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Certificates or Experience? Which is more important to you?

Recently in our state there has been a lot of discussion about setting a state wide standard for "interior firefighters".  Until now the Authority Having Jurisdiction ( normally the Chief)  has officially had the responsibility of "Certifying" someone to be an interior firefighter.  The expectation is that if this happens then the standard will be Firefighter 1.  (A little more background)  The state has only used the FF1, FF2 curriculum for the past 6 years or so; before then the state had its own curriculum which covered the same material but was not IFSTA certified.  When the state fire academy changed over to IFSTA then it offered challenge tests for those through the old classes to challenge and become FF1 or FF2.  But it also stated that there was no real need to challenge as your current certification as Interior Firefighter would be grandfathered.  Since the state the fire academy has changed everyone transcripts to show that if they were grandfathered then they are now OSHA level certified which is currently the minimum standard for an interior firefighter. ( OSHA FF is 90 hour course, FF1 is 40 hours not including HazMat Operations- 24 hrs. and Flammable liquids and gases 6 hrs.)
I know many firefighters that are now considered only OSHA level however they have had 10-20 years of firefighting experience, they of course resist taking a basic firefighter course over again just to meet a mandate.  Meanwhile I have worked alongside some recent Firefighter 1's and 2's that think that every fire is going to be the same as the ones they experienced in the burn tower at the training grounds.  This is a dangerous trend, I think we must put more emphasis on experience than certificates and we must go back to treating the fire service as an apprenticeship.  You cannot learn to fight fire out of a book!

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Amen well said.

Frank Ricci said:
Experience that is not balanced with training and knowledge can cut both ways and often can contribute to tactical drift. If we develop unsafe habits that are reinforced with positive outcomes, they become the norm and contribute to greater failures that will culminate with an injury or death. Let me break it down. Experience is the best teacher, but only a fool learns in that school alone. We all learn from our own mistakes, but only the wise learn from others. And when we falter have the courage to recognize it, share it, and learn from it. Balance is the key.
Be Safe,
Frank Ricci

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