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This book is about what it takes to be a great and respected firefighter and how to earn it in the fire service.

The fire service was here long before you were here. It will be here long after you’re gone. Remember to stay humble and always take care of your priorities like your education and your family.- David Soler Sr. ( My Dad when I was just starting out in the fire service.)


Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a firefighter. I felt called to be a firefighter, but I also felt called to be a great firefighter, or the best I could be, and I have been focused on becoming a student of firefighter greatness. I have been consumed by the need to study the following questions:

 – What does it take to be a great firefighter?

 – What does it take to be a respected firefighter among other firefighters?

 – How can I be respected among other firefighters both within my department and outside my department?

 – Are people born with this greatness or is it learned?

 – Do I have what it takes to be a great and respected firefighter?

 – Are there foundational principles that great firefighters have that we can learn and become?

 – Can others learn and implement this and can they too become great and respected?

After years of searching for those answers, testing what I found, sharing it with others, and seeing them become great and respected firefighters, I feel that a “Map” has been discovered for all of us who have a calling to be great and respected firefighters.

Firefighter Preplan is the end result of my many years of interviews with great and respected firefighters from around the United States and beyond—like those I share in the FirefighterToolbox podcast

Firefighters, officers, chiefs, and thought leaders from all walks of the fire service have been interviewed and studied to understand what elements and principles are common to these admired and respected fire service personnel.

This book compiles these principles, attitudes, and habits and also provides the strategies and tactics of these admired firefighters.

Throughout the years, I’ve also gone on many ride-alongs, and what some call shadowing, with numerous firefighters and officers in numerous departments from multiple states to gather and study these principles, strategies, and tactics of becoming a great and respected firefighter.

In addition, my personal experience in the fire service includes 20+ years experience being a firefighter, including roles as EMT/firefighter, pump operator, straight truck and tiller truck operator, lieutenant, and captain. This experience has been gained both as a volunteer and career firefighter in multiple states including NJ, NY, and Maryland.

As a lifelong student of firefighter success, I am not here to tell you I am great or that you should bow down to me; I’m telling you to become a student of firefighter success yourself. Focus on learning the skills, attitudes, and philosophies that Firefighter Preplan shares as well as traits of other respected firefighters and officers you know and implement them.

Understanding these tools will not make you respected. It’s becoming the person who embodies these principles and produces the fruit of these principles that will make you respected and provide a rewarding fire service career.

The harder you work on yourself, the greater rewards. Plant seeds of greatness in your mind, let them sprout and grow, and the bountiful harvest of respect and greatness will come forth.

This effort will produce great fruit and provide a foundation of who you are, not just what you are just doing.

In fact, if you met me, you would find that I would most likely want to learn from you and ask you what it takes to be a great firefighter and leader.
Firefighter Preplan shares with you all the findings I have seen and tested and discovered are helpful in becoming a great and respected firefighter. My hope is that you too desire to become your best and implement these principles so you can fulfill your God given ability and calling to not only be a firefighter, but to be the best firefighter you can be—to become a great and respected firefighter.

So What Is This Book About?

This book is about becoming being a great and respected firefighter. The attitudes, philosophies, and behaviors of great and respected firefighters are documented here, as well as how you can be one too if you choose to follow and implement what is shared in this book. Thus transforming yourself into what others would call a great firefighter whom they respect.


There are too many t-shirt wearing or paycheck-cashing firefighters who do not have the love of the fire service nor the respect from their peers. For them its just a job or they like the clout they get from “wearing the firefighter t-shirt” or saying they are a firefighter.

There is also another type of firefighter called the 2/20 firefighter. They are the ones who seem to know it all and think they are the world’s gift to firefighting. Some of them actually believe that the fire won’t go out unless they are there. The 2/20 firefighter is a term used to refer to firefighters who have about 2 years in the fire service but believe they have 20 years experience.

Beware, because we’re starting to see an epidemic of these three types of firefighters in the fire service and they are negatively influencing the future of the fire service. If you want to learn what great and respected firefighters do and how you can do it too, then this book is for you. 

Love Of Being A Firefighter

Like you, I love being a firefighter, and what I have found is that there are others who love being firefighters but are starving for good leaders and mentors to show them the ropes. They need someone to guide them on what it takes to be a respected firefighter within the fire service and the community. They have a personal standard of being the best they can be and they love being in the fire service, they are just looking for a mentor or guide. Someone that can enlighten them, equip them and encourage them to their greatness. If this is you, then this book is for you.

This book brings to you the insights, philosophies, attitudes and much more of what a great and respected firefighter is and how you can become one, from a reporting or investigative approach. This is not all developed or thought up by me. This book comes from years of studying, implementing, and testing the insights that respected firefighters have shared.

How Did This Book Come About?

