1. #1
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    Cool "Young" Department

    Did some fill-in yesterday at a station I haven't been to in years and got a kick out of the pictures on the wall of faces long, long gone. One pic really got me thinking. It was probably taken in the mid 70's judging by the haircuts and skin-tight fit of the polyester uniforms. But what really stood out was the leathery faces and gray hair. The guys on duty that day long ago, when someone came by with a camera and made them put down their coffee cups, cigarettes and Playboy's long enough to pose for posterity in front of the pumper, looked like they all had 25 or more years on the job. Everyone working there yesterday looked like they were 25 years old!

    Those old timers had never been to an "EMS call" but there are a lot of places in town that are still refered to as "the place where they had that big fire back in seventy-(whatever)." Those were the guys who fought those fires, and I regret I didn't know more of them than the few I did for the last couple of years before they retired.

    Anyway, I took a look at our seniority roster and realized that a full 1/3 of my department has been hired in the last 5 years! What kind of actual firefighting experience are we going to have in another 10 years?

    Who's going to be teaching the new recruits then and what exactly about firefighting are they going to know? We spend all of our training time on "confined space rescue" and "EMT Refresher" and we rarely have a big fire anymore, so where's the experience going to come from? I dont have any answers, but it sure got me thinking...

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    I have thought about this as well in teh recent months. We train on all of the ancillary duties of the fire service but hardly ever sit down and even disuss tactics, new advances, new ideas, or anything resembling fire training.

    I know the Mass. Fire Academy has several fire courses and do lots of live burns and flashover training and things like this but these classes are hardly attended by a lot of people and it doesn;t appear to have waiting lists.

    I guess it comes from my military time but as far as I am concerned you can never train too much, only review the same stuff too often. We do EMS runs out the wazoo but we spend most of our time reviewing the same old EMS stuff, since the job doesn't exactly change from a BLS or Intermediate EMT level.

    And in a 10 years, it will be those younger guys that haven't been to a really rip roarin' building fire that will all of a sudden have a pucker factor of 20 when they roll up on it as the company officer of the first due company. Such is the lot of the modern fire service with increasing run numbers but a severely decreasing number of fires.
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    As far as training goes in your situation you must get some outside help. Look to the guys that teach around the country. One good drill with one of them could stimulate months of drills to practice and try things learned from the old salt.
    Your department like many others are going to go through some difficult times training good firefighters. Learn from those who have been there and make sure your sog's reflect firefighter safety as the most important objective. See if some of the old timers would be willing to come in and train. even an afternoon around the table can be a wonderful training experience.

    Good luck and stay safe.

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    Anyway, I took a look at our seniority roster and realized that a full 1/3 of my department has been hired in the last 5 years! What kind of actual firefighting experience are we going to have in another 10 years?

    About 15 years worth

    That's probably not that unusual. In my area of the country 20 to 25 year public safety pensions are not that unusual -- so you're looking at 1/4 turnover every five years or so. But often you don't see a steady rate of turnover. Often departments added whole platoons at a time -- just after World War II, in the late 40s/early 50s, was a popular time for departments to expand to three platoons. Gotta give the Vet a job...

    Know what? Do that math on the situation you described...25 year veterans in 1975 probably got hired on after WWII, and were nearing retirement, and the kids who replaced them are now nearing retirement leading to a new hiring binge.

    'Nother funny thing happened -- the "Greatest Generation" that came out of World War II and served in the fire service to see the mid 60s to early 80s in the fire career also will probably be the most experienced firefighters this nation will ever know. The spike in fires between roughly 1965 and 1983 was unprecedented in American history -- for everything from social to economic to technical reasons. Our building codes have improved (no more aluminium wire surprises), our society has changed, and the economic incentive to arson just isn't as great.

    We remember their experience in training, in lessons learned, even in Standards.

  5. #5
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    The experience in my current Volunteer Department is limited also.

    You have me with ** experience
    You have the Acting Chief (12-15 yrs)
    Assistant Chief (5-6 years)
    Everyone else has 5 years or less I believe..
    Then of course we have what I affectionately refer to as [b]"The 360's[b]----3 yrs on and 60 years of experience!

    When our merger with the county is complete the Acting Chief and Assistant Chief will be gone..and if I recall correctly....only 2 of us are over 40 and only 2 more over 30.
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    I feel your pain! I hate seeing the old timers go! I have tried to hang out with the old guys as much as possible, and learn everything I can. Although them telling me stuff, is alot different than being there and expiriencing it! My grandfather was one of those post WWII vets that joined the dept. He retired in 79', I still giggle to myself, when I work with some of his old buddies. My grandfather is gone now and in a way I have gotten to know him a little more through these guys. I don't know if there is a clear answer or solution here. Training is a key, but the lack of expirience scares the hell out of me! I have been lucky, and been in the right place at the right time to catch some good fires and get some expirience. The small volunteer dept. I run the training for has very little expirience, even the ones with 10 years of service! I try to teach them, and share all of my expiriences, even the ones where I have really screwed up, in the hopes that they may remember them and not make the same mistakes!

