The Probationary Firefighter: Building Blocks to Success

March 31, 2010
Each and every firefighter recruit must have certain qualities that will form the foundation.

Each and every firefighter recruit must have certain qualities that will form the foundation of their fire service careers. These qualities can be divided into:

  • A thirst to learn the job, to never stop learning, and to become as proficient and safety conscious as they can possibly be
  • The desire to give a "hard charge;" to be physically fit enough to always give 110 percent to their colleagues and to the completion of the mission
  • A sense of loyalty, honor, respect, and decency to their coworkers
  • A desire to want to serve the public as best they can

The recruit or probationary firefighter has so much to learn in such a short period of time. But these four primary building blocks will offer a solid foundation to the new firefighter's successful career.

During their basic firefighter training, each recruit will be exposed to countless hours of instruction on the basic skills and tasks that every firefighter must know, from a knowledge of fire behavior to building construction to the use of breathing apparatus to ladder use and so much more. At some point, it seems like information overload, but this is just the tip of the iceberg!

To the newest members of this profession -- whether you are a career or volunteer firefighter, it does not matter. Fires are equally dangerous and don't know the difference between a salaried employee and a non-salaried employee. Failing to use caution or to understand simple concepts can have negative life altering consequences that you wish you had prepared for prior.

Your Safety Will Directly Depend On What You Know

The more you know, the safer you and your colleagues will be. As a member of this profession, understand that it is a technically fascinating opportunity. You must learn everything you can and never stop learning and you must always maintain a high state of physical readiness.

As it relates to your education and your desire to learn, there will be times in your career when a more "seasoned" or apparently "more experienced" member might tell you some interesting tid-bit such as "hey kid, books never put out a fire" or "you are only going to learn this job from hands on experience." Don't be swayed by this kind of mindset.

Thousands of brave firefighters have been killed in action over the years and thousands of hours were spent trying to understand what and why that happened. These case studies and fireground reports as well as numerous other sources such as textbooks and magazine articles have such an enormous wealth of information in them. To intentionally disregard this wealth of data would be appalling! If you learn from these past incidents, you can prevent a similar experience from happening to yourself or a coworker. Never forget that "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Below is a resource list for the aspiring firefighter. This list provides a good place to start if you are looking to further your knowledge base. Many of these sources offer huge amounts of information and case studies that you can start learning from right now.

To our newest members, one bit of advice; start building up your libraries a piece at a time, get your nose into the books and magazines and supplement your studies with quality practical training at the firehouse and in school (fire academy, community college, etc..) As for fireground experience, well that is coming your way to, in time. While going to fires and emergencies are great learning experiences in and of themselves, what can make these an even greater learning opportunity is the fireground critique that is so very vital towards learning. Use every opportunity to learn and never stop learning!

Learn from trusted firefighters and fire officers in your department, learn from motivated fire service educators that instill a sense of safety when they teach you, learn all you can! Live by a strong sense of morality and ethics, and maintain peek physical condition. This is a fascinating profession; make the most of it!

Learning Resources for the Probationary Firefighter


Sources for fire related text books and videos  

Web sites for standards, regulations, reports, case studies, and more  

Other Sources  

In addition to the information sources listed above, every major manufacturer has a detailed web site that also includes the specific details of their equipment. These sites are excellent learning sources for the members of the fire service.

ARMAND F. GUZZI, Jr. has been a member of the fire service since 1987. He is a career firefighter with the City of Long Branch, NJ, and is an instructor for the Monmouth County, NJ, Fire Academy, where he has taught since 1990. He has a Masters Degree in Management and undergraduate degrees in Fire Science, Education, and Business Administration. You can reach Armand by e-mail at: [email protected].

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