Manual Of Firemanship

I came across this great handbook from 1945, it has been fascinating to read and to reassure myself as much as we have changed, our basics have stayed so much the same. I am going to make a few different posts detailing some of the chapters out of this book. Everything from our mission and responsibilities as a firefighter to what early day versions of “combat ready” apparatus looked like.

Here is the very first page, word for word,  out of book # 5 called Practical Firemanship

PRELIMINARY
“No two fires are alike,” is an old and very true Fire Service saying, and therefore technical knowledge must be backed up by intelligence and the ability to grasp the fundamentals of a situation, to initiate a plan of action and to improvise on the spur of the moment.
 
1. THE FIREMAN
The fireman must be physically fit, for work at a fire will almost always involve great physical exertion. He must be courageous and yet be calm, for on these qualities will depend his reactions in an emergency. He must be patient, for often he will need patience when dealing with persons whose property is involved or threatened by fire and who are in a state of considerable mental distress. He must have initiative and yet possess the will to keep going for long periods of times under adverse conditions. He must cultivate his powers of observation to the utmost and must also possess an enquiring mind. He must have a keen sense of discipline, for unless he himself is able to obey orders without question he cannot expect other to carry out his orders. Finally he must never forget that as a member of the Fire Service he is a servant of the public, and that it is to him that the public turns in an emergency. His duty may be summed upas, firstly to save lives, secondly, to prevent the destruction of property by fire and, thirdly, to render humanitarian services.
The fireman who wishes to progress in his profession should study every outbreak which he has the good fortune to attend and endeavor to learn something from it. Thus, after a few years, he will have built up a store of practical knowledge which will equip him for dealing with most of the problems which come his way.  
 

Wow, talk about hitting the nail on the head. I needed this, sometimes it feels like we have so many other responsibilities we need to be good at that all I see is people training on everything but our true core basics. This book does a better job breaking down what is important than I ever could. What is great about this paragraph is it covers some great characteristics, expectations, and mentality in an easy to understand way. I want to break down parts of it and put a more modern spin on what I believe they are saying. I’ll respond in blue.

PRELIMINARY

“No two fires are alike,” is an old and very true Fire Service saying, and therefore technical knowledge must be backed up by intelligence and the ability to grasp the fundamentals of a situation, to initiate a plan of action and to improvise on the spur of the moment.
It has obviously been around for a while, we have all heard it, “No two fires are alike”  and I like their spin on this. They make the point that if we expect that each fire can be handled by a set guidelines out of a book, or technical knowledge that has been read, we are in for a world of hurt. We must use our heads and common sense to come up with a solution to the problem and get the job done. Not only get the job done, but in times do it in a way that we have never seen or been trained on before using tools in a creative fashion. They are asking for people that can solve problems with what they have in hand. 

 1. THE FIREMAN

The fireman must be physically fit, for work at a fire will almost always involve great physical exertion.
Guys are not making this stuff up today, they are just improving on it and stressing its importance. 
He must be courageous and yet be calm, for on these qualities will depend his reactions in an emergency. 
 These are some of the best qualities you can find in a firefighter, think of some of the best you know and work around. Ill bet their calm, and to me one of the best ways to judge courage is how calm someone remains when things are real bad.
He must be patient, for often he will need patience when dealing with persons whose property is involved or threatened by fire and who are in a state of considerable mental distress. He must have initiative and yet possess the will to keep going for long periods of times under adverse conditions.
Patience and staying calm go very hand in hand. The second part is a very formal way of saying they should be tough and not whining about when it is their turn to go get water or leave the fire.
He must cultivate his powers of observation to the utmost and must also possess an enquiring mind.
Attention to detail and being able to recognize what is going on when you arrive instead of becoming tunneled in on the problem. Almost every modern day tool and tactic have come from those among us with enquiring minds and the will to make things better.
He must have a keen sense of discipline, for unless he himself is able to obey orders without question he cannot expect others to carry out his orders.
The greatest leaders I have ever worked for are comfortable enough in their own skills and confident enough in their choices that they can have the humility to let the people who work under them question and solve problems on our own, all while having a mutual understanding that when they do give an order we would follow it without hesitation.
Finally he must never forget that as a member of the Fire Service he is a servant of the public, and that it is to him that the public turns in an emergency. His duty may be summed up as, firstly to save lives, secondly, to prevent the destruction of property by fire and, thirdly, to render humanitarian services.
What a great line, they refer back to the bottom line that we are in a business of service to others. How about how they summed up our duty, we have heard that in about every fire text book on the market. However I like the way they word it here better than the modern day Life Safety, Incident Stabilization,  Property Conservation. It brings a more personal meaning to our mission.
The fireman who wishes to progress in his profession should study every outbreak which he has the good fortune to attend and endeavor to learn something from it. Thus, after a few years, he will have built up a store of practical knowledge which will equip him for dealing with most of the problems which come his way.  
This is one of my favorites, even in 1945 they are talking about the importance of the person who treats this as a trade and not as a day to sit and gather a paycheck. 25 years can be experience that is only half of its true potential if you did just the minimum to make it through. The true craftsman takes every possible opportunity that they can learn from and they apply to their next challenge. They are hard on themselves when something goes wrong, but then they take what they learned and apply it to the next fire. This is how you store practical knowledge, by messing up, and than making sure you can’t mess up in the same way again.

This is just the very first page of this book, I have found a lot of other topics and chapters that I will share on here over time. I always love to get back tot he basics.