I have been like a sponge for over 25 years when it comes to the fire service. I love being a firefighter and ever since I was a 3-year-old boy hanging out with my Dad at the firehouse, I have been on a quest to be the best firefighter I can be.

Playing firefighter was something I always did as a kid, and I always dreamed of one day being the real thing. Like most aspiring firefighters, I wanted to some day have the ability to be on the nozzle and put out a fire or rescue someone’s life. I wanted to be part of a team and have a significant purpose—to be the one that someone calls on when in need.

I didn’t JUST want to be a firefighter though, I wanted to be the best I could be and I wanted to be respected as a firefighter amongst my peers. I was on a mission to find what makes a firefighter great. What makes a firefighter respected among other firefighters and how I could become one.

It’s been 25+ years of searching, watching great firefighters, training with great firefighters, working and volunteering with many different fire departments around the country, experiencing life as a career firefighter as well as a volunteer, fighting lots of fires, structure fires, car fires, rescues, urban firefighting, suburban firefighting, rural firefighting, winter firefighting, truckie work, engine work, paid on-call firefighting, rescue and extrication work, swift water rescue, etc, etc.

There is so much that a firefighter in today’s fire service can face, and I have been blessed to experience a lot of it. I have also been blessed to be a firefighter in several states—as both career and volunteer—and had the privilege to be an officer in different departments leading brave men and woman. But most importantly, I have been blessed to be around great and respected firefighters and officers whom I was able to study and be mentored by.

For that, I am ever grateful and want to do them the honor of not letting it die within me, but to pass it on for those who will come alongside me and after me.

Through the years I have interviewed and befriended so many great and respected firefighters whom I am blessed to call my friends. Through the FirefighterToolbox Podcast, and years of being a firefighter, I have interviewed hundreds (and counting) of highly respected firefighters, fire officers, and thought leaders in the fire service. In these interviews and conversations, one question that is always asked is what does it take to be a great firefighter and a great leader in the fire service.

Are you always searching for the keys to becoming a great and respected firefighter? Searching for the answer to: How can I be a great and respected firefighter? Is there a recipe? Can I teach others or share it with others?

What I have found, tested, and what has been reinforced to me over and over is what is shared in this book. When you implement these philosophies, attitudes, and disciplines, you too can achieve the same respect and greatness that those who have come before us have achieved.

Great firefighters are built, one training at a time. —David J. Soler

How Have I Tested These Principles?

These are the principles I used to turn low-responding, low-moral volunteer departments into highly motivated, highly respected top-responding departments, such as the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department’s House 1. This department had an engine, rescue engine, brush truck, and medic and got around 1500 fire calls a year—which is about 4-5 fire calls per day. That is a busy volunteer fire department and they see a lot of fire.

These principles have been used to build my career job, from being hired as an EMT to becoming a firefighter, engine driver, truck and tiller driver, and becoming respected among many great and respected firefighters within two years.

These principles have been tested by others who have gotten some great results and found that when we renew our minds and transform our behaviors to those shared in this book, then respect and greatness is attracted to you like metal to a magnet.

Building Respect and Greatness Takes Time

I do have to warn you that this does take time and discipline. No one can just read a book and become a great and respected firefighter, but everyone can start today to adopt and implement these strategies, attitudes, philosophies, and disciplines and then get the honor of being a respected firefighter.

Being a respected firefighter is a journey, not a destination. It’s something that we repeatedly do, and it is not a trophy. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like paying rent. We have to make our monthly payments and then we get to live in this place called “respected firefighter.” Once we stop making payments, we get booted out of “respected firefighter” status. 

It also does not happen overnight. Being a great and respected firefighter takes time to build, like a reputation.

The attitudes, philosophies, and disciplines have to be implemented and repeatedly paid in order for us to become and remain great and respected firefighters. Once we stop training for example, get out of shape, or are no longer able to competently do our job, we lose that place in the respected firefighter category.

Does It Matter If I am Male/Female? Black/White/Hispanic? Career or Volunteer?

Also, I want you to know that it does not matter what your sex is, your skin color is, or if you are paid or volunteer. These truths that you will learn about or that are reinforced through this book will work for you if you are willing to follow them and have them become part of who you are.

I have worked with and interviewed many great female firefighters, Hispanic firefighters, volunteer firefighters, career firefighters, African-American firefighters, Canadian firefighters, southern firefighters, East Coast firefighters, West Coast firefighters, etc.

One thing I have found in all these categories is that there are great firefighters and there are bad firefighters in each of these categories. 

I have also found that the fire does not care whether you are paid or volunteer, it will kick your butt or worse—kill you. It will not go easy on you because you are volunteering. It will not be harder on you because you are female or because this is your first year or your last year. The fire is always getting tougher and it does not care about any of those things. The incidents are always getting more challenging so we always need to be safe and ready for the challenge.

