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Category Archives: Training


What separates the fire service from the public? Is it equipment, tools, trucks, courage? Training. You can have the best trucks, the latest tools, the best gadgets, and the mettle of twenty men, but without training and knowledge those items are just everyday objects. Properly trained and educated Firefighters with equipment are what make them lifesaving tools. Without a continuing pursuit of obtaining knowledge, the job we chose to do, the oath we swore, the impact we are supposed to make, cannot be done.

Every person from the newest recruit to the highest ranking Chief has a duty to increase their abilities and knowledge of the task they are expected to perform. No one is above training. No one is saying you do not know what to do. But I do pose this question, what are we supposed to do? We are supposed to be prepared for whatever the community asks of us.

The benefits of training are far greater than simply having an awareness of tool use and how to complete the task. Training instills work ethic, teamwork, and re-enforces how to follow direction, be self-directed and have a culture of self-improvement. Training creates relationships between Firefighters and relationships with Officers. Training allows for mistakes to be made and the opportunity to coach for improvement. This window can also give up-and-coming mentors and Officers the chance they need to step up, to take charge of a situation for later career advancement. Training creates Situational Leaders who engage others and empowers them to strive for excellence. Most importantly training creates muscle memory that drives function and form on the fireground. No matter how many times you think you can practice that one skill, it will never be enough for that one time when it matters most. Every skill set we have, is a matter of life and death.

Training is more than reading a book, donning a pack, or forcing a door; Training is an attitude. Watching the clock until it is over, feeling that one evolution is good enough and skimming through the drill sheet, all only cheat yourself, your fellow Firefighters, and ultimately the community who is counting on you. For those of you who ‘know it all’ already, do not distract those who desire to learn. In fact, I challenge you to step up and share your knowledge with those around you. Help others succeed. “Be Here Now” as a great mentor always says, sums it up to something digestible. When it is time to train, BE HERE NOW!

Moderation and proactive discussion is critical when looking at the online community. Spending hours on social media engaging in the latest frivolous debate does nothing more than take your attention away from something else that matters.  Learn from others, share your experiences, and obtain insight, but most importantly apply it to who you are and where you are from. Just as we say about the tools of the trade, social media is just another tool and you have to know how to use it.

We are in the midst of very exciting times in the Fire Service. Be a part of it. You can either sit idly and watch it pass you by or you can be in the thick of it. Training gives you the keys for Fire Service engagement. You may not run a call every shift, or see a fire but once a year, yet engagement with training allows you interact 24/7. The tools for training are all around you. The only barrier is yourself.


Related Link – Culture of Self-Improvement

For some of you it may be hard to believe that I used to be a well behaved, mild-manner young lad. Around 12 or 13…well you get the picture. Having a discussion last week about people and personalities-something hit me, and hit me hard- the following is a ton of bricks.

Remember Paint by Number? A coloring book with a paintbrush and cheap, rock hard paint that had a standard array of colors. Each color was assigned a number and the areas requiring that color was identified by the associated number. I can only speculate that this was to teach young-minds about colors, numbers, shapes, and of course following directions.

Sound familiar? Of course, I am sure you followed those instructions perfectly and every page of that book was a refrigerator masterpiece. My mom mostly likely told me “good job” and maybe even saw some talent in me. Of course, the couple of summers spent attending art classes at the library were also used to help nourish my creativity. However, I can tell you I may have stayed in the lines for the most part, but the colors did not match the numbers. Maybe they wanted the yellow dog to have a blue collar. But I painted the dog black like mine with a red collar. Job was still completed but based upon my conditions.

In the professional field of fire control, suppression, and extinguishment, aka firefighting, we arrive with an array of colors and abilities to stay, for the most part, in the lines. The canvas that we apply our ‘brush strokes’ to is dynamic. To think and act as though we can follow the exact procedure to complete the task in the form of ‘paint by numbers’ we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and ultimately failure. Strict parameters, with tight clearances, taken by exact measurements is…too PAINT BY NUMBERS. Sure, we cannot show up and be abstract artist either, slinging paint, and mud, and…whatever else onto the canvas. We need organization, we cannot color outside the lines all the time.

You certainly have seen the acronym-yelling contest stirring up. Sure acronyms are great. When explaining to those who are needing guidelines (training), and parameters, they set the stage for later successes. However when they, as in the acronym or checklist, make the decisions for you, the chances of missing something increases. Acronyms and Check-box firefighting have a place to some degree but they should not be your PAINT BY NUMBERS.

