Basic Fire School: A Teaching Tool for Probies and Veterans

BY FRANK H. HAMMOND JR.

From recruit school to advanced training events, it is almost a mantra: “Don’t forget the basics!” Basic Fire School not only provides an avenue to get your newest recruits up to speed; it can also deliver, as individual or grouped sessions, recurrent fire training to a fire department. Broken into 15 sessions, Basic Fire School covers all aspects of firefighting, from history to coordinated live-fire training evolutions [that are set up to conform to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1403, Standard for Live Fire Training Evolutions]. Fire service instructors, training officers, and company officers who provide firefighter training often look for a packaged, locally adaptable program that is easy to work with and significantly weighted with practical skills evolutions. Basic Fire School can be used in a myriad of applications, including regular company/department training sessions, weekend training programs, and a recruit academy. It is loaded with evolutions to help your newest firefighter and challenge your seasoned firefighters. Although this program is not a path to certification, it can help firefighters achieve qualifications or enhance/renew skills they may or may not use at each response.


(1) Basic Fire School students attack a vehicle fire. The attack team approached at a 45° angle on the driver’s side front corner using a ground-sweep water application; the crew then moved to the passenger area to complete extinguishment. (Photos by author.)

As with most departments I have visited across the country, many fire departments in my area find it difficult to answer the question “What should we do for training this week or month?” Although NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, along with several other standards such as those of the Insurance Service Office (ISO) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration clearly outline what needs to be done and, in some instances, how much time must be invested, few, if any, standards outline how to get it all done. What may seem rudimentary on the outside as far as class development goes is quite a hurdle whether you are a full-time training coordinator for a large department or the training officer for a smaller department. Time seems to be the largest obstacle when it comes to planning, preparing, and delivering quality, basic-level firefighter training. Basic Fire School makes it quite easy: All the training is broken down into four- and eight-hour sections and grouped into 15 sessions of approximately 16 hours each. It is very possible and very easy to take a section of the program on the fly and deliver it to new and veteran department members.


(2) A student is coaxed to the tip of Brewer (ME) Fire Department’s Ladder 1. Every student completed an aerial climb; many students climbed a ladder for the first time and experienced “height discomfort” issues.

During the course of 15 sessions, firefighters will don their personal protective equipment (PPE) at least 100 times, probably more. Proper PPE and SCBA donning procedures are covered during the first session and continue to the end of the program. Although this may not quite work for your recurrent training programs, I found it very helpful for getting the newer firefighters used to donning and doffing their gear safely and efficiently. For a mixed audience, you could set the newer firefighters up against the more experienced firefighters for time (and perhaps some bragging rights). Team building is one of the many unwritten by-products of Basic Fire School, along with training to a standard within the context of actual operations and learning in a safe, controlled environment.


(3) Students are guided through roof operations—again, for the first time for most of them. The first trip was made without SCBA; each subsequent operation followed the rule “off the ground—on air.”

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TRAINING SESSIONS

The sessions are as follows:

  • Session I: Orientation—complete the required paperwork, then review the fire department’s history, organization principles, fire department roles, firefighter guidelines, standard operating procedures/guidelines and policies, regulations, and working with other agencies.
  • Session II: Firefighter qualifications, firefighter safety, firefighter rehabilitation, communications, self-contained breathing apparatus, and personal protective equipment.
  • Session III: Review National Incident Management System, fire behavior, fire response, and size-up.
  • Session IV: Fire extinguisher operations, including fire suppression using Class A, Class B, and simulated Class C fires. We took an old meter box, stuffed it with straw, and set the straw on fire; no live electricity was used.
  • Session V: Firefighter tools and equipment identification, uses, and basic maintenance; several forcible entry techniques are practiced.
  • Session VI: Search and rescue operations, including primary and secondary search operations, along with patient carries and drags.
  • Session VII: Ladder operations for ground and aerial ladders.
  • Session VIII: Water supply principles and practices—fire hydrants, large-diameter hose, portable tanks, and rural hitch setups are covered.
  • Session IX: Firefighter survival practices, such as what to do when you are lost; calling a Mayday on a radio; rapid egress over ground ladders; plus “Stay low in the heat” and “If you cannot see your feet, you should not be on them.”
  • Session X: Hose, nozzle, streams, and foam operations such as loads, advances, taking up, rolls, and producing foam.
  • Session XI: Ventilation, salvage, and overhaul practices—on the roof with an ax; practice with pallets; breaking glass; and salvage cover rolls, folds, and throws.
  • Session XII: Complete ventilation, salvage, and overhaul practices; conduct prefire briefings.
  • Session XIII: Vehicle/refuse container fire operations.
  • Session XIV: Class B fire operations—we use liquefied petroleum gas.
  • Session XV: Class A fire operations. We bring it all together for combined operations—search, attack, backup, ladders, and ventilation.


(4) “Marching Practice.” Students prepare for LP gas fires. Before working with live fires using LP gas, students engaged in practice runs using dry and wet lines. Once the fires were started, every student completed nozzle duty for at least one evolution.

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PROGRAM EASY TO ADAPT

The written portion of this program provides information regarding the intent of each session, props, supplies needed, apparatus and tool needs, and learning/performance objectives. Although the framework of this program is quite structured, it is still adaptable to any department with any number of tools that may be available—for example, if your department does not have access to an aerial device or a 50-foot Bangor ladder, omit the objectives involving those tools. On the other hand, if you have a special tool or an appliance that you use regularly, simply plug it into the program at the spot that is right for your department.

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From the newest recruit to the most seasoned veteran, competency in basic firefighting skills is a most critical asset. As a stand-alone fire academy type delivery or section-by-section sessions for regularly scheduled training, the department or company officers can use the Basic Fire School training package to provide safe, effective, and relevant fire training to the firefighters in their charge.

FRANK H. HAMMOND JR., a 25-year veteran of the fire service, is a training program manager for the Maine Fire Training Program. He is a certified emergency medical technician, firefighter II, driver/operator, airport firefighter, fire instructor II, and fire officer II. He has an associate degree in fire science and also serves as a lieutenant with the Lincoln (ME) Fire Department.

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