When you’re around firefighters, one thing you know, or one thing you will find out, is that everyone is always evaluating everyone. Firefighting is a team sport or team activity. My life could very well depend on YOU being able to do your job on the fire ground. I may have to take a calculated risk to save a life or put myself in harm’s way and I need to know whom I can count on and whom I can’t.

Who Are The Great And Respected Firefighters?

Great and respected firefighters are those who we can count on. The ones who know what to do and can do it effectively. Someone who will do what it takes to get the job done. Someone who knows what their limits are, someone who is humble and respects the job of firefighting and respects the nastiness and devastation we can encounter on the fire ground no matter if it’s a “Smells and Bells” call or the “Big One.”

Everybody wants to work with or ride with a respected firefighter. Great and respected firefighters are at all levels. We need great and respected probies as well as senior firefighters, engineers/drivers, and officers. Great firefighters know that they need to continually be learning and honing their skills. They know they need to have mentors as well as be mentoring others. They continually train and surround themselves with other great and respected firefighters.

If you are looking to be the best firefighter you can be, if you are looking to learn from other great firefighters who have blazed the trail, if you are not afraid of “doing work,” if you are willing to “pay the price” of success, then this book can be the “guidebook” or GPS to get you there.

Is This One Of Those Long And Drawn Out Books?

There is no fluff in this book. I give it to you straight, to the point, and in a hurry. I am not here to bore you with words or write a award-winning novel. This book is to transfer the wisdom and knowledge of great firefighters to you in a quick and simple to understand way.

Know upfront that this book cannot give you success. I cannot give you success. Success is something you earn. Success is the by-product of doing these disciplines consistently. A reputation is built on what you have done and what you continue to do and not what you know to do or what you say you will do. Respected firefighters know that it’s about living it, not talking it.

There is an expression in the fire service that says, “ You cannot talk the fire out.”

This is such a powerful statement and it has so many valuable lessons in it. At some point, it’s all about what you do and not what you say. What I want you to know in this matter is that you cannot talk your way to being a great and respected firefighter. Great and respected firefighters let their actions do the talking. Their disciplines pay the rent of living in the “great and respected firefighter” home.

Leave it better than you found it

A principle I learned growing up in the Boy Scouts and becoming an Eagle Scout is is to leave it better than you found it. Whenever we would go camping or have a meeting in a church, the mindset was the same: Leave it better than you found it. Which meant to improve something, clean something, and by all means do not leave a mess behind. I don’t know when my last call will be or if it has already happened, but I wanted to contribute something back—to leave it better than I found it.

I hope and pray that through the brothers and sisters that have blazed this trail and set the example that has been passed on to me and now I pass on to you, (You Are the Future of the Fire Service) that you use these philosophies, attitudes, insights, and timeless disciplines to be the greatest you can be and to love what you do, love the people you serve, and love the past and future of the fire service.

This book is my contribution back to the fire service that I love. This life that I have lived would not be as blessed if I did not have the opportunity to be a firefighter. This book is sum of my notes focused downed to the core wisdom that has been passed down to me from great and respected firefighters that are still on the fire engines today and some that have moved on to be with the Lord.

How To Use This Book

So don’t just skim this book or read it once. Plan to read this over and over again so that these philosophies, attitudes, and behaviors become second nature. Get the audio of it so you can listen to these ideas, insights, attitudes, and philosophies on your commute to work and back. Turn your phone into a mobile classroom. Have great trainings and inspiring audios to listen to so that you are encouraged and being fed with great wisdom. (This is one of the habits of great and respected firefighters you will learn about.)

Thank you for making the fire service better

Lastly, I want to thank you for picking up this book. By you picking up this book, it demonstrates that you have a high personal standard of excellence. Mediocrity is not what you strive for. You strive for being the best you can be, to continually look for more resources to become better and to contribute to your family, your fire department, your community, and the world. Thank you for that. We need more firefighters like you that want to improve and desire to become the best they can be. If we had more like you the fire service would definitely be at a higher level than it is today.

You are the future of the fire service. You have the opportunity to take your skills to the next level. Make the most of it. Learn these tools, philosophies, and attitudes and implement them. Be an example of them and respect and greatness will cling to you like metal to a magnet.

Don’t Keep This A Secret

If you feel that these principles work and you believe in them and want those around you and your department to be great, then recommend this book. Give one to your friends, your classmates, your crews, your department.

We need lots of great and respected firefighters. There is plenty of room for everyone in the fire service to be great. Your greatness will not prevent others and their greatness will not prevent you from being great. So do not believe the lie of “for me to win you have to lose.” We are in a win/win game. We all can become great and respected. We all have strengths and gifts unique to us that we can contribute that will make the team stronger, better, and more effective. Don’t forget that. Pass that on!