My engine would be a 3, and yours a 5. Still comes to the same conclusion.

This rant could continue, I could say that we need to focus on creating critical thinking Firefighters, but you know this. So instead, I am going to unveil something that has been rattling around in my noggin for a while, and is part of my 5 Firefighter Fundamentals Course. Here is a sneak preview….

Firefighters of all ranks should have a broad REPERTOIRE of tasks, tactics, and methods that can be accessed during an incident for mitigating the issues at hand. This reserve of abilities should match expected functions and should be well rehearsed by REPETITION. In contrast, too many options makes it difficult to stay proficient and can cause issues on the fire ground if team continuity does not exist. By having an in-depth repertoire and competency level on commensurate duties, RESPONSE shall be appropriate for all calls of service. Repertoire and Repetition creates Responses that are well rehearsed so that when conditions exist, the Firefighter will be in the ready status.

Many of you have seen these principles before, and some of you reading them I may have learned them in part from you. Nevertheless, doesn’t this “paint a picture” of how Firefighters should be? Plenty of ways to get it done, trained on why, how and when to do it, and ready to respond at any time. So why do we get so upset about acronyms, checklist, cheat sheets, and the like? Understand how your fire department expects you to respond, practice those methods, and be ready for whatever the day, the tour, or the shift brings your way. If you are someone who needs to be told what colors to put where, and has to stay within the lines, maybe the fire ground isn’t for you.

The following are my thoughts from Kill the Flashover 2014 at the South Carolina Fire Academy. The event combined with various discussions and the learning curve of past few years on the theories of fire behavior., have only enhanced my love of this profession.   -Huston

The traditionalist seeks to always provide high quality, professional, and timely services to the public we swore an oath to protect. This includes problem solving and mitigating the situation that was presented to us. These fire services traditions shall stand resolute. We will provide essential services with pride, commitment, and a sense of urgency. The fundamentalist mind understands the basics, and knows we should never sway away from those basics. However, the basics, the fundamentals that we provide as Firefighters, change. We must intervene with water to promptly cool the environment, to extinguish the fire. We will perform one of two acts, take the victim away from the hazard or take the hazard away from the victim. We need to separate the fuel, the heat, and the oxygen through some form of extinguishing media. We CAN separate the victim from the hazard by interrupting or impeding the combustion process. Our streams cool the fuels, the gases, and reduce temperatures. We must regulate the amount of air entrainment that the fire needs to grow/die, and prevent fire gas ignition or rapid-fire progression. We can  achieve success by the performance of compartmentalizing, and reducing the temperature.

Therefore, what do we learn from events like KILL THE FLASHOVER? We learn that we still must pull hose lines, flow water, and still provide for life safety. The fundamentals of what we do when, the order or priority, and in the manner they are conducted, need to change! We change these by controlling doors promptly, creating anti-ventilation, managing air intake and exhaust, all as applicable. We can then control the air; so we control the heat. Provide extinguishing media through some means that will the stop off gassing, cool the environment, and cool the gases. After we have the upper hand, we will move into the building for search and final fire extinguishment. This does not take long! High performing crews can intervene in as little time as it takes to don your SCBA face peice.

KILL THE FLASHOVER - photo courtesy of John Buckmann III

Kill the Flashover 2014 has shown that we can still take our traditional tactics, of providing Firefighters to intervene and stopping the combustion process which prevents fire loss. We can be those fundamentalist by pulling hose lines, spraying water and putting out the fire. The fundamentals must evolve and continue to progress as needed, then re-evaluated as the environment in which we are expected to perform in changes. We can still provide a professional, caring, and sympathetic service for those we to an oath to serve. But our oath can still be fulfilled as we stay to true to our mission at all costs, even if that cost goes against what we have been doing for many years. Stop, think, and re-evaluate how we approach firefighting. We have the means to do this with the equipment we have right now. We simply must inject a critical mind to understand the effects of our actions.

Moving forward with the evolution of tactics, we must seek balance. For many years we have heard that no two fires are the same. Yet, at the same time fire is predictable. Having the abilites, skills, and knowledge on the scene will only increase our success. Too much or too little of any tactic, can be deterimental. The culmination of appropriate, scenario based, tactics will yeild unparalleled results.