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    In my department we do have several 360 FF and we have some instant experts. Poor water on them and wa la.
    I am the second oldest in my dept at 49 and have been doing this for 27 yrs. I sure don't all there is about fire fighting but some of these others will scare you to death with their philosophies and tactics. They say I am grumpy. I say that I am a crusty old jake that knows that Murphy is always beside us ready to take over.

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    I'm a new guy in a Volunteer dept. Our older president keeps saying we need new young members. I agree with him, but I like having the older guys around. They know a hell of a lot more than me and they teach me alot when I hang around with them. The new young members I've seen so far have been useless. I know I'm a new young probey and I really shouldn't judge people, but when they do less work than me that makes them useless. I haven't been to a real fire yet, so when the day comes I'll be $hittin' bricks. I like training I've got 87 hours in this year. The one course I've just recently completed is the New York State Fire Fighter Survival. It was a very fun class and I learned many important things. It helped me to control my fear of heights and gave me more confidence in my ability as well as got me used to some heat and heavy sweating. I think all probies should take alot of training, because with more knowledge they can get past the fear and shock so they can be of good use. Just a probey's observation, take it as you may...

    Dufrane 11

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    The discussion of a "young" department brought a wry smile...

    I moved to CA about a year ago. Small town with a volunteer fire department, six pieces of apparatus. Submitted my application, dutifully listing my training classes and 27 years of experience. I was finally interviewed nine months later.

    The following week I received a letter of rejection. Why? The letter stated that "due to your work schedule, you will be unavailable for training". Never mind that I had informed the interviewers that I was changing jobs withing the next two weeks and I would then be available...

    Went down to the station and talked to the Chief. His response? "We'll call you at a later time... I've got three 18 year olds rarin' to go..."

    I wonder if the REAL reason I was turned down is because I'm 48??
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    We were just discussing this over a barley pop the other night!!!

    The end result we (myself and other members of my dept.) after a couple of beers and burnt brats on the grill, we concluded that we are in the new millennium and change is sweeping the country. Guys that we thought were "old timers" are retiring fast and now we have become the "old timers." The next generation of firefighters are seeing less fire, more EMS and technical stuff and more "tactical" responses.

    I am a lieutenant, I am 29 years old, I have 11 years on right now, and I am 5th senior from the Chief! Imagine that, a 29 year old 5th senior in the whole department. I just heard the other day that I was considered an "old timer" from a probationary firefighter. That sounds kinda scary but it's true. I train guys that are "newbies" that are older than me or about my own age just getting started. This is a trend in the fire service that is common across the country. Plus now with more training, less fires, and more responsibilities and dangers, it is becoming harder and harder to find volunteers. Like others have said, the era of the 60's, 70's and 80's will probably never happen again with fire experience because of the social and economic development of our country at that time.

    When I do training I try to convey some of the stuff I have heard from the "old timers" of my day. I love to pick the brains of retired firefighters. You know, I have a lot of respect for the old "leather lung" firefighters. Most of them have forgot more about firefighting than I will ever know. In fact sometimes I feel like I'm being annoying because of all the questions I ask. Yeah, I have some fire experience and worked at "big" fires and remember what it was like when I started going to a structure fire almost once a week. That still is nothing compared to the older guys and what they have seen.

    I think it was a different time back then, as well as it will be a different time 20 years from now. Hell, guys that are "newbies" now might be looked back upon when they retire as having all the EMS knowledge or the pioneers of terrorism/tactical responses.

    No matter what happens, keep your head down and stay safe!!

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    Default Is your FD thick crust or thin?

    I've heard a lot of good points on this, many that sound very familiar. With 11 years in the fire service, I definitely qualify as a veteran in the Kentucky vollie ranks these days. I hear that an average tenure is about three years. The thickness of crust is relative!

    Anyhow, I agree with the cyclical theory, that people join in platoon-like groups, then leave similarly and are replaced similarly. My FD has 22 members, about ten of which are younger than I am and several more of which are very close to my age. When we all get crusted out, we will be replaced by new blood en masse.

    It's important to preserve crust when possible. Learn from these vets--they are quite resourceful. We try not to get spoiled by hydrants, for instance--the creek is sometimes more reliable!

    I do get a little sentimental for the old school stuff. I started as a young member of an old department, with trucks like this (had two nearly identical to this one, both painted lime yellow...tasty!) Our '86 and '98 pumpers are terrific, but I love TwinSonic lightbars and 750-gpm pumps, too!

