Contributors, FDIC, Leadership, Training

The Value of Education in the Fire Service

This show is in memory of Fire Chief Alan V. Brunacini (April 18, 1937 – October 15, 2017)


Dr. Carter started riding an ambulance as a junior in high school in 1964.  In 1966, during the Vietnam war, he enlisted into the Air Force as an Air Force Fire Protection Specialist.  He served in Alaska,  the Philippians and Vietnam.  When he was discharged from the military, he returned to New Jersey and riding the ambulance.  He relocated to Adelphia and became a volunteer with the Adelphia Fire Company in 1971. 

“You had your formal education in college and your informal education in the living of your daily life as a firefighter.”  – Dr. Harry R. Carter

Dr. Carter entered into the fire science program while at the Jersey City State College, now the New Jersey City University and finished his Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Safety Administration in 1976. One of his dear friends and fellow colleagues while at Jersey City State College was Dr. Denis Onieal the current Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator.  Both Dr. Carter and Dr. Onieal had two of the first four Bachelor of Science Degrees in Fire Safety Administration in the State of New Jersey.   

“The fire service is a profession not an occupation which is skills, talents and tasks but a profession based around core knowledge.” – Dr. Harry R. Carter

After a very successful career, he retired in 1999 as a Suppression Division Battalion Commander with the Newark Fire Department in New Jersey.  During his tenure in Newark, he served as Chief of Training, Commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team, and Administrative Assistant to the Fire Chief.  He also was a past Fire Chief and former Training Officer of the Adelphia Fire Company, located in the Adelphia section of Howell Township, New Jersey.


How can the future firefighter get started into higher education in the fire service?

The first thing you have to get in your mind, is you want to learn more than just what they are teaching you at the fire department. And to do that you can step right out and go to your local library.  You can read many things in a library.  You can attend your department academy, county academy, State academy or the National Fire Academy.  All of these offer great educational courses. But prior to starting, you have to determine, what you want to know.  If you start out on a journey without a destination, you will never get to the destination. 

National Fire Academy FESHE Model Curriculum Associate’s (Core):

1. Principles of Emergency Services

This course provides an overview to fire protection and emergency services; career opportunities in fire protection and related fields; culture and history of emergency services; fire loss analysis; organization and function of public and private fire protection services; fire departments as part of local government; laws and regulations affecting the fire service; fire service nomenclature; specific fire protection functions; basic fire chemistry and physics; introduction to fire protection systems; introduction to fire strategy and tactics; life safety initiatives.

2. Building Construction for Fire Protection

This course provides the components of building construction related to firefighter and life safety. The elements of construction and design of structures are shown to be key factors when inspecting buildings, preplanning fire operations, and operating at emergencies.

3. Fire Behavior and Combustion

This course explores the theories and fundamentals of how and why fires start, spread, and are controlled.

4. Principles of Fire and Emergency Services Safety & Survival

This course introduces the basic principles and history related to the national firefighter life safety initiatives, focusing on the need for cultural and behavior change throughout the emergency services.

5. Fire Prevention

This course provides fundamental knowledge relating to the field of fire prevention. Topics include: history and philosophy of fire prevention; organization and operation of a fire prevention bureau; use and application of codes and standards; plans review; fire inspections; fire and life safety education; and fire investigation.

6. Fire Protection Systems

This course provides information relating to the features of design and operation of fire alarm systems, water-based fire suppression systems, special hazard fire suppression systems, water supply for fire protection and portable fire extinguishers.…


According to Dr. Harry R. Carter, knowledge is about:

  • Content
  • What are you learning?
  • Critical Thinking

Are you learning how to think? Thinking is a process, critical thinking is taking facts, weighing facts, evaluating facts, and making your conclusion on how you wish to proceed based on those facts.


Why do I want an education?

If you can’t come up with a good reasonable answer for the question why, it is probably a journey you don’t need to take or shouldn’t take. 