Our efforts will pay off, when we continue to seek out new information. We must continue to train. KTF 2014 is just one small step for the entire fire service to start re-evaluating how we are going to fight fires, today, tomorrow, and in the future.


This winter I have idly sat by as firefighters continue to use the weather as a pathetic excuse to sit inside and table talk issues instead of pushing their limits of comfort and training outside. Weather isn’t something that waits while we have a cup of hot coco in our hands. We respond to calls in every weather imaginable, and we cannot pretend to be prepared if we only train when the sun is out and the snow has stopped falling. It’s common to hear others say, “it’s too cold outside” or “tomorrow is supposed to be warmer lets hold off till then”. What is it that we are really saying when we complain about it being too cold outside? It’s no more than an easy excuse that prevents us from doing the job that we say we love so much. The slight discomfort you’re going to experience is preventing you from becoming fully prepared for that next call in inclement weather. We might as well declare that it’s more important for us to stay warm for the next hour then knowing we will be able to respond in anything mother nature throws our way.

Last month, our crew just finished waxing our extension ladders on the first due rig. The satisfied feeling of a freshly waxed ladder was all the temptation I needed to do some ladder drills. I glance outside at the Colorado flag as it whips violently back and forth and am instantly met with hesitation from the crew as they object due to the wind. “If the ladder falls it could hurt someone” (immediately pull the safety card, there is no argument against firefighter safety) or it could bend the beam and put it out of service (another easy card to pull, first due equipment is our highest priority).

Is this what we are going to say on a real call? Of course not. We’ll go out and do our job as we normally do, but only now, during this real call, I am not proficient at throwing this ladder in the wind. What are my chances of hurting someone now? Would you rather have the ladder fall during training or on a call when someone’s life depends on it? Do we REALLY need to put someone’s life on the line to justify if it was worth taking a few minutes to throw the ladder in the wind?

Even if I never have to throw a ladder in extreme conditions, I can practice and be prepared for anything which only makes throwing the ladder on calm days an easier task. A great example I can give of this is from a class I took by Lt. Ray McCormack with FDNY last month. He said if you constantly train on the 2 ½ how easy will it be to use the 1 ¾ line. Pushing ourselves is part of our job. If that sentence makes you feel nervous, you’re in the wrong profession. Ray made a good point that all of us as professionals need to live by. Make your training hard, make it in all types of weather and all situations, and then when calls do come, you will be more than prepared.

What I’m trying to get at here is, push your limits when given the chance. Test yourself. Experience the worst case scenarios before they happen so when it is real, you’re ready. Pull hose in the snow till your regulator freezes and learn how to trouble shoot it, throw ladders in the wind, practice vertical vent till it’s to hard to run a chain saw because your fingers are so cold. Do you know if the fan moves when the concrete is covered in ice? Next time you’re glad you aren’t outside, go outside and train. You tell me what’s more important, feeling comfortable or knowing you are prepared for anything.

Over the next several weeks I will be posting about Fire Protection Systems. The hope is we all can gain a better understanding of what is out there, the benefits of and our role in water suppression/control systems.

This picture is of a large commercial building of Non-Combustible construction. As you can see here they have three (3) sprinkler systems, a water flow alarm, fire department connection and a hydrant. What does this picture tell you?


Exterior views can tell you information of the type of system this building has.

If you need to enlarge this image to see the elements please click the image.

The first element we see is the hydrant in the foreground. Based on its proximity to the building, is it part of the public or private system? If it is public, then this is a great hydrant to use when supporting the system. However, if its part of the private ring header, will you only be taking available water away from the risers?

The next element we see are the three Wall Post Indicator Valves (Wall PIV). Each one of these hand wheels controls the main valve for each one of the sprinkler risers. They all protect different areas of the structure, yet are still in close proximity to each other. If more systems are needed they will install them closer to the area they are designed to protect. Only close the valve required and only when directed by the IC. We also see that these are locked with a chain. Do not cut the lock! Cut a link in the chain. Once the key holder arrives we can reuse the chain and secure it with the same lock. Little things like this provide great customer service.

The Fire Department connection also stands out. You will want to investigate this further as not all FDC’s are equal. A FDC may be sprinklers only, standpipes only or both. The cap, a label or another sign should indicate what the connection is for. If no indication exsist, contact the grounds manager ASAP during the pre-planning phase to have this corrected.

