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Lesson Plans for the Fire Instructor

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February 01, 2024 | NATIONAL JOSEPH CEA, Correspondent

There is literally no limit to the style and format of a fire service lesson plan. There are of course common elements which is what will be presented here. There will also be a distinct difference between your lesson plan and the final presentation that you provide to any students. What is the point of writing a lesson plan anyway? There are several reasons. The first is to keep yourself in line with your objectives. Second, is to make sure you present all the information you want to in a cohesive and relevant order. Lastly, and arguably the most important is to assist with your timing which is very important because going too fast or too slow can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your presentation and reputation as an instructor.  

So, what is in a lesson plan and where do you start? What are the parts and in what order? The first part is a summary page which is completely separate from the lesson plan itself and something your students will NEVER see. This is literally akin to a building pre-plan. Some basic information that is listed in the summary includes the course name, lesson title, type of lesson (affective, cognitive or psychomotor), level of instruction, method of instruction (lecture, demonstration etc.), the learning objective, references, how much time the entire lesson will take to deliver and any materials needed. This is a preliminary step but helps to shape your lesson plan. It also assists with reminders for things like materials needed which could require an entirely additional set of request forms depending on your department or employer. 

Next is the outline itself. From a format standpoint the outline should not only have the information to be presented but also an additional column or other space devoted to “Instructor Notes”. The instructor notes would include items like how much time each section should take and in a running chronology. You may also wish to include an interesting personal note and/or a reminder of when to play a video or what slide should you be at in your powerpoint. In a nutshell, anything that keeps your presentation seamless, without transition or delays that would create downtime.       

The main body of the outline has four main parts; with the first section being preparation. Do not confuse the term preparation as a section of a lesson plan with the overall effort an instructor would utilize prior to a presentation as they are completely different entities. The preparation part of a lesson plan regardless of the topic should take anywhere between 1-2 minutes. It would consist of a brief introduction of yourself and your fire service experience and perhaps what department you are from. You then introduce the topic which is the equivalent of reading your topic sentence if you were writing a magazine article. The most important aspect of the preparation section is the learning objective and what job performance requirement (JPR - usually an NFPA standard) the objective is based on.

The second part is called the presentation. Again, do not confuse the terms. This part does not refer to the overall standing up in front of the room talking but rather the bulk of the information disseminated to the student. It is best to start with a safety message because this will provide an overall justification for why firefighters are sitting in class. From there break down the information and discuss by building from the simple to the complex. For example, you wouldn’t discuss using PASS prior to discussing the parts of a fire extinguisher or the decay stage of a fire prior to the incipient stage. Your instructor notes should reflect the slide or visual you are at as well as that running time clock discussed earlier in order to keep your timing intact.

The application stage is the third part. This section is very brief - perhaps a minute and is more or less a classwide open-book quiz or review of the main topics. To be consistent in our examples perhaps show a picture of each stage of a developing fire and ask the firefighter which stage is represented in the pictures. This can also be done with a handout but since this section is intended to be brief, have an assistant or skills instructor provide that handout just prior to the application so as to minimize time passing documents which will create downtime and necessitate having to refocus the class. 

The last part of the main body of the lesson plan is the evaluation i.e the test. Depending on the circumstances an instructor may want to summarize and conclude the lesson plan prior to providing the evaluation. The circumstance this may apply to would be if the evaluation is a national certification exam which requires an entirely different set of test taking conditions that have to be completed separately.  

To complete the lesson plan, start by commenting and providing some feedback on the evaluation. Then summarize by restating the objective and each point in the presentation step. Finally end with a safety reminder.   

Sample Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan Summary Page

Course: Firefighter 1

Lesson Title: Stages of Fire Development

Type of Lesson:   x Affective           x Cognitive              x Psychomotor

Level of Instruction: Intermediate to advanced

Method of Instruction: Lecture and discussion

Learning Objectives:  Learning Objective – After a lecture on the topic, the student will describe the stages of fire development as outlined in the Essentials of Firefighting, 6th. Ed. to achieve a passing score of 70% or higher on a test.

References: Essentials of Firefighting, 6th. Ed.