“Education is critical in what we do.  When I explain to people my model for learning in the fire service.  You are taught at the academy what to do.  You go to the fire house and practice and drill on what to do.  You go to real emergencies, you do something, it works, or it doesn’t work.  You come back and use your feedback and go back to training again.  It is a circle, it is a cycle, but injecting education makes the circle larger.”  – Dr. Harry R. Carter

George D. Post an illustrator for fire service publications created the brady overlays for the Brady Corporation.  The International Society of Fire Service Instructor (ISFSI) honors an instructor every year with the George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award and this year’s recipient was Lieutenant Paul Combs.  According to Dr. Carter, “An overlay went on an overlay projector and this was highly immobile.  An overlay was things on a sheet of acetate.  But there were multiple sheets, for example, the basic street, the building and your trucks arrives.  What do you see?  What do you do?  While in my mind, reading, learning, gathering knowledge, creates overlays in your brain.  So, when you turn into the block where that emergency is, rather a fire or an accident or whatever, your mind can flip through the overlays placing them in front of your mind’s eye what to do.” – Dr. Harry R. Carter


Why should the new recruit, entry-level firefighter attend the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference? 

You need to join the family.  There are courses at all level.  There are HOT courses that are a perfect follow up to your fire academy. These courses give you an opportunity to take what you have learned and share the knowledge you received while at FDIC with your own fire department.  Teach a drill about what you have learned at FDIC with your own department and or agency. 

“I was always in my mind a better person for what I had learned at FDIC.”– Dr. Harry R. Carter

“You come to FDIC to learn and you are going to be surrounded by people that are charged up.”– Dr. Harry R. Carter


Top 10 things to do that increase your odds of receiving an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science.  (Not in any specific order).

  1.     Start with your why.
  2.     Have a mentor to assist you with the journey.
  3.     Schedule a meeting with a College counselor.
  4.     Complete your FAFSA.
  5.     Find the most appropriate program for your course of studies.
  6.     Apply for admission with your program of choice.
  7.     Complete the six FESHE courses.
  8.     Complete your general education courses.
  9.     Apply for your Associates Degree in time for graduation.
  10.     Celebrate success.


Reading List:

  • Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service– Fire Chief Alan V. Brunacini
  • Fire Command– Fire Chief Alan V. Brunacini
  • Pass It On: What We Know…What We Want You to Know – Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder
  • Pass it On: The Second Alarm – Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder       



  •     Not attending National level fire conferences.
  •     Your why is the biggest question.
  •     Stay active with your fitness.
  •     In order to take care of the public, you first have to take care of yourself.
  •     If you are not able to take care of yourself, you are not able to take care of Mrs. Smith.



  •     Keep your textbooks.
  •     You must share and share at the next level.
  •     You can only share when you can talk, look and listen.
  •     Attend the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC).
  •     You must join the family.
  •     Hands on training (HOT) courses are a follow up to your fire academy training.
  •     Teach a drill that you learned at FDIC for your Fire Department.
  •     Goal setting throughout every decade of your life.
  •     Have a Mentor.
  •     Everyone is a lending library.



  • National Fire Academy
  • U.S. Fire Administration
  • Fire Engineering Magazine
  • Fire Department Instructor Conference
  • Everyone Goes Home Program – 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives


Catastrophic Multiple Deaths Fires (discussed during show):

  • The Station Night Club Fire
  • The Great Peshtigo Fire
  • The Great Chicago Fire
  • Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire
  • Iroquois Theater Fire
  • The Ghost ship Warehouse Fire
  • Rhythm Club Fire

(Discussion with Dr. Carter begins at the 50:00 mark)






Twitter: @drharrycarter

Email:[email protected]


Dr. Harry R. Carter, FIFireE, CFO, is a veteran chief fire officer, an internationally-known municipal fire protection consultant, author, writer, and lecturer. He currently serves as a fire commissioner and is Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Fire District #2 in Howell Township, New Jersey. Dr. Carter has also served on the adjunct faculty of a number of community colleges in New Jersey, as well as the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He formerly served on the faculty of the School of Public Safety Leadership at Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Chris Baker has over 10 years of experience in volunteer, combination and career fire departments in California.  Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Associates of Science Degree in Fire Service Command Company Officer.  He is a California State Fire Training certified Fire Officer, Driver-Operator, Fire Instructor, and Lead Firefighter I Certification Evaluator.  Chris is a Fire Science Instructor in the California Community College System.  He is a member and educator with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.  Chris is a Volunteer Advocate and Advocate Manager for the Everyone Goes Home Program.