The final element we see is the water flow alarm, in this case a bell or gong. If/when the system actuates the flowing water will cause this alarm to sound. Depending on how it is set up, several actions may occur. The alarm may only be local, indicating a system is flowing and will the give the general area. The water flow may initiate a global alarm telling everyone in that building to exit. This may also be tied into a system that initiates a fire department response.

Knowing and understanding fire protection systems enables you to set up, control and manage an operation at an incident with a system. The owner of the building felt that the contents were worthy of installing the system so we should honor that decision by using them. Fire Protection systems do not reduce the need for a fire department response, they only enable us to better serve the public.

For an overview of Fire Protection check out this link –

More information about sprinkler heads –

Every day we are bombarded with information. This has never been as true as it is now since the Fire Service has met Social Media. We must maintain a questioning attitude yet, stay open minded so we can take a look at all the angles. You also want to also consider what works best for YOUR area. What works for one, may not be best for another.

Does it serve you or serve the mission?

One old argument the fire service has had, Fog v. Smooth bore. Now it is plain H2O v. Agents. As technology advances, meaning the design and engineering of the tools to prevent, find and destroy fire; we must keep our eyes focused on the end game and not just the means. The protection of the public is why we are here. If tradition, ego or attitude impedes that process then we are failing to honor that oath we chose to take. Seek out pertinent research that will make you successful on and off the fire ground. This video is interesting as it shows the use of CAFS with the new TFT Flip Tip Nozzle. Shan Raffel posted this on his YouTube Channel. For those seeking information on the Modern Fire Environment and Tactics, he is one those leading the way.

Our time. This is our time, we must define who we are and who we will be. We speak of tradition and we speak of culture. Our values as men and women compel us to this great calling. We have vision, dedication and our acts are virtuous. In times of struggle we must look for the means to overcome adversity. When backed into a corner we can become judgmental, taking opinions from others as personal attacks. Their is not doubt a critical eye is needed, however the collective will help determine the results.

The Fire Service is at a cross roads. Our traditions and values being dissected with those critical eyes. Do not take this as an attack, open your eyes, hearts and minds to the great change that may come. Science is meeting the street and we can disseminate information as never before. One such resource is from Christopher Naum and his Buildings On Fire, Command Safety, Taking it to the Streets series through his websites. Chief Naum uses his many “hats” to collect this much needed information from both the test grounds, the training grounds and the fire ground to give the American Fire Service the tools to improve their abilities and provide excellence in fire protection and suppression.

Reach out to better understand "Our Time."

Chief Naum is a living example how understanding that “change is inevitable and constant”. Embrace the change during our time so we can perform our job and make sure our people can go home.

Use the following link so that you may bridge the gap between tradition and change, in out time.

Over the past few years, countless hours have been devoted to “Saving Our Own.”  FAST, RIT,RIC, ON DECK, Self-Rescue, Firefighter Survivability…..we carry cutters, webbing, ropes, bail out devices…..we train on LUNAR, MAYDAY and “sending smoke signals.” Just when we started to figure it all out…BAM!  We get kicked in our collective balls.

Check out this amazing piece from my brother Chris Sterricker on “Security Mesh.” We will never have this game down pat, but how can we when curve balls keep coming our way.


You will read on this site in various posts about A Culture of Self Improvement. I believe very strongly in this concept and try to surround myslef with others that express these same traits. Most of you know that my time has been spent working on Fire Training Toolbox with John and Chris. Why? Two Firefighters that are living examples of the self improving culture.

Yesterday John posted on his blog a short read on a new type of interior stair. He was alerted to this by another Midwest Training Officer. John’s area of “interest” is building construction, more so green construction. When ever he can share vital information in this area he shares, even if it as simple as posting someone elses work.

Too many times we hoard “nuggets.” We want to have an edge on others, a wild card to use in situations. Sometimes it is okay to keep these bits to yourself, especially if you are an Instructor using your “treasure chest” of tricks in classes you teach. The end result should always end with you sharing. John shares because he wants every Firefighter to understand what they could face in new construction. Chris Sterricker shares so all may benefit from lessons that are taught everyday on the battlefield. I share to keep everyone in the game, till the final buzzer so we may celebrate our successes and passion together.

Today’s face paced, social media reliant world keeps us up to date by the second. Use these tools to learn, share and pass it on. The butt it might save, is your own.


For a few websites that understand the value of sharing information and improving ourselves daily visit.

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