All photography provided by Greg Muhr and Jillian Stewart


The fire service tries so hard to find people who are physically fit and have common sense. They are sent through the academy and given the basic skills and knowledge to be successful. They take an oath, sent to a firehouse, and for the rest of their career, a chief, company officer, or senior member goes out of their way to deter them from being what they want most, to be great firefighters. No one steps up to train them or mentor them, yet they continually complain that they can’t do the job. Chiefs don’t trust them, so they cover them up with policy. They don’t believe in their capabilities, so they are afraid to turn them loose on fire and rescue problems. No one cares if they succeed, so they are left to fend for themselves and must choose to give in or leave.

If we hope to attract and retain the best, we need to create an environment that lets firefighters excel at being firefighters. We need to continue to train them, give them the best tools for the job, and most importantly, support them. Only when we understand what being a firefighter really means, can we give them what they need to succeed and survive, and let them be the best firefighter they can be.

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Scott Thompson stared his fire service career in 1986. Over the course of his career he has worked in operations, training, and administration for Plano, Arlington, Athens, Lake Cities, and Lewisville, Texas. Thompson is currently a firefighter with fire chief responsibilities in The Colony, Texas. For the last 34 years he has been actively involved in positioning firefighters for success and survival.  He has been a hands-on instructor, workshop, and classroom presenter at FDIC since 2002. Thompson has two sons on the job, Garrett with Arlington, Texas Fire Rescue and Braden with Dallas Fire Rescue. Thompson has written several articles on training, command and control, chosen cultures, suburban fire operations, and leadership. He is the author of The Functional Fire Company: Positioning Small Groups for Success and Survival, PennWell 2019.