Why Train with Wooden Guns?
The Editor’s Opinion Page
We remember just back before World War II when the newspapers were filled with pictures of soldiers training with wooden guns. At the time there just weren’t enough guns to go around. But the guns were eventually produced and our men went on to great glory.
And ever since, our soldiers have trained with the exact weapons they would use in the field and under conditions as near to actual warfare as possible.
Such training pays off in victories and is the type of training that should be used in the fire service.
Recently we had a sad experience watching a fire department at a training session. This department was well equipped—good apparatus, new hose, masks, the works. But either the chief or his training officer, or both, suffered from the wooden-gun philosophy.
The first evolution we watched called for a company to stretch a line from a hydrant, don masks and enter a fire building. The unit rolled snappily to a hydrant. Pump operator and hydrant man neatly connected up. And the hose men after donning demand-type masks and cylinders, dragged a line into the building.
On the surface it was a good operation—quick and efficient. But unhappily, there were a few wooden guns in the picture.
First, the pump operator did not charge the pumper. Next, the hosemen did not connect the hose and regulator of the facepiece to the tank of air on their backs. And finally, there was no fire in the building.
It seems that there was no water used because, “ice could form on the training ground and somebody might slip and get hurt. And besides, the new hose would get all wet and dirty and stiff.” A,bout the unconnected masks, “it costs money to refill the tanks. So why waste money when there’s no fire?” Why no fire? The fire building was used only “in nice weather.”
Statistics show that the most fires—and the most severe fires—occur in the winter months. So we wondered what would happen to this department when they were called upon to fight a real fire, using real water and real masks on an icy day in January. In fact, we wondered why they bothered to train at all.
We know that in today’s fire training the poor show we witnessed was the exception rather than the rule. But more subtle forms of the wooden-gun philosophy are still present in all departments.
To our knowledge, there are no fire departments that train in the dark, or at least in dimly lit surroundings. Yet, think of the countless fires that call for a ladder to be raised or a line stretched in a dark alley.
There are still more of these subtle wooden guns laying around and they should be rooted out. Fire fighters must train like the military, with the exact tools they will use in the field and under conditions as near to actual fire fighting as possible.