Young guys are the future, they keep the firehouse fresh and fun.."Seasoned" guys show them the way..Have a safe and Merry Christmas.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    I haven't posted in awhile and will probably catch a lot of flack for what I'm about to state but here goes.

    The loss of experience in large numbers can and does effect the internal operations of a fire department. I have witnessed many comments in these forums on the dinosaur issue and the supposed lack of progressiveness with these individuals.

    My first thought is that after 29 years I found one thing I believe to be true. The promotional and political climate can have a more far reaching effect than the loss of experience in and of itself.

    Many individuals who have the knowledge and experience choose not to forward this knowledge for fear that they will be left behind. To a lot of these individuals, this knowledge and experience is their ace in the hole so to speak.

    I belief that a promotional system can directly effect the way veterens choose to pass on the knowledge they have gained. If they pass on too much, they sometimes tend to feel that the individuals they are teaching may become a threat to their upward movement in the ranks. Some that never become officers are not willing to pass their knowledge on for fear of the not being needed anymore syndrome.

    The system I came up in is one that I believe in and find it very conducive to teaching the younger individuals your knowledge and experience. When I first came on the department, my officers and senior men took me under their wing and began teaching me everything they knew from day one, without hesitation. As I progressed through the years, I gained more and more knowledge this way and felt quite comfortable with becoming an officer. Almost all the individuals in my department have continued this fine tradition throughout their careers, rather than the find out for yourself, back stabbing, I want mine approach I have seen in many departments.

    The system I work in is very effective to a large extent. No one feels threatened by others coming up behind them. They have absolutely no problem passing on the knowledge and experience they have gained over many years. Politics does not enter into the process and I find this a big plus. I will always believe that experience is the best teacher but unfortunately some departments choose to crap on the experienced individuals ( dinosaurs). Most I think begin to feel that thay will be less acceptable to the powers that be after they pass these things on.

    Some or maybe a lot of individuals will not agree with a seniority based system like the one I came up through but I have learned that it is a good solid and effective system. It does not mean that all individuals will be good officers or senior men. No system is perfect or flawless. Experience should be a large factor in any promotional system so that the experience and knowledge will be passed on to the younger generation without the damaged egos getting in the way. I have found the system I work in to be very effective and my department continues the tradition.

    Now for all you non-believers, take your shots now at a dinosaur who is coming to the end of his career but still passes on the knowledge and experience I have gained from a lot of great firefighters over many years. I want to thank all the individuals that helped bring me up in the department, I owe you big time. Those that I have helped bring up, carry on this tradition, never let it die.

    [ 12-23-2001: Message edited by: FireLt1951 ]


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    I also worry about the "younger dept.", and losing our highly expirienced smoke eaters. In my mid sized career dept. we are currently losing a large number of the old timers. One thing to consider though: I am young (28), and have some very unique expiriences, and alot of training in alot of areas. But more than all of that(which is good to have), I feel I have the ability to learn from others(namely the old timers), and relate thier expirience to todays fire service. I call it thinking outside the box. It is just a matter of doing what needs to be done and doing it smart!!! The problem is that with these good qualities/excellent training/ambition/confidence, I am relegated to being just a f.f. I know there is no such thing as just a f.f., but that is what I feel like sometimes. I rarely get the chance drive, do the "paperwork", make any sort of decision on my own. We have Captains(who are in charge of stations), who are excellent and rotate their people through all of the different jobs in the station. Other Captains/LT's, tend to just say "boot"(because I have under 10 yrs on the job) just do as I say, watch me and learn, or go away I'm busy. How do we get these people in these management positions? Sorry to ramble, my whole point is, if you hire intelligent people who want to be here(in the fire service), bring them along(teach them everything possible), and treat them like they belong(if they actually do), the future would be much brighter!!!! I wonder when my dept. will catch up to the other good depts. and start promoting those who promote this dept. Just a thought of mine, sorry for the ranting! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!!

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    Amen, Loo. It always frustrates me when people dismiss the seniority system without carefully considering its many benefits. Critics focus on the sloth who gets the light blue shirt without deserving it just because he hung around long enough. Of course that happens, but it is such a rarity in our department (peer pressure is the most effective motivator).

    Every system has faults. Ours has the biggest plus of them all -- NO POLITICS. The Detroit Police Department and its promotional-test scandals is all the evidence I need of that system's drawbacks. As I go through the ranks, I consider myself lucky that I work with so many top-notch officers who are willing to share their experiences. I'll miss those "dinosaurs" when they're gone, but they'll have left the department in good shape by grooming quality replacements and not hoarding their knowledge.

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