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What words of wisdom would you tell your rookie self?

We asked FireRescue1 readers what seasoned advice they would offer their younger selves, and they delivered


There are countless opportunities for new firefighters to learn from their peers.

Image/Marc Bashoor

Learn more tips for new firefighters, like how to navigate your first shift and survive the rookie years.

As the millennial generation moves into leadership and management roles, the next rookie generation has arrived in Generation Z.

But, regardless of generation, a newbie is still a newbie. We asked FireRescue1 readers to think back to their firefighting years and offer the best piece of advice they would give to themselves as a rookie.

If you’re just joining the department, these comments offer a look at what the seasoned firefighters of today wish they had known going in. Or, if you’re one fire away from hanging up your turnout gear for good, leave some hard-earned advice for the rookies of today that you wish you’d known back then.

No matter what generation you are (or claim!), these nuggets of wisdom offer something for everyone.

Advice from former rookies

  • Treat everyone with respect, always. Even if you have run the call on them every day of your shift, they should still get respect. And remember, the public is always watching. – Ross McDonald
  • Know the protocols by heart. Observe and learn from your officers, know the responsibilities of the officer above you. Organize your learning and complete one learning task at a time (i.e., Engine, Tanker, Rescue). Be confident, not cocky. Ask for help. – Mike Goebel
  • Keep a journal of what you observe and experience with leaders and followers that you interact with in your career. Do this on your first day until the day you retire. Periodically review your entries to remind yourself what you saw as good traits of strong leaders and the weak points of leaders/followers as you progress through the ranks. You will be amazed at the amount of personal introspection this method can provide in your development as a great leader and exceptional follower! – Bob Harvey
  • Find the balance between your personal life and your professional life and leave work at work. – Barry Keith
  • Keep your mouth shut, ears open only to education and criticism, and stay off Facebook until all chores are done and you know each truck inside and out. Better yet, stay off Facebook completely. It’s called a phone call. – Bryce Rhoades
  • Believe in yourself. You can do this and do it well! – Kathryn Bommer

  • Keep your mouth shut and your ears open! – Ron Hilton
  • Don’t ever take off your facepiece inside the structure, even when the flames are gone. – Ian Campbell
  • Never turn down an opportunity to train, grow and develop, you never know what doors it might open. – Matt Brown
  • Spend all the quality time that you can with your brothers because they can disappear fast. – Jay Jarrett
  • Don’t just learn the process to pass a test – understand the reason behind the process. You need to know the ‘why’ so you can adapt your approach dynamically in all situations. – Jordan Lanigan
  • Be nice. Always wear your full protective gear. – Jeff Griffin
  • Do YOUR job to the best of your ability, all the time, and keep your mouth shut. – Wayne Bindas
  • Clean your gear more often … dirty gear is not cool! – Colin Carey
  • Bring your own bed linens on your first shift. – Ethan Grossman
  • The senior man is just as important to your career growth and gaining knowledge as any book, lecture or class that you will ever take. – Ed Vargas
  • Slow down and enjoy the ride. Don’t try and climb the ladder so fast. – Anthony Burns
  • Never stop learning and take every opportunity to make a difference! – Vance Duncan III
  • Two ears and one mouth … there is a reason for that, kid! – Mike Amesse
  • Don’t let the negativity get you down. Embrace every education opportunity you can and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need it. – Travis Temarantz
  • Act professional. Train like your life depends on it. Attitude is everyting, keep a positive one. Show respect to everyone you come in contact with. Stay out of the gossip. Come to work ready to work. Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do. Stay fit. Lead by example no matter what position you hold in the organization. – Jeff Haugh
  • Listen twice as much as you speak. Learn to take criticism and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes, no one is perfect. Love the job. – Owen Merwarth
  • Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. Don’t learn the tricks of the trade, until you learn the trade! – John Borden
  • Keep fit, stick with the old guys, pick their brains, know your streets, and never get too comfortable. Never be afraid to ask for help. You have the best job in the world. – Scott Isaacson
  • You won the lottery, best job in the world. Don’t forget that. Pay attention and have a thirst for knowledge. You will only get out of this job what you put into it. You have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak. You can’t hide in the background. Have thick skin, you’ll need it. If the crew occasionally teases you, it’s because they like you. – Andrew Wiersma
  • “Fight fire ... have fun.” I tell my young ones starting out if they can strive to maintain those two things for the next 30 years they are golden. I also instill “Maximum Effort, Do Your Job!!, RESPECT THE JOB!!, and one of the biggest overall....Stay Humble” – Devin Slagel

What advice would you share with rookie firefighters? Send an email to

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This article, originally published on July 03, 2021, has been updated.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.