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    3greyhounds, I'm willing to bet it didn't have as much to do with your age as it did with your list of qualifications.

    Nothing more intimidating to a Chief than someone his age or older who knows wayyyyyyyyyy more than he does. It's far easier to bring the young ones on who will hang on his every word and never question what he says.

    Not true in all cases, but all too true too often

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    Originally posted by LadyCapn
    3greyhounds, I'm willing to bet it didn't have as much to do with your age as it did with your list of qualifications.

    Nothing more intimidating to a Chief than someone his age or older who knows wayyyyyyyyyy more than he does. It's far easier to bring the young ones on who will hang on his every word and never question what he says.

    Not true in all cases, but all too true too often
    Good point, LadyCapn...

    The vast majority of the 400 or so calls this department runs a year are EMS-related. Of the rest, most are brush fires (CA does get some BAD ones). The Chief stated that "we get one or two working structural jobs a year"... I can just imagine what kind of cluster those are. They made a good save on the foundation of the last one, though...

    In no way am I claiming to "know it all", because we learn every day on this job... but to not even be afforded the opportunity? Makes me wonder what really goes on there...
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    old crusty dudes are great to listen to I can't believe the things they did. Old crusty dude rule!!!!!!!

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    there's alot of truth to what's being said.there's alot of guys on my job with 5 or less years on the job, and if alot of that time's spent in a slow house they don't have much fire under their belt.You can read,look at videos, train with smoke machines or whatever,but there's no substitute for hands on feeling the heat,hearing the crackling in zero visability.Those other ways can give you some knowledge...but not the guts.And with 21 yrs,I guess I've become an old guy.

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    We have a line battalion chief who is 75 years old and has more than 50 years of experiance. He is chief of the busiest battlion and still works a 24/48 schedule.

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    And a point I think were missing about those guys, is most had 4 years of military and had usually worked several years in the trades before hiring on. Old adage goes "you can teach a man the job, but you cant teach him to work"
    And having worked the trades some had invaluable knowledge that is hard to teach.
    How many of us have been lucky enough to work with the carpenter that can tell at a glance if its ballon frame or ole "sparky" that is good at pulling meters or the mason that will say " hey cap-that wall with all the water comming out of the scupper hole-- that the old unglazed brick"
    Guys like that are worth a million bucks.

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    there is no substitute for experience

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    You know, reading this kinda got my wheels turning as well. Although I haven't been doing this as long as others, I have enough experience to have seen the ups and downs associated with turnover.

    I can remember just getting started. You wonder why we don't do this and why we don't buy that. "Man, that is soooo behind the times. We should do this" is something that went through my head constantly. I was young, inexperienced, and thinking (or trying to) endlessly of better methods (like I knew anything of the ones in use) from reading and training, and always wanting the latest and greatest gadget for the toolbox. While maintaining respect for the old jakes and keeping that willingness to learn from them, I found myself constantly questioning their ability to adapt to newer practices.

    But you know, as the crust gets thicker, so does the respect for the ones that gave you the knowledge. You begin to see things from their perspective and know why things are done this way or why we purchase this instead of that. It seems as if the crust keeps those brain waves inside allowing them to be recycled. When the newbies come around, I know what is going through their minds because it hasn't been that long since I was in their shoes (or has it) and I remember what was going through my mind.

    As the crust thickens, I tend to laugh a lot more and keep it all in perspective. Experience is something earned and not taught. Respect is taught and will aid in gaining experience. It is said you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but from my past experiences, when the dung hits the oscillator, that old dog will have a trick or two up his sleeve to "nip it in the bud".

    Begin with the end in mind.

    Be safe out there!!

  20. #20
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    Default Speechless (well, almost)

    Several things stand out and continue to run thru this thread. 1, ladycapn has it right. I was rejected for membership in a volunteer company once myself. It took years, but one day a person who was a member of that organization told me the real reason I and several others were rejected was that we all had training and certification levels higher than the ruling dynasty at that station. We were therefore a threat to the status quo. 2. Generally, age and time in this business equate to a level of experience, however, don't forget the question of "10 years experience or one years experience repeated 10 years in a row?" 3. The "cycle" trend of membership going up and down appears to be more widespread than I thought. At 60, I still ride, drive, and do about everything else that needs to be done in an emergency situation. I am the last of a group who joined in the late 50's to do so, but I don't expect to sit down any time soon. Yes, our department is younger (average age) than when I joined, but today's Fire & Rescue service is much, much, busier (200 calls in 1958 vs 7,861 in 2001 at our station) and is far more demanding of those who choose to participate. Hopefully, the C.O.J.s will stick around as long as they can, and help the younger folks learn the business. I plan to put in another 40 years myself. Stay Safe....
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