Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Over the years I have had the privelage to work with many Fire Service Instructors from around our state as well as across the country. Some of them possess their local jurisdictions required Instr. 1 or 2 certifications and some do not. Some come with AA's, BS's or MS degrees, some with the school of "hard knocks" degree and some with just general BS. Some of these "experts" have achieved national recognition and their word has become gospel amongst many fire departments. But what happens if these "experts" haven't had the time and testing of actual fireground experience? Or what about the Instructor that has virtually no college or formalized training center experience but is the best at what they do like truck or engine work?

My question to the Mob is what requirement; if any; balances out the Book smarts with the Street Smart experience of actually doing the job? What qualifies your instructors to teach the subjects that they are experts in? Have they done 10 or 15 years on a busy engine or truck company or are they fresh out of college with their degree. In no way am I degrading having a college education (I'm working on finishing mine as well), but where is the balance of books and first hand knowledge that should be required of Fire Service Instructors before they pass it on to other firefighters?

Reply in Training Officers Mutual Aid Group......

Views: 455

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hey Brian
If you will allow me too, I think I would add two more aspects, study from the texts and classes is important coupled with a lot of outside study which can give you even more insights, and extensive hands on experience has to be added so you can understand the application of your book knowledge. But for me a good instructor has to have two more qualities, first they need to be reflective, self-aware and thoughtful. Second the really great ones I have met are humble and are always trying to understand others thoughts, viewpoints and perspectives.

It doesn't mean you have to accept or embrace others thoughts and views but they respect others. And finally I would be very impressed to find an “expert” in this business, you can be locally an “expert” but in this the greatest country in the world our service is so very diverse and complex by region. I think I am as an instructor the equivalent of a precocious third grader. If a Ph.D. would be an expert! I think what I do is “edutainment” a little education which I have stolen and a lot of entertainment.

I find that the thing I enjoy most about being allowed to visit others firefighter’s towns is how much I learn. About them about how they do business and most of all about how very little I know anything about really at all. Love this topic can't wait to see what other say! God Bless everyone this Fathers Day, and God Bless the man who raised me, I hope someday I am what he hoped I would be. I hope some day I am worthy enough to be my sons Dad. Happy Fathers Brothers and Sisters.
Yours Bobby
Great points! Over the years I've stolen my education along the way from those much smarter than I'll ever be, coupled it with my own experiences and try to entertain as well. Training should be fun and educational. Think I'll submit your new word "edutainment" to webster's and see if they'll take it in their next printing. Happy Father's Day!
Great points! After reading Ch. Halton's comments I thought back to some of the instructors I've had over the years and reflected as to what made some more effective then others. The instructors who were less effective knew the steps but they didnt' know the why's behind the steps. This resulted in a rigid instruction style that was unable to answer any but the simplest questions.

The instructors who were effective seemed to "get it." They understood that what they were teaching fit in many situations but not in all and because they understood the "whys" of it they could help students use a concept to find a better solution to their question.
Hi Brian, I hope all is well with you. If you received a 1 card yesterday from each kid, I imagine that you filled the garage!

Great question. During the last 20 years, I have been fortunate to have been a student of many excellent instructors, and just as many poor ones. I think that some attributes to making a "good instructor better" (Thanks Bill) are being educated by the book as well as the street. Obviously, depending on the subject matter, a good instructor will achieve a balance. He/she will be able to present the material in a non-confrontational manner, which the students will notice immediately.

Good instructors will be prepared and waiting for their students.
They will understand their subject matter completely, but not be arrogant.
They will remain humble and thank the students, since without them, there is no need for instructors.
They will have a passion that is impossible to miss.
They can teach, while maintaining control of the environment.
They will teach to the level of the student.
They care about the outcome, no matter how long it takes.

Every time we teach with other instructors, in a small way we should be students as well. We have the distinct chance to learn from each other and neither of these can be found in a book, or from previous experience.

We owe it to our students, to not only pass to them what we have learned, but to remember to always seek new information ourselves.

Stay Safe my Friend. Looking forward to seeing and learning from you again!
Hey Greg, thanks for the well wishes and yes it was full of cards and a baseball game with all of them.

You made some great points of attributes that we all strive for as we learn this craft, but I still wonder how much actual experience instructors should have before they go forth and bless others with their knowledge.
Our base knowledge should increase with each run we make and each year we spend as a student of the game we call the fire service.

