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Fire Service Mistakes


By John Morse

Firefighters make mistakes, just like every other profession.  Some of our mistakes like, when we crash a fire engine, or get into some trouble off duty, make headlines in the newspaper. We try to keep out of the headlines, and the mistakes in this article probably wouldn’t have enough shock effect to make the newspaper.  These aren’t mistakes we make individually but are instances that the fire service as a whole misses opportunities to improve ourselves, or let outside factors influence our decisions.

When it comes to training the fire service, at times it looks like a dog trying to catch its tail.  As firefighters we all know what we need to learn, but somehow as the fire service, we have allowed way too many outside agencies to decide what we need to learn and how many hours we need to spend on the topics these outside people dream up.

Sure we need to drive safely and we need to spend time training on apparatus placement and learning the size of our rigs and the clearance we need when navigating the roads in our town.  But, when we spend hours and hours driving through an obstacle course of orange cones and backing into imaginary loading docks because our insurance company wants documentation of driver’s safety programs, it gets a little silly. We respond to a lot of EMS calls but how did we let some other agency mandate the number of hours we train on topics that may not even be relevant to our operation.

All these training requirements have twisted the reason we train. The objective of our training has shifted from being proficient on the fireground, to making sure we spend the right amount of hours making everyone else happy. We need to train in situations that simulate a real fireground.  The type of situation where we are each responsible for our individual tasks and lead to accomplishing the goal.

The political correctness and fear of calling someone out for not knowing their job is hurting us all.  It’s time to get tough with the outside agencies that are controlling us, and time to make each other accountable for being able to do our job.

Another way we waste time is dealing with issues we can group in the “human resources” category.  The annual harassment training doesn’t really change, so why do we waste a couple days every year watching that same video when there are more important things we should be spending our time doing?  And why does it seem that those HR training days are always scheduled when we have the best weather or when we could do some real training on the street.

It seems like everything we read about the fire service these days talks about cutting manpower and closing stations to save money.  Nothing has happened recently that allows us to put out a fire with fewer people.  In fact, houses are bigger and we really need more manpower than 5 or 10 years ago to safely handle a structure fire. We need our own people arriving with us.  We can’t rely on a mutual aid company coming from 10 to 15 minutes away when we are trying to make a hit on a fire.

The fire service needs to get tough again.  No more being directed by agencies that don’t understand what we do.  We need to stay strong when politicians talk about cutting any of our resources.  Don’t sit back and say other people are fighting for those things. Get involved, be strong, and have a voice of you own.

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