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If you throw a book at a fire, will it go out?

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  • #16
    “And what kind of firefighter does books and experience make?”

    The best kind, without argument.

    “He's crawled down a bunch of halls though and folks will follow him just about anywhere, just to see what he'll do next.”

    He sounds like a hack that the blind will follow. We have them too. The strictest interpretation of “my requirements” is not realistic. You are taking them as absolutes while I’m giving generalizations.

    “The twenty year guy that has twenty years experience, still pumps the new 1.75" hose on the new and improved, plumbing efficient firetruck at the old firetrucks 1.5" pressure because he didn't keep up with his book learnin' or listen in class because no young book smart engineer (MPO) or apparatus salesman that's never been in a building is gonna tell him how to do his job.”

    Again, the hack that is unwilling to practice and try new things will not roll with the times and grow within their career. This is not the type of “old timer” that I am suggesting people follow. To do so would be wrong. But, to listen to the fire science wonder that can only throw numbers and stats at you is as bad as the hack.

    "You would believe anything that some old fireman told you or encouraged you to do in spite of what you know otherwise? You know lots of famous last word begin with "here, try this" or "hey, watch this."

    If I trusted him and knew his abilities, yes. Every old guy? No. They are a resource that I believe are better than the non-experienced book learner. But again, lets keep the hacks we don’t trust out of the equation.

    “Don't know if he had thirty runs a day but he says it was a bunch. (And who's making thirty workers a day? I need a ride along like that, just got a Sam Houston that needs breakin' in. I can put a years worth of calls on it in just a few shifts there.)”

    A run, or a “call”, is not a working fire. You are killing me here! A Sam Houston? What the hell is a Sam Houston?


    • #17
      "Bull. Just because a firefighter has book smarts does not mean he won't be as good or as capable on the fireground. The only time this happens is when he lets his book smarts over ride his common sense."

      I forgot to add this to my last post. There is no way that the guy with no experience and a lot of book smarts will perform better than the experienced fireman who has taken the time to know his trade.

      Would you hire the carpenter to build your house who just got done reading all of Bob Villa's home improvement books or, the old guy who never read the books, but has a reputation for building great houses?


      • #18
        The ideal firefighter would have the best of both worlds...intelligence and experience.

        Many of the books have been written by those with the experience....Frank Brannigan, Vincent Dunn and John Norman, to name a few. In their writings, they share the knowldege and experience that they have accumulated over the years. It's another tool in the box.

        There are those who are book smart and could probably calculate the friction loss from the urinary bladder to the toilet, but they would not know what a fire was if it came up and bit them on the backside!

        There are those firefighters who have been on the job for 20+ years....they have 20+ years experience or they have just repeated their 1st year on the job 20+ times!

        We all know what the books say about fire and it's behavior...we just have to keep reminding ourselves that fire never read the books!

        LHS* posted "Yeah, seat of the pants has killed lots of firefighters".

        "Seat of the pants" fireground decisions has saved many firefighters lives. I know I'll probably get the reply "prove it"

        One of Murphy's Laws of Firefighting is
        "If an idea seems stupid and impractical, but it works, then it's not stupid and impractical, is it?"

        We have to be able to think "outside of the box...and outside of the books!"

        Firefighters: Today's heroes protecting everyone's tomorrows!
        Captain Gonzo

        [This message has been edited by Captain Gonzo (edited 06-02-2001).]


        • #19
          I’m understanding, but at the same time confused. I am by no means any sort of veteran, however, I do have a bunch of that "book knowledge" coupled with a moderate amount of experience.

          Some of you seem to be stating absolutes, which is ok but shouldn’t you take the entire picture into perspective. Not all firefighters, in fact, very few, will ever get the opportunity to run the call volumes of NY or SF or any of the other big competitors, true? That said, why do you hold comparison (even of you don’t directly make the comparison). In essence you are saying that all firefighters should be expected to follow these salty seasoned veterans blindly and do as told because the old guy said so. It isn’t realistic. For any number of reasons I disagree primarily. There is a little bit of me that does see your points though.

          From my opinion (no absolutes), there should be a balance of training and experience relative to he fire situations that firefighter will deal with. For instance in NY, that new guy may see a lot of fire so he will certainly get the opportunity to apply his training, but the guy from "Small-town USA" may only see 5 fires a year. What do you suppose he does, take a volunteer position in NY to get "salty?"