Chief Halton alluded to the fact that "extensive hands on knowledge" is needed along with the book knowledge. I've read many books and practiced drills with my crew on High Rise fires but I am in no way qualified to teach more than the basics because I haven't fought enough high rise fires. I've learned some things from recruits fresh out of probie school, but the usual shift of knowledge is from the experienced firefighter to the recruit.

We have minimum requirements for entry level firefighters; does every state have min. qualifications for Fire Service Instructors? If so, what is the min. amount of field time; if any? How long is the Instructor course and what does it qualify a person to teach?
Brian - I have nothing against a college education (B.A.) I do not think it should be a requirement for a fire service instructor. I have had the luck to be mentored by several giants in the fire service who never went to college and knew this stuff inside out, and were skilled information sharers. I do think that instructors should be tested for developing material content and delivery. At training academies things are a bit different, there is formal and informal training. Which usually breaks down into classroom (formal) and practical (a bit more informal). Academies that do not allow for intergration of practical real world experience into the clasroom setting are cheating their students. Academies must be careful not to be so strict. Any out of work teacher can be taught to give an SCBA class providing all the numbers and facts and policies however an EXPERIENCED fire instructor must do the practical portion. The experienced field instructor will give so much more to the students than the best built prop could ever provide. How much field experience should you require? I do not know but several years 3-5 should be the minimum. Core knowledge must be formally taught however just reciting whats in the book or on the slide is not being a true instructor. An instructor teaches because they have information to provide the student not because its Thursdays lesson.
Ray- very well said. I agree!

This is probably one of those "arguments" without a right answer, but I am strongly siding with Ray. There is no replacement for experience and exposure, both of which are learned in the field without the book. If I remember, FE posed this question a while ago and I think that the vast majority felt that field experience, for a firefighter or an officer in suppression was more important than a degree. As we know, it is difficult to advance without a degree from an accredited school, especially since so many "new hires" need this just to get hired. With more requirement for hiring, AAS, paramedic or at least an EMT it is making it more difficult for the seasoned vet with the most needed experience to be promoted.

This is a perfect example of why not to simply sit on the couch and watch the years go by in the fire service.

In my FD, in order to teach either "In Service" classes or suppression classes at our training center, you need to be a State Instructor-I or higher, deemed experienced by one of the training officers and have been checked off at either providing a classroom session, or a HOT drill.

Stay Safe

How about this; Let's bring back some sort of journeyman type of thing. A new wanna be instructor acts as an Apprentice. When a recognized guru calls them good, they're good. Ofcourse, it would take integrity on the "guru's" part. They would have to have the guts to look at a wanna be and tell them the truth.

Oh never mind, that would probably come with its own set of problems....
After reading through everyones posts, I think your all correct.... And I offer this to add;

dedication to the craft of firefighting and understanding where we have come from is a must. Know not only your departments history but the history of the fire service in general, Just a side note- i have a picture of Ben Franklin on the wall in my office and most "kids" ask me why? Stay up with current events, Read the LODD reports- at least the exc summery, keep current on new and emerging technonogy and techniques- some of it is really good.. also, don't discount the COF's (crusty old farts) - they have a lot to teach and say if you listen to and RESPECT them. They can help you or hurt you.

RIP Charlston 9, GOD bless you and your families.

In Brotherhood, Matt

Crack Me up!
But your idea isn't that far fetched...perhaps at least 5 years on the job, 2 years as an apprentice instructor before being cut loose as a "guru". But you're right, we have a new problem in defining a "guru".
Stay safe brother,
Great discussion. Ray....right on. I would like to add one or two comments. First nothing takes the place of passion, experience, continual learning and preparation when it comes to being an effective fire service instructor. With that said, 20 years of riding a big red truck does not equate to 20 years of fire service experience. Attitude, information retention, the ability to relate the past to the present are all part of turning events into experience. I believe a commitment to life-long learning is the required education for fire service instructors, however obtained. If those that look to us for experience and knowledge don’t have their needs met, they would be smart to seek out other avenues of training/education. If those of us with “experience” don’t take the time to accurately pass on what we have learned with the emphasis on applying that experience/knowledge to the modern fire service then we are not doing our part, “instructor” or not.

Real life experience combined with an accurate understanding of why we do what we do. Taking advantage of every learning opportunity. Feedback from those I respect. The desire to make a difference, and a passion for what I do…. I believe qualify me as an instructor.

Be safe out there

Reply to Discussion


Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our community policy page.  

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2024   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service