Been on my Fire Dept for 5 years now. We are a Small Town Volunteer Department, we average 20 calls a year, 50% of them being medical assist with the local ambulance the rest being run of the mill fender benders, grass fires and not savable structures. We dont get paid per call and our pat on the back is literally a steak dinner and a t-shirt every year. I`m happy with that.

What scares me is I`m 27 years old, currently the new Assistant Chief/Training Officer and highest trained individual on our department because I completed a FF1 & 2 = Hazmat Awareness and Passed the state test. Granted this is on paper and there are guys with experiance on my department that training cant trump till I gain the experiance. I have a desire to learn, eat, sleep and breath anything to do with the fire department. I even get pumped to go to the ICS classes no one wants to attend. I realize not everyone can have that same desire and isnt less effective if they don't.

We do not train very often (1-3 times a year) and we havent had a real savable structure/rescue since I joined. I dont know what my guys can do and they should feel the same about me. Reason being is even if its possible to know everything thing there is to know about our job they or I don't know eachother skill level because we havent needed them or tested them in training.  I lack the confidence in knowing my fellow FFs are equipped to perform safely and effecvtivly and they dont seem to desire to know this about myself or 5 other newer FFs on our department.

I thought having the position would be easy to get others motivated. Last night I got really scared. I brought up the thought of training 1 time at least, and picking a set day and time. Some feedback I heard was "What do we have to train on that much?" "This will never happen" "We are already busy enough meeting for business 1 time a month" "Whats wrong with the way we have been training?"

Currently we are sitting with 5-6 Guys Under the age of 35. 5 Guys between 35-50 and all the rest (12) are over 50. And almost no one to fill a spot let alone the potential spots that could be left open by guys who are thinking of retirering. So we can just say "Train or Leave" Expecially when majority rules and I`m in the minority.

We haven't been taxed buy a serious indecent, and I`m afraid someone is going to get hurt or even die. It isn't always going to be a cake walk and I'm looking for any advice I can get. I don't want to turn a blind eye or wait for fate to reveal itself. I`m sick to my stomach and don't know what to do.

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I'm a professional Firefighter, and you should be scared. The Fire Service is a deadly game. We kill 100 of us every year. Half of them are volunteers. So yes you should worry. Why you do not train much is kind of foreign to me. When you have meetings do you not do over some procedure or policy? You should, this is where you get to clear up confusion and misinformation. It happens in every organization.

I was in a Volunteer organization for a short time, I have to say it was very foreign feeling. There is no Command Presence, like in a paid fire dept. I understand they are volunteers and you need to make them welcome. I felt that for the short time I was there, I was doing them a dis-service because they were not being made aware of how much danger they were getting into.

I admire their civic minded attitude, however they are living a lie. Driving equipment to a fire and pumping water is only part of the job. Being the best possible firefighter is the obligation of everyone that enters a burning building. I did not see that in the volunteers I worked with. I'm not trying to put anyone down, I'm only trying to get you to understand that "playing with your life", can be very tragic.

My suggestion to you is to make someone your deputy, give them the task of being the training coordinator. Tell them what you want and see that they do it. By leaning on them, you are protecting them. Letting them slide is giving them false sense of security that will get them killed.

Hi Charles J. Gluck

I kinda know what firefighting is. I've been doing it since i was 17 years old. I have had flame licking at my butt more than once. I've studied the enemy for all this time. 57 years to be exact. Yes, I'm old but I still carry my weight when that bell hits. 57 years AS A VOLUNTEER, 20 years teaching nuclear plant operators how to combat a fire safely. About 35 years teaching Juniors about firefighting. Some of which have gone on in the fire service in various positions from Fire Protection Engineers , Fire Chiefs, Fire Officers, Firefighters, Fire marshals. Yes, I have a 2 yr. degree in fire tech, I've been to officers school, haz mat school, hi-angle rescue, confined space rescue, pump ops , ladder ops,, Fire prevention, EMT,   and many more. So, I do know my way around the fireground. And, I still think that if we can get the attention of the youth of today we can get personnel that want to be firefighters instead of taking just anybody off the street looking for a job, not that some don't or won't make great firefighters and fire officers. The youth of today needs someone to instill in them what a great profession being a firefighter can be. I don't see fire departments going to high school recruiting, or some of the colleges enticing the youth to attend their college and train as fire protection engineers. I think today's youth is where the future of the fire service is.



First off, MAKE is not something our department can do. That is 99% of the problem. I think you said it by "No Command Presence", Currently if we made people do stuff they didn't want to do we would lose fireman. In hindsight, let them operate dangerously on the fireground and we lose firemen in a far worse way. I would love to be able to make my guys train and all of them complete the FF1 and FF2 testing, but until that is the law or required it wont happen. Its a bunch of crap but that shows you the predicament I am in. 

Were a small community with very little youth staying in town to raise a family. They hit college age and never return for permanent residence. 

2nd, Comparing a small rural vol FD to a professional FF should be something we should be able to do but the reality is it will never happen. Thanks for your input but I`m leaning toward taking advise from people who can relate on a much closer level to where I'm at. Some of that big career department stuff just wont work for me.

I venture to guess I`m not in the only department struggling with lack of training, god only knows why we haven't killed more. I see that side of the point you were trying to make. I`m sorry if I took your reply as criticizing maybe it wasn't suppose to be that way.   

Mike... Take a 2nd look at what I said for a minute, please. Going into a situation where you don't have all the data means that it's hard to do anything until you can define the problem. What I suggested was for you to take a look at all of the calls you have ran over as long a period as possible. Things like date, time of day, weather, ems, etc. when using a simple excel spreadsheet can help you chart out and predict the types of calls your department runs. This isn't big city brother, it's statistics. Use them to help you be better prepared. 

Years ago, I paid for myself a three-day statistical analysis class for the fire service. This is one of the things you can do, on your own, and not having to hire a fire protection consultant to figure out with numbers to back it, when you will run calls and why. While I understand your reluctance to listen to a paid professional firefighter, you have to understand my sincere admiration for volunteer firefighters all over the world. If it existed where I live, I would be involved somehow, like you. I have donated a lot of time over my career providing free training for rural departments simply because in most cases, there was not available funding for having a subject matter expert come and teach. 

On the FFN, my only goal is to try to help others Mike, including yourself. You are in a predicament with not much around your area to keep the youth around. Where I live is very rural. Our backyard view is a herd of cows and a couple of bulls everyone once in awhile. I spent most of my career in rural parts of my county, where there is a completely different mindset that is a lot more community minded.

Understanding the level of commitment you have, ever consider doing training using folks here on the FFN to talk via computer camera, receiving it on your end and providing training? Using a projector can share it with a lot of people at once. 

If you give everyone a chance here on FFN, including what you call a big career department means that you are minimizing possible solutions to help you retain and attract others. You've made the first great step by asking for advice and assistance. Now the trick is to not micromanage, just like you treat your job with the fire department, allowing input but being a mentor and open minded to always hear both sides of the story. Hard to do sometimes on these forum posts because it many times turns into volunteers verses career firefighters and I don't think that when it comes to doing the job that you or I have any less anxiety or concern for both our personnel and the community we protect and serve. 

I'm only suggesting that you be open minded, not discriminating against someone because they have been doing it longer or have more hands on experience and training. Some of the brightest minds in the fire service that I have ever met have been through the FFN. Simply filter through the response, be neutral always and gracious, thanking people for their input.

That's how