Listen to this episode of the Code 3 Podcast with Host Scott Orr.
If you want to become a firefighter, the first thing to understand is that it isn’t easy. There’s a lot of school required nowadays, and it can take several years to get there. But there are some things to know that’ll make the process easier. Here to talk about them is Chris Baker.
Chris has over thirteen years of experience in volunteer, combination, and career fire departments in California. He instructs on fire and EMS topics in college classes. You can hear him on his own podcast, The Future Firefighter, where he’s a co-host.
And he runs the webpage, Instructor Chris Baker, which provides training on techniques and career planning.
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”
– Richard Bach
In this episode, Chris Baker sits down with Rescue Captain, Justin Schorr, "the Happy Medic" to talk about what he's learned over the last 25 years in the fire service and why one of the worst pieces of advice is "get your Medic." While obtaining the license will get you on a smaller list when hired, there's a catch, they want you to work as a medic when you get hired. Find out more about what EMS means to the Future Firefighter and listen to this episode.
"Should every Future Firefighter become a Paramedic? In one word, Yes. EMS is the future of the Modern Fire Service so each candidate should have a grasp on their place in the system as they get hired. Paramedicine isn't for everyone. There's a lot of stress involved in not only obtaining the license, but maintaining it and, of course, being responsible for the care of your patients." (Schorr)
"When you get hired as a Paramedic, here's a hint...they need you as a Paramedic." (Schorr)
“The ultimate role of a firefighter is to leave a mark on the system, not just a memory.” - Chief Ronny J. Coleman
On Monday, October 8th, 2018, I had the privilege of walking the aisles of the National Fire Heritage Center archives with Archivist Frank Schmersal and, I captured a glimpse of the rich history contained in this American fire service archive. From aisle to aisle, I listened to the oral history through the various stories from Archivist Schmersal. The National Fire Heritage Center archives contain more than 15,000 items of media, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, photographs, and what I consider treasures of the American fire service.
As Fire Science Instructors and Fire Technology Directors, we are frequently asked by perspective fire academy candidates, "what fire academy should I attend?" Our response is usually a series of questions for the prospective future firefighter. Where do you reside? Where is your community located? Where do you want to serve as a firefighter? Where does your family live? Where will you have a stable support system established?
There are several State Fire Marshal accredited academies in California. Our suggestion is finding a location that can support you during one of the hardest and most challenging college semesters you will ever experience. Having a support system is quintessential and vital in having a successful experience during this grueling process of becoming a firefighter. Build a network of people who support your journey and finding those that can mentor you along the way can be the difference between success and failure. Start by being open and upfront with your family about the challenges you will face and what you need from them to finish. The level of commitment required for the fire academy isn't something that you can take for granted. The fire academy will consume your whole life for at least six months, and you will have no free time.
The level of preparation before the academy is just as important as during the academy. You have to be in top physical condition before you embark on this journey. Many academies require candidates to pass a physical fitness assessment or hold a current candidate physical ability test (CPAT) card as a pre-requisite to starting the academy. To prepare, try various fitness activates such as running, high-intensity training, and functional fitness programs. Many basic fire academies include a run of 1.5 miles, pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, or a combination of fire ground movements as a standard entry assessment. The start of your day during the academy is as early as 4:30 AM, and somedays, you might leave the drill grounds at approximately 7:30 PM in the evening. Both of us can recall studying for exams till midnight and only receiving four hours of sleep per night. The weekends are not days off; however, they are full days of continuous self-improvement and preparation for future firefighter skills examinations.
(Photo Credits: Craig Clements)
Before the Carr Fire event occurred in Shasta County on July 26, 2018, another significant event occurred on the Eiler Fire on August 2, 2014. Both of these events happened late in the afternoon-evening hours approximately (1700 - 2000). Both of these significant events in Shasta County had similar extreme fire behavior and rapid-fire growth. The year of 2017 was California's most destructive fire season on record, according to CAL FIRE. Now 2018 appears to be no different with a total acreage burned at an estimated 460,000 acres. California has endured an unprecedented and catastrophic few years during what some consider our new normal. Historically, our fire season is during the summer months, however with this extreme fire behavior so early, maybe we should recognize that California no longer has a fire season.