Time: 20-25 minutes

Materials Needed: LCD projector, laptop, flip chart, dozen pencils, remote presenter, Screen

Students Assignment: Multiple choice test, class activity


 I.     Preparation Step (1 Minute) 

A.    Opening Statement / Motivation

B.     Introduction Every fire has four stages of development beginning with the incipient stage and moving on to the growth and fully developed stage and finally the decay stage.  Knowing and recognizing these stages will help firefighters:

C.     State Objective based on JPR’s

1.      Learning Objective – After a lecture on the topic, the student will describe the stages of fire development as outlined in the Essentials of Firefighting, 6th. Ed.


II.     Presentation Step (12 Minutes)

A.    Safety Message – A scientific understanding of fire growth is necessary in order for the firefighter to “read” the fire and make appropriate fire suppression decisions for firefighting crews.


B.     Stages of Fire Development

1.      Occur in both unconfined, confined fires

2.      Distinct in laboratory simulations, not in exact    sequence outside of laboratory

3.      Used at fire scene as guide for what could occur, not a pattern of what will occur every time

4.      Assess changing hazards, conditions at incident – Do not assume fire will follow laboratory pattern


C.     Incipient Stage

 1.      Starts ignition when three elements of fire triangle come together, combustion process begins

 2.      Fire is small, confined to material first ignited

 3.      Development

a.       Largely dependent on characteristics, configuration of fuel involved

b.       Air provides oxygen to continue

c.       Radiant heat warms adjacent fuel, continues process of pyrolysis

d.       Plume of hot gasses, flame rises from fire and mixes with cooler air

e.   As plume reaches ceiling, begins to spread horizontally across, forming ceiling jet

f.    Process of heat transfer begins to increase overall temperature in room

 4.      Essential to recognize that transition from incipient to growth can occur quickly (even in seconds) depending on type, configuration of fuel


D.    Growth Stage

1.      As fire transitions

a.      Begins to influence environment within compartment

b.      Grown large enough for compartment configuration, amount of ventilation to influence it


2.      Amount of air entrained in plume

a.      Affected by location of fuel package in relation to compartment walls – Also impacts amount of cooling taking place

b.      Unconfined fires draw from all sides, cools plume of hot gasses, reducing flame length, vertical extension


 3.   Thermal layering – Also referred to as heat stratification, thermal balance

a.    Tendency of gasses to form into layers according to temperature


4.      Rapid transition

a.       Flashover – From growth to fully developed stage

b.       Occurs during growth stage in laboratory; may occur at any time conditions are right in uncontrolled situation

c.       Does not occur at every fire


E.     Fully Developed Stage

 1.      Occurs when all combustible materials in compartment are burning

 2.      Burning fuels in compartment are releasing maximum amount of heat possible for available fuel, oxygen; producing large volumes of fire gases

3.      Is ventilation controlled because heat release is dependent on compartment openings

 F.     Decay Stage

 1.      Occurs

a.       As fuel is consumed

b.       If oxygen concentration falls to point that flaming combustion is diminished


2.      Brings combustion reaction to stop

3.      Consumption of fuel

III.     Application Step (1 Minute)

 A.    DIRECTIONS TO F&ESI STUDENT: The application activity is recognition of the four stages of fire development.  Students are to examine the four pictures representing the four stages of fire development.  Under each picture there is a line to write in the stage of development consistent with the picture.

 IV.    Evaluation Step (5 Minutes):

A.    Written Evaluation (with answer key)

B.     Distribute Test

C.    Collect Test

D.    Review Test

 Summary/Conclusion  (2 Minutes)

A.    Comment on Evaluation

B.     Restate Objective –

1.      Learning Objective – After a lecture on the topic, the student will describe the stages of fire development as outlined in the Essentials of Firefighting, 6th. Ed.

C.     Summary

There are four stages of fire development each with distinctive characteristics.  Firefighter recognition of these stages can assist greatly when considering the following:

1)      Reduce Response Time

2)      Personnel and resource decisions

3)      Aid in search and rescue attempts

 D.    Closing Statement: Trust your training and stay safe:

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JOSEPH CEACorrespondent

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