          Time and experience will show that not all the "salty" guys know their ******* from a hole in the wall, nor do all the self proclaimed "bookies." Instead of applying absolutes/generalizations shouldn’t we look at this on a per-case basis? Fortunately the fire service is evolving (for some its unfortunate...loving tradition and holding onto outdated ideals) and we cannot simply do it the way we used to "just because."

          Whether or not you all want to admit it, this is a new era for the fire service. The recruits that come out of training are vastly different than those of yesteryear. You may not like that, you may be disappointed, but that’s life. Be dynamic and deal with it.

          Being on the younger end of the spectrum I see it differently than some of you older guys but at the same time I do understand the value of having experienced firefighters who can serve as mentors. I do not, however, hold dirty old salty ignorant “do as I say because I said so” guys in this regard. It is really more a function of attitude as a whole. The older guys that can act civilly and transmit their knowledge in a manner that will leave a mark are the ones who deserve the credit. I don’t fall for the blind leading the blind theory. I think statements like not wearing an SCBA because the dirty old salty soon to be cancer stricken guy doesn’t wear his are simply IGNORANT. Where do you see that as anything other than ignorant? That’s far from respect. I am by no means a button each button, always breathe air, wear the chinstrap every time, never go inside fires type of guy, but I see things from a different angle. Do I admit I have faults, sure, but at the same time I would rather be educated and understand why I am following “old mick” because wouldn’t it make more sense to understand why you do as you do or should we simply be drones. Perhaps I am off base with my comments but this is only how I feel.

          I have a ton of books and training materials that I keep on hand, I have not read them all and often when I have questions I go straight to my bookcase full of crap and start looking. I will likely never run calls of the volume NY does so at some point I admitted that unless I seek the knowledge I will never be properly prepared simply based on the situations I will encounter every day during the course of my firefighting experiences. For those of you from busy departments I cannot see how you can shrug off book smarts as so trivial and not see the need for a healthy balance.

          Seat of your pants stuff seems like a good way to get in trouble if you ask me and guys who work out of books seem like the types that will spend so long thinking about the most viable option that **** will burn down. Find a happy medium.

          The guys who have a lot of book smarts and have an answer to everything...do you even consider their points or simply brush it off because of who said it. E229LT, I know a little about your concern because of another post you made, you have aimed your finger one person (and a general personality type) here who you simply don't like. That’s ok, your opinion is allowed, but perhaps you should just take the comments and think it over.

          In my opinion there are a few common FH bulletin board personalities:

          -People here that are always going to be right in their own opinions

          -People who are always going to hate the ones who think they are right

          -People that are wrong who resent being told they are wrong

          -People who are right

          -People who were wrong, and in hindsight admit it and move on

          -People who simply are ignorant


          I am not trying to discredit your opinions, but from an observer and a fairly educated perspective I simply see things differently. I have a lot to learn yet and a lot more experience to gain and I am never always right, in fact I’ve made my share of mistakes and stated my share of poor opinions. In life it’s all a part of the learning process. It’s hard to take your emotions and turn them off and react to someone else’s opinions/factual statements as I can well tell you but that’s something that could make some of the topics here a bit more civil. Stay safe and have a good weekend.

          The information presented herein is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.


          • #20
            OK, just a quickie, headed out the door....

            A Sam Houston? What the hell is a Sam Houston?

            'Cept mine has goggles.


            • #21
              Okay, I am going to get my $.02 in before this thread gets ugly.

              I can see both sides of this issue. On one hand you have the experienced ff, one who has seen and done most everything. Has not been to the academy or got his degree, but has been there, done that and so on. On the other hand you have the rookie, been to the academy, got his degree and is ready to start a career in the fire service.

              The experienced ff has the edge in most ways. Although he does not have the "book" knowledge he has seen the fire service grow (if he has an open mind) and learned through experience as he has went. He is able to make decisions by "the seat of his pants" because HE HAS BEEN THERE BEFORE and has done the task numerous times. He also is knowledgable enough to know when he is in over his head.
              The only disadvantage he has is some of the latest technological advances and methods are foreign to him, but this is where he has to be willing to open his mind to newer ideas from others.

              The rookie has a wealth of book knowledge but is yet to apply many of them. Although he has not been in many situations, if his mind is working as it should, he should recognize dangers and be able to utilize methods he has learned to overcome. Adapting to certain situations has to come with time. He has to keep an open mind and learn what the experienced guys have learned through trial and error and know when to call the dogs.

