This is not a knock against career FF in any way. If you feel it is then I didn't explain my point correctly and I apologize.
I've noticed that, at least in Delaware, it seems career FF's make up a large number of officers in volunteer companies. At my company we have board members that feels if thier a paid fireifghter then they should be qualified to be an officer.
My feelings there is a big difference between being a FF at any level and an officer at any level. I understand you get more experience quicker but does just being a paid FF give them a leg up?
How do you feel?
Personally I think it really depends on the person more than where the paycheck comes from. The one positive thing that someone from a paid dept may be able to bring is a focus on safety. In my area of Georgia we call it redneck firefighting, but it happens everywhere. The volly that preforms extrication in shorts and flip flops, or goes on an interior attack line without a SCBA on. I have seen where the full timer can help sway the attitude of a dept. However with the wrong personality type he can cause a disruption in the crew.
I have delt with full time and volly firefighters and at the end of the day if you go down LODD or make the big save the press, or headstone says the same thing FIREFIGHTER.
Just because someone is a career firefighter does not mean that they will be a goo officer. Yes they may run more calls and get faster experience, but that doesn't mean that they are going to know how to lead. I know some career ff's that would make great officers and probably will be someday, and I know others that simply would not. It is more about the person than the job title.
Judge a leader not by what they say about themselves, but by what those under them say about them.
Just because someone is a career firefighter does not mean that they will be a goo officer
I kind of hope there are no goo officers, that typically becomes the youngest FF's area to handle.
I understand you get more experience quicker but does just being a paid FF give them a leg up?
Just being a career FF doesn't mean the person would be a good or even a "goo" officer (sorry Wade). Running calls does give more experience but typically, one needs to be a good follower in order to be a good leader. .............(which is why I'm not a fan of electing officer positions)........
What should matter is if the person is qualified to hold the job, do they have the certs? Do they have the time on the dept to know and understand the operations, SOP/Gs, personnel, etc? If not then they may not be ready for an officer rank.
Instead of believing a career FF who also volunteers should automatically be an officer with the affiliated dept, the experience and knowledge can be passed on even at the FF rank. I have a friend who is a career FF and also volunteers and he finds that he has more years as a FF and more experience than some of the officers. He said many times the officers come to ask him for advice or how to handle a situation, and many times he tells them that it is their call. This helps them develop more as an officer while respecting the role of people under them. This also creates mutual respect among members.
In a way it reminds me of the military and the relationship between a Sergeant or Chief Petty Officer and an officer. The CPO or Sergeant may know much more than the officer, may have more experience, but there role still falls under the leadership of the officer. The job is to look out for both the officer and those others who fall under the rank. The CPO or Sgt isn't demanding the role of officer because they have more experience, but instead to work with the unit and ensure they are ready to go to work. A good officer will consult with the crew, a good crewmember will share their knowledge and work as a unit.
So no, just because one is a career FF and happens to volunteer, there is no reason to be an officer just because of their day job.
Sometimes I feel like one of the only left coasters who responds on these things, so forgive my lack of experience with volunteer firefighters compared to my world, which is being surrounded by a bunch of separate full time paid professional fire departments.
The assumption here is that volunteer firefighters are just that. They don't work the profession full time, and have less opportunity to run more calls and train with other engine companies again compared to folks working 24-hour shift work.
Full time firefighters see more action presumably and have less of a learning curve as well as the benefit of eating, living and sleeping the profession. Not to say that volunteer firefighters don't have the same dedication and in some cases the same amount of time at the station, but the fact remains that one group does it for a living professionally and the other volunteers their time. That's the perception, wrong or right.
Probably the biggest reason is that full time firefighters bring something to the plate so to speak. Training they receive at their full time departments is shared with the folks at the volunteer fire department. That by itself lends to leadership coming from the more experienced, or at least the perception of the more experienced firefighter stepping up to the plate and leading.
Often times, firefighters who are full time use this experience to help them promote within their full time fire department. It's a two way street with benefits on both sides, unless you are a volunteer trying to compete against this. If this is the case then life sucks. It's hard competing against experience and perception but not impossible.
If you are competent, demonstrate concise decisive leadership and management of incidents, then it doesn't matter where you are from or what kind of experience you have. Some people are just born leaders. Period.
This type of forum usually gets someone to take offense, it is pretty much a given. Here is my take on this. Now I have been a vollie, paid-on-call, part time, temporary fulltime, and a career firefighter, so I feel I can speak with some type of personal experience. Another thing is I now train more volunteer fire departments than career with my educational business.
It depends on where you work and if the department is progressive or complacent. I have seen fulltime firefighters who are lazy, never check their trucks, and never train. The department may be small, run very few calls, and are not providing professional services when called upon. The department is complacent.
