Once again we are seeing a push by some to devalue fire service “experience” while inflating presumptions from the recent UL interior attack study. They would prefer we dismiss years of fire ground learning for data we do not yet have on limited experiments. Is this really a worthwhile debate or a preemptive attempt to further separate and stigmatize factions within the job? The reality is both experience and science can and should exist together. If you think actual fire experience is irrelevant, I would invite you to seek another profession. To dismiss actual practice-based knowledge is a dangerous mindset. Likewise, if you refuse to value the scientific evidence I suggest you change your attitude. This will only serve to hold the fire service back.
I question why some have turned on the “salty” guy who has been to more jobs than there are pages in the UL studies. These fire service veterans have seen successes and witnessed failures. They have learned what works and what doesn’t in the real world. It seems like a pompous approach to deem them antiquated because they are better at reading a working fire then a UL publication? Sure, many may not be able to articulate their intuitions with numbers and fancy words but they do have an innate disposition for passing on their experiences to less seasoned members. It is nothing more then malice to hastily discredit their contributions considering they have been derived from the purest form of learning; doing.
In an attempt to devalue the credibility of fire service leaders with opposing views, a self-promoter recently posted on Twitter that one does not need to attend a fire everyday to be a good instructor. This is true. However, when we deconstruct the argument to its fundamental premise, the statement violates the Law of Noncontradiction. You cannot have fire service knowledge without experience. Either one attains knowledge through their own experiences or they achieve it within scholarly endeavors established on experiences of others. Reason concludes fire behavior knowledge is essentially dependent on experience. Therefore, if knowledge is valuable then experience is valuable.
In fairness, on other side of this ongoing debate is discontent for the ”science” reliant. Why? Is it wrong to pursue a tactical debate based on analytical standpoints rather then opinions alone? Is the utilization of scientific practices by employing available technology to better explain and predict fire behavior really destroying the fire service? I doubt it. Science is merely a way of identifying specific data related to a specific experiment fashioned to simulate a specific experience.
Science, in and of itself, is not inherently unscrupulous. The problem is zealots who fail to recognize these full-scale studies are in their infancy. We need to slow down and realize the journey to understanding at the depth UL is capable of providing takes time. This is OK. Numerous scientific endeavors that proved or disproved a reality took years upon years to unfold with numerous oversights and corrections along the way. I personally cannot understand the urgency to administer tactical changes and standards when limited data from a single perspective is all that has been shared to this point. Ultimately, this rush to be progressive is like purchasing a transatlantic flight from the Wright Brothers. At best it could be construed as premature and reckless.
True success will come when we are able to merge scientific knowledge with real world experience rather then allowing them to be conflicting points of view. We can only benefit from science explaining, corroborating, and validating our fire ground experiences when implemented in the right way. Therefore, we must remain cognizant that science only provides us data. Our interpretation of that data is dependent on many variables, including the potential biases of the researchers themselves. Even the most thorough and strong scientific conclusions must be confirmed in the field before being considered evidence-based practice standards. Thus, bringing us full circle back to experience.