              The big picture is that firefighting is a science. Just like with any job these days, the ones who get the jobs are the ones with the edge. That edge is education. There is nothing wrong with a guy that has education so long as his attitude is positive and he is still ready and willing to learn constantly. Likewise the experience ff needs to be willing to learn from everyone around him, including the rookies. No one knows it all, although there are a few who think they do. No two fires are the same and no fire is textbook, so experience does play a part, but again someone who has the knowledge to do something sometimes needs a chance to prove they can. It is sometimes catch 22.

              My dad always told me if you hand around the dumbest man you know, he will teach you something.

              Keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere, usually at the bottom of the pole.

              Be safe out there above all else!!


              • #22
                Well usually I wouldn't get into this conversation, but I can see that everyone has well thought ideas on this and I figured I may as well through mine in there. I will say right off I have had the honor of working with 2 very qualified firefighters, both of them getting their qualifications different ways. The first one is a volunteer firefighter who didn't have all the college classes, as a matter of fact he received his Firefighter I in the 70's and hasn't been back since. He has been Chief of a fire department for more the 20 years. The 2nd guy went to school and has been going for the last 20 years all the while being a firefighter.
                You ask me who is the better one? The one with experience or schooling? I would then ask you, what exactly do you want to know? If it came to firefighting I would go with the experience in a heart beat. But if it came down to a technical question on a rule or reg, then I would go with someone with schooling. Everyone has their high points and everyone is going ot know something the other doesn't. So stop worrying about the little things and try to learn from each other. I have a degree in Fire Science and have been a volunteer firefighter since I was 13, and now I am a paid firefighter, and I see the same thing everywhere. NO ONE HAS ALL THE ANSWERS, who would have though?

                Chris Glidden
                Training Officer


                • #23
                  I agree and disagree... when choosing between street smarts or book smarts, the choice is generally street smarts. But we can't discount the importance of having the book smart officers. Obviously (I hope) the best Officer will have a mix of both, but that does take some time. On a deptartment that has a small fire run load, that book smart officer can be alot of help training his crew, and talking about what to do. That street smart officer might be more apt to sit around and wait, figuring others should learn the same way he/she did.

                  Just my thoughts.... probably wrong...


                  • #24
                    I'm a "book smart officer" that was promoted by my volunteer department to make a point that education matters. I had two years in when I got the promo. And now I'm learning something the hard way like personal matters I do fine with the tactical stuff but handling the personal is a slow learning process.

                    The views here are mine and do not reflect that of my department or any of it's members.


                    • #25
                      Brothers, keep going.

                      I never stated that the books don't count. As a matter of fact, the books are vital. As long as you don't try to apply a new idea or operation in one feld swoop. You have to work your way into it slowly. Take a slow approach and apply your knowlege slowly, one step at a time.

                      A high scoring officer from a busy house is the best of both worlds, no doubt. I read these post and glean a lot of ideas. Many I apply, a little at a time and see how they work.

                      For example, (and only an example)

                      "PPV attacks on fires make for a much safer and easy advance on the fire"

                      Okay, that read I tell my crew we are switching to a PPV attack and all our past procedures are gone...of course not. I'll try it when the time is right, something small, rubbish, mattress etc... we'll see how it works for us, a little at a time. Don't dive in blind baseed on my, or anyone else's opinion.

                      The books are great. I've read most of them. I will not try to apply all I have read at once. Just a little at a time.

                      Keep the posts coming, and Larry, you still suck


                      • #26
                        Something for everyone to think about:

                        If you look at the brothers and sisters who have been seriously injured or have lost their lives in the line of duty you will find that the majority of them were not college graduates or probies, but "street smart salty jakes" who had been on the job in many cases for over 10 years.

                        The bottom line is the fire is not going to be put out with books, however it can also kill you dead whether you have 20 days or 20 years on the job, whether you are a volunteer or paid firefighter, whether you graduated from the academy or graduated with your PhD.

                        Anything you encounter on the job (fire, haz mat, armed assailant, car going 60 mph), on your 1st day or 5,000th day, may be what injures or kills you.

                        As such anything you can do to improve your chances, whether it is learning from others, learning from books, or polishing what you have learned with hands-on training, you should do it, and do it, over and over again.

                        There is no question we may all need brute strength or a split second gut reaction to keep us alive because we find ourselves in a condition we did not expect. However, by stopping every now and then, and using all of the knowledge we have accumulated (not blindly following someone else or relying on years of superstition) we might also keep ourselves out these situations.

