I’ve been fortunate to be able to help with multiple fire academies in my short career in the fire service, and each class comes with their challenges. The class usually starts with 10-15 people in it and it usually ends with 7-10 students. They drop out due to family issues, academic failures, and practical issues. One of the classes we lost someone who just didn’t want to do the schoolwork. This type of behavior is the stuff that isn’t acceptable. In my eyes, what is acceptable is someone asking me why we use one nozzle over the other, or why we place a ladder a certain way. There is no reason that we should be teaching our newest generation to be “cookie-cutter firefighters.”
Something is happening in the fire service and you hear it more and more each day. There’s a new generation of firefighters coming into the job. With that new generation come some new challenges. They were raised given everything. They rely on electronics to get through their day. They challenge the status quo. And of course, the one big one everyone complains about: they ask questions, they ask WHY!
As the senior man it isn’t your job to b**** and complain about these new guys. Sure, they come with their challenge, but go ask your senior man…he’ll tell you that you were just as challenging. Each generation comes with their challenges. What is your job is to teach them. Mold them. Make them into the firefighter that you are.
The future of the fire service is your responsibility. We are going to fewer fires each and every year. The lessons the 20-30 year veterans have learned MUST be passed on. Take the junior man out and train him on scenarios that you’ve encountered. Explain to them WHY you believe things. Just telling them isn’t enough any more. The expectation that they will just go with what you tell them isn’t going to work. When the young guys ask questions, it isn’t because they don’t believe you. They want to be well-educated firefighters.
In order for the future of the fire service to be what we think it should be, we must put in the work with the newest members. We must teach them to read the smoke, to be efficient with the line, to force the door conventionally. It’s our responsibility to answer their questions. Most importantly it’s our responsibility to treat them with dignity and respect. Someone put time and effort into you to make you the firefighter you are today. You weren’t born with all of the knowledge you have today. You learned from the failures and successes of your past. SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE and make them the future that you know you created.