As of today, August 4, 2018, the Carr Fire is the sixth most destructive wildland fire in California history based on acres burned and structures destroyed. Update: As of November 25, 2018, the Carr Fire is the eighth most destructive wildland fire in California history according to the CAL FIRE website. A cataclysmic firestorm is also occurring in Northern California off Highway 20 near Potter Valley, northeast of Ukiah started on July 27, 2018. The Ranch Fire and River Fire, both part of the Mendocino Complex, has engulfed over 229,006 acres and destroyed over 55 residences with 3,529 fire personnel assigned. Update: As of November 7, 2018, the Mendocino Complex has engulfed 410,203 acres and destroyed 246 structures per the CAL FIRE website. The Ferguson Fire started on July 13, 2018, on the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park, which has consumed over 81,699 acres with 2,792 fire personnel assigned. An unfathomable 460,000 acres have burned in California between these campaign fires, and fire season has just started.
Due to the multiple wildland fires burning across the entire State of California, resources are stretched extremely thin, and now our master mutual aid system has requested additional resources from Australia and New Zealand. On Monday, August 6, 150 international firefighters will arrive to assist the State of California with the firestorm of 2018. The California National Guard has mobilized over 800 soldiers and the 146th Airlift Wing to help with the firefight. At least 17 States have answered the call and have deployed resources to California, including as far as New Jersey. Over 14,000 firefighters currently deployed across California on 17 massive wildfires.
(Photo Credits: Author)
“The best tool for fire attack is your brain. The only limits to maximizing its effectiveness are the barriers you put in place. Be as aggressive in obtaining knowledge as you are in advancing an attack line.” – Chief John Tippett
This quote sparked my interest recently on twitter. I wholeheartedly agree with Chief Tippett regarding the importance of utilizing your mind to increase your maximum effectiveness on the fire ground. As an educator, I share with my students, “the most important Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you have is between your ears." With some humor, I also emphasize the importance of wearing your fire helmet is to protect this important tool as well.
Aggressively Thinking Firefighters (ATF), another acronym for the fire service, we can add this to the list of approximately hundreds if not thousands of already fire service related acronyms in existence. After all, we utilize acronyms just to remember all the other acronyms. I am patiently waiting for the Field Operations Guide (FOG) manual on just fire service related acronyms, however, I have digressed.
I recently watched an online webinar regarding hiring firefighter applicants and the main Subject Matter Expert (SME) remarked that overall the fire service is not the place for candidates that have higher levels of intelligence during the testing process. I was immediately taken back and stunned by this professional and his statement. I continued watching the video and I listened with an open mind to why this psychologist asserted his opinion on why hiring panels should not hire for intelligence.
(Photo Credits: Author)
If you truly know your why, you will also without a doubt unequivocally comprehend your what, where, when and how for your life. In order to be a leader at home in your personal life or at work in your professional life; you must clearly establish your own strategic mission and vision statements. Your core values will support your mission statement based upon your own unique morals, ethics, and beliefs. Everything starts and ends with your why. Your own personal leadership qualities are rooted in these very specific core values and they are established on the firm foundation of your personal mission statement. I encourage you to consider these words and make the commitment to apply these principles to your own personal and professional pursuits.
I was previously challenged by my valued mentors with this same exact question. Based on those challenging discussions with these integral mentors, it was critically important for me to clearly identify my priorities. Ultimately, the reason why I exist is rooted in having a clearly established mission statement for my life. Allow your passion to lead you to your purpose.
I am extremely thankful to each of these mentors for encouraging me to layout my own specific strategic blueprint for my life both personally and professionally. My mentors have made all the difference in my life. I would not be where I am at today without their continued support and words of encouragement. Truly mentors make all the difference in our lives.