 
 
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11 Comments on “Manual Of Firemanship”


  1. Seems like Grandpa was right all along! There are so many “experts” out there making a vain attempt to reinvent the wheel, however this book is evidence of the fact that while the technology available to us has changed drastically in the last 67 years since this was published, the core values and tenets of our profession remain the same; Honor, duty, courage, commitment, poise, valor, service. Thanks for sharing this, and I cannot wait to see more!

  2. ben fleagle Says:

    Excellent post! I have heard several times about the existence of this book, but never seen it. I feel like I’m goin to the movies! Keep it goin, brother!

  3. Kyle Tischler Says:

    This is amazing! Please, please post more. This is from the old school days. This is information that so many of our younger firefighters need to see. And for the older ones, who should always remember where they came from.

    Thanks a bunch for sharing.

  4. Les Chapel Says:

    What a great read. I’m looking forward to reading more of it. Many of us share your thoughts and comments; keep it up.

  5. Trevor Leland (TRUCK 4) Says:

    Now this is a real firemen’s book, written by firemen for firemen with the ultimate goal of getting the job done. Think you should work on getting it to an e-reader type format, might reach many more of the youngeer generation firefighters. Nah Im just kidding!!

  6. Jose Says:

    GREAT JOB on your find, Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us, and tahnks again for applying your own interpretations, as usual they fit in to what most of us feel!
    If you dont mind, I would like to add a few thoughts:
    “No two fires are alike”
    Could not agree more, especialy with the newer construction and constant remodeling. I would also add that No two firefighters are alike either! Every fire is fought by firefighters of varying degrees of experience, knowledge, intelligence, common sense, aggressiveness…..and the list goes on. So therefore at times a set of guidelines or Tac Ops manual can be very important. However these guidelines should be considered a baseline foundation and not a set in stone, must do strategy or tactic. To say that we will ALWAYS do something, or NEVER do something may lead to a catastrophic outcome. Starategy and tactics must be considered with as much information as possible, unfortunately we rarely have all the info we need. What we do know is who we have, who we have coming. We have us, are we ready? What level of training, experience and knowledge do we have? Same question with those coming. The answers differ from fire to fire. We, unfortunately are NOT all at the same level, we ARE all trained to the lowest common level of the training academy! Not saying thats bad, what I am saying is that its NOT enough! So some search out more training and gain more knowledge, while some prefer not to and depend on their academy training, even if it was 15 or 20 years ago!
    Man, you gotta love the way they wrote back then! None the less, however you write Life safety, Incident stabilization and Property conservation, it sure seems that we are getting away from the last two, the old saying “Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a lttle, risk nothing to save nothing” is left up to interpretation of what what exactly is a little or nothing. It seems there has been more discussion lately that an unoccupied home (meaning that someone lives there, but are not in the home) is placed in the “nothing” stage of the saying, soley because “I’m not going to die or kill someone for an empty house that will be replaced by insurance!” “They” have taken out the “risk a little”. Go/No go, a decision made soley on the absolute safety of the firefighter. I am NOT advocating risking a life for property, however, just because we enter a burning structure does not mean we are in absolute danger of of the ultimate sacrifice. Aggressive DOES NOT mean unsafe, yes it is a risk, however we can reduce that risk with knowledge and experience, ours and those around us!
    What the writer also said was to learn from every fire you go to, critique your actions, you, a lot of times, are the only one that knows, really knows, what you did, right and wrong. Share the learning, those of us at slower stations need the learning as well!
    Sorry for the long post, but I feel better now!!!

  7. Dwight Clark Says:

    My Father was a military firefighter at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas during WWII and called this manual known to him as “The Fireman’s Bible”. I remember him reading it to me.

  8. Ricky Connor Says:

    Do you know the history of the book? If so, can you share it and can it be re-published? I know 21 Firefighters who were just sworn in as probationary Firefighters yesterday who would enjoy it. Their Academy experience was set up around this very type of ideology. Looking forward to reading more.

  9. Anthony Segars Says:

    Thank You for sharing. Excellent Post, and I look forward to seeing more in the future.

  10. Frank Liberati Says:

    This book just goes to show that everything is relavant know matter what year were in. This about the same timeline that my father joined the Yonkers Fire Dept. he stayed on for 35 years and as a child growing up watching him employ these same examples we read in this book today. They had it right , and it stays that way today.

  11. Roger Brailsford Says:

    I am the son of a fireman who joined the National Fire Service in Nottingham, England in 1948. In order to pass examinations for promotion (eg: from Fireman to Leading Fireman to Sub-Officer), he was required to study the Manual of Firemanship that was published in multiple volumnes covering a wide range of topics likely to be encountered on the fire ground. Although he left the (then) Nottinghamshire County Fire Brigade in 1965, he kept his library of manuals. I see from the web that the 1945 editions have been well and truly overtaken by later editions but what fascinated me in the 1945 editions were the details of how to combat fires using equipment that was common throughout wartime Britian and that was familiar to all firemen who served in the wartime British National Fire Service. Having grown up as a “fire service brat” on Beeston Fire Station (the original Stoney Street location), I was witness to that equipment still being used well into the late 1950s. By 1965, the family had moved to Australia, but I did use what I’d learned briefly from the Manuals of Firemanship when I served with a rural fire brigade in Victoria in the late 1960’s and very early 1970s. It was clear that the manuals distilled a great deal in the way of practical firemanship skills into short, pithy sentences and wonderful line drawings. They were a way in which knowledge could be passed down from one generation to the next.


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