                        I am not sure where all of the discussion on which department is best or which firefighter is best has really gotten us.

                        "Knowledge is Power" and "Work Smarter, not Harder" are going to go a lot farther at keeping us alive than "Leather Forever" or "Send in the Next Probie"

                        We are all in this together, and I am sure we are all sick and tired of visiting burn centers and going to funerals. So lets all share our experience and knowledge so everyone goes home at the end of the shift.

                        Good Luck, Be Safe,

                        Mike Richardson
                        a.k.a. "TIman"

                        This viewpoint is solely mine, and not the viewpoint of my employer


                        • #27
                          If experience is the only answer, and the most experienced salty dawgs write the most popular books, why do we bother to read them?

                          Read that a few times.


                          • #28

                            You go ahead and follow the inexperienced book guys. I'm sure you'll do great in whatever department you work for. I'll keep following the respected old timers in the busy houses for my practical experience.

                            Nice helmet. Looks great! But, I'm sure there are some numbers in a book out there to prove that the full face shield is more NFPA compliant and safe than your goggle setup. You should probably change that.

                            Good luck.


                            • #29
                              And what kind of firefighter does books and experience make?

                              The best kind, without argument.

                              Then why are you arguing the point that we've been trying to make?

                              He sounds like a hack that the blind will follow.

                              He is a hack that a blind one or two follow.

                              The strictest interpretation of my requirements is not realistic. You are taking them as absolutes while I’m giving generalizations.

                              Generalizations? Give me the uneducated, salty Mick who has been crawling down hallways for twenty years while at the engine company that runs thirty times a day in the old dilapidated part of town than the book smart, fire science class fanatic who runs five, if he's lucky, shortness of breath calls a day in the suburbs.

                              Sounds pretty specific...

                              But, to listen to the fire science wonder that can only throw numbers and stats at you is as bad as the hack.

                              Who said we should listen to this guy either?

                              A run, or a "call", is not a working fire.

                              He says they used to make twenty to thirty a day - not wokers, but calls none the less...

                              There is no way that the guy with no experience and a lot of book smarts will perform better than the experienced fireman who has taken the time to know his trade.

                              No arguement here. Did you fail to read in the post above this that I clearly stated "...no-one posting here is advocating a book smart firefighter without experience is better or, at best, adequate. Hell, he shouldn't even be left alone in charge of himself - he'll just get in his own way."?

                              You go ahead and follow the inexperienced book guys.

                              Make life easy, tell me where I or anyone else said we should do this? I can't find it anywhere...

                              Nice helmet. Looks great!

                              Thanks, got it in natural leather instead of black.

                              But, I'm sure there are some numbers in a book out there to prove that the full face shield is more NFPA compliant and safe than your goggle setup. You should probably change that.

                              Tell you what, I'll change it if you can show me where the faceshield is more compliant than the goggles and if you can explain to me how I will be safer using a faceshield I can't see through instead of goggles I can for eye protection.


                              • #30
                                Let me begin by stating that training and reading the books are a give me. The books do offer you information that can be used but they are not the end all. A lot of these books that are written come from some experienced people. The other side of the coin is that some are written by people with degrees up the wazoo but no experience.

                                When a lot of these books are created, the theories involved are performed under controlled circumstances. They can be a good guide but I don't believe you can follow them 100%. The fire has never read the book and the fire itself doesn't like to be controlled, it fights back.

                                Training is also a necessity that should be performed. Some get their training from running in busy cities, others in smaller and slower departments must try and train under different circumstances. I'm sorry to see that the live fire training has started to be attacked by the EPA and they are attempting to put a stop to using actual abandoned or vacant buildings for this training.

                                If you train in a burn building thats fine but these buildings are still put into a controlled environment situation. I don't condem them, they are useful but still controlled.

                                I've learned over the years that a fire situation can change faster than you can spit. Experience is the necessity in these situations. As you get more experience you learn how to listen to and read a fire and there will be situations you never read about in the books or trained on.

                                Books and training are a good quality to have but I still want that experience with me more than the books and training. When I first started out in the fire service and crawled down that hot, smoke filled hallway, I had and wanted that experienced firefighter there with me. When the fire was out, I asked questions as to why did you do this, why did you do that. These experienced firefighters taught me to understand that I needed to listen to it and watch it to understand what the animal is about and why it reacts the way it does.

                                I believe in this- experience, more experience, training, books. With these 4 things, you can't go wrong, but the experience teaches you much more.


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