“All that I am I owe, I live eternally in the red.”– Dr. Carl Holmes
THE FUTURE FEMALE FIREFIGHTER
“I can’t help but tell you that it’s all about the mentorship. Without the direction and guidance of those who have come before us, there is no way that either one of us would be here. The main message I want to relay to everyone is this, we can’t do this job alone. Whether you are a woman or a man, you are going to need the advice and the guidance that we all need in every profession to succeed and thrive.” – Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac
I recently attended a train-the-trainer class for a new Everyone Goes Home® program course titled ‘Attributes of Leading’ created by Dr. Brian Crandell of the Crandell Research Group, Battalion Chief Kevin Conant (Retired) of Command Coaching, and videographer/editor Captain Jake Pelk, of FD Training Solutions. This course was an integral part of the 2018 National Everyone Goes Home® Advocate / Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors workshop.
Weaving together a tapestry of different perspectives, the content of this course showcases fire department members across the country sharing in a discussion of the key attributes of leading, from the foggy San Francisco Bay to the frozen lakes of Minnesota. Volunteer, career, and combination departments participated in this training course from the Boone County Fire District in Columbia, Missouri, to the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Loveland, Ohio. Attributes of Leading focuses on several key attributes of leading including, Developing Competence, Building Grit, Being Well, Exercising Self-Regulation, Demonstrating Humility, and Developing Trust. Notice they are all verbs, action words because leading is an action, not a subject.
From the opening introductions in the ‘Being Well’ segment, I was reminded of the impact and legacy of Chief Alan V. Brunacini as his voice echoes over the audio speakers from the projector.
“We laugh about it, but we say somedays you are a peacock and somedays you are a feather duster. And when you are a peacock, man you are riding high, and when you are a feather duster, you are laying low. And when you are laying low, you will figure out who your friends are.” - Chief Alan V. Brunacini
I was instantly drawn in by a poignant video of the late Chief Alan V. Brunacini discussing the importance of being well. For those in the fire service, the term “Mrs. Smith” is synonymous with “customer” and Chief Bruno reminded all of us that we need to take care of Mrs. Smith. First, Fire Captain Smith has to take care of their firefighters in order for them to be able to take care of Mrs. Smith. Being Well is an appropriate introduction to this course on the attributes of leading. There is a sense of responsibility for those who lead, to assess their personnel, and to ensure that they are both physically and emotionally well; it’s a holistic responsibility. How can department members, in turn, take care of someone else, if their own well is empty and they are truly drained?
“Fitness is 90% mental, 10% execution. The body cannot go where the mind does not believe.” – Captain Jim Moss
“Attitude comes first. We must accept the fact that our fitness is a requirement of the profession.” – Chief Dan Kerrigan
“The future firefighter must have the mindset and attitude that physical fitness is a requirement of their job. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer, paid-on-call or career firefighter, you must believe 100% that physical fitness is a fundamental aspect of your job.” – Captain Jim Moss
“The bottom line in leadership isn't how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.” (Maxwell, 1998)
Excerpt from the book by John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
I believe LEADERSHIP is influence. It is our ability to influence and inspire others to be more and do more every day. It should be our absolute truth to invest in the mentoring and advancement of those that come after us and anyone else who will listen. If it is not, it is at least your responsibility as a leader to make the commitment to pass our knowledge and experience on so that we can thrive as a fire service.
I am excited to announce Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast will premier on January 18th, 2018. Please tune in at 4:30 PM PST. Thank you, Chief Bobby Halton and the Fire Engineering family for this opportunity.
The stage is set. In the audience are family members, friends and mentors patiently watching you on stage for your pinning ceremony. There are few milestones in life that are held in such high regard. The moment when you find the one you want to spend the rest of your life with and marry to become your significant other. The birth of a child is also a moment that you will truly treasure and never ever forget. And this day, when your dream career profession came true and you were pinned with the badge of a public servant.
The oath of a public servant is an oath of dedication to a lifetime of customer service. Remember this moment when you made the commitment to serving your community. The work of a public servant is never-ending in the pursuit of service. At the end of every call is an opportunity to positively engage members of our community. There is no greater reward than a lifetime of service.
My challenge is for you to find an inspiring mentor in this profession. Allow yourself the opportunity to become his or her mentee. Develop into the firefighter and leader that you desire to become. Accept constructive criticism in stride and strive to become a better person daily. Respect their wisdom with grace and listen to their feedback with enthusiasm. Leaders lead by effectively developing future leaders from within their ranks.