Then on the other hand, I have seen progressive fire departments who are busy, do alot of calls, checks their trucks daily, perform weekly maintenance, fix their own equipment when found OOS or broken, train everday, go out on familiarization tours, complete pre-plans and maybe even inspections daily. So for a firefighter who gets chosen to work at that department, (yes not everyone can get into a department like this) you must have some qualitities that afford you as a good person, hard worker, and most likely a go getter. Now if you were to look at the total time of exposure to the fire service, the number of hours is not comparable to the complacent fulltime firefighter or the volunteer firefighter. I mean everyday, the progressive fulltime firefighter is checkinig trucks, tools, equipment, gear, maintenance, actually driving them, going on more calls for experience, putting what he had learned in school to work. If you were to actually document all of the exposure, it adds up to thousands of hours per year. Now I am not talking about the "Paycheck" that is often highlighted. I am talking about a guy or girl who is there DOING regardless if he or she is getting paid. If your volunteer department meets twice a month for training, your exposure is a couple hours each time; times two; times twelve. It adds up to 48 hours a year if you never missed a training night. I understand their are some really progressive volunteers who spend all their free time at the station, and do get more exposure. I am not talking about them. I am talking about the average jake that has a fulltime career in another non-fire service profession. Take all of the time you commit to mastering your chosen profession (they could be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, carpenter, laborer, whatever) and then add that to what you dedicate to the volunteer fire department and you now have what a progressive fire department's firefighter has to do because it is his profession.
So to answer this question in a long dragged out way, NO.
Now if the fulltime firefighter is a complacent or lazy firefighter, than he is not in any better position to be a volunteer officer. if the firefighter is assigned or working for a progressive fire department, I would suspect he is in a better position to rank #1 in the process, but then again, not every firefighter's personality will support being a quality fire service leader.
It depends on many factors and therefore I judge each and every candidate standing in front of me, not by the cover but by the entire book. I too am not a fan of the political election process for annual fire officers.
Oops. Darn keyboard, oh well.
@FETC- Excellent post, very well put and exactly how I feel. I am a vollunteer, and do not get to put in half the amount of time I wish to the fire service but thats life. I do what I can, but I feel strongly like you do all the same. I feel that as firefighters, volunteer or paid, we should train the same, and act the same.
@Mike- I think its a well balanced person that makes an officer. You need training and experience, thats a given, but than you need to add the ability to lead (without swolen head) and be on the same level as the firefighters. You need to admit when you dont know somehting and ask one of the firefighters who might know more about that subject than you. You need to be able to work with all types of personality and still be able to smile and maintain your composure. You should be familiar with "common sense". You should always put your members first above yourself. You should have good communication skills and be able to LISTEN well too. I dont always think about experience when it comes to officer, but I feel that is MOST important, and you need to be well rounded.
I have been a firefighter for 34 years. I have been a volly/POC firefighter for 34 years, worked as a pat-time relief fire officer for a couple of years, 7 years as a WiANG civilian CFR firefighter, and 13 years now as a municipal firefighter. I also have taught fire training for the local tech college for 31 years. The one thing I can tell you for sure is pay status has not one single damn thing to do with competence. Anyone who argues that has blinders on. I have been in career departments where the simplest question draws blank stares and I have been in volly/POC FDs that run Haz-Mat/Tech Rescue/Water Rescue and more advanced skills. To me it is the Chief of the department that sets the tone. If they expect the best and strive to help their troops get there it is far more likely to happen. If they are complacent and don't keep a finger on the pulse of the department you will have fireffighters doing just what they need to to get by.
Does being a career firefighter make a better volunteer officer? Not necessarily. I make far more actual fire calls and extrication jobs in a year on one of the POC FDs I run with than the career FD I am on. So if pure numbers of calls and experience garnered on those calls make a better fireground/emergency scene officer who should be a better officer in my case?
The other thing I want to comment on is having certifications that qualify you to be an officer. Not by themselves they don't. I will take an old crusty Dude to lead me into fires that has YEARS of actual firefighting experience over some new kid with 5 years on the job and 3 inches of paper saying he is qualified. Hell some of these CERTIFIED officers haven't seen more than a handful of fires and yet they feel they have all the answers. Now I am not saying those certs aren;t good to have and I am not saying education is bad. I have a degree and a few inches of paper myself. But that alone doesn't make for a good officer, you need actual experience in the field to be a good officer. And a newbie officer with any brains knows to listen to the senior guys on his crew because not only do they want to save his ass, they want to save their own too!
Most of the volunteer officers that were career FF I knew had years in both and obtained training to be officer on the volunteer side. Now I have know volunteer officers that used their career dept to advance their training and have moved up the ladder on that side.
A lot what they learn on the career side they used to train the volunteer members including looking at or training with equipment from the career dept they work for.
I have heard a story of a career ff that moved into a newly formed volunteer dept area and showed up on a fire. He had his career gear in his car and jumped in to help with interior operations using their SCBA out of the case they were carried in. I understand he joined their dept and was made Chief.
Now my brother he had a lot of training as a volunteer in our county which has a very well know training requirement for career and volunteers. He joined the service and was sent to a state down south. He went by to see about joining the local volunteer dept. He feels that they would not except him because he had more training than the chief had in that dept. So he never went back and few months later tranfered back to the area he had started in the service.