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Why basic firefighting skills matter on every call

Practicing and using the basics of PPE use and firefighting tactics are key to avoiding injury

Our basic training is what saves us from the harsh realities of fighting fire.

This statement is nothing new; it wasn’t magically created at this moment, in this space. It is a statement that has been around for many years and has been conveyed repeatedly.

I mention this statement because we still witness firefighters carrying out certain tasks without paying attention to the basics. Take for example SCBA – we still see firefighters not wearing SCBA when fighting a fire of any type.

Even when a defensive tactic or strategy is employed, the SCBA is still needed to protect our respiratory systems from exposure to the products of combustion.


In the attached video, we see a young firefighter making a defensive attack. Notice that he is wearing his facepiece, but not the SCBA tank and harness. It looks like the intent was there, but the follow through was not.

Now, how does this impact this fire department’s operations and the young firefighter?

With only the facepiece on, the firefighter is not going to see much. It is a winter’s day during that fire and with the combination of outside cold temperature and the inside body heat coming off the firefighter’s face, the mask will certainly fog up.

This will prevent that firefighter from being effective in completing the assignment. That’s because in addition to poor visibility, without SCBA, the firefighter is unable to advance the hose line closer to the fire and into the carport to help suppress it.

Lead by example

A second firefighter is seen helping with other fireground tasks such as flaking out the hose line, getting water to the nozzle, backing up the initial firefighter and eventually pulling off a second hose line and attacking the vehicle in the carport.

That firefighter is missing his SCBA, gloves and helmet. Now granted, he may have been the driver and driving with a helmet on is not practical or safe – but when helping on the fireground, it is needed.

It does not take much for a small trip over a hose to occur, a slip on the snow around the house or even to have something fall or come into contact with him during the operation.

All of these little items are the small dominoes lining up just waiting for the push of the first one to start the chain reaction. The basic training that firefighters are taught has an impact on the outcome of every fire that we respond to.

It is also important that leaders set the right example. The young firefighter is only listening and watching those who are leading them. If they are not setting the example and leading by example, then the results will be what you expected them to be, not good.

Be sure to practice and incorporate the basics into everything that you do when you respond to an incident. Those basics will one day protect you from the harsh reality of our job. 

About the author

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is currently a full-time firefighter in Ontario, Canada. Mark is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He is a local-level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and an instructor for the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He is also the lead author of the book "Residential Fire Rescue." You can contact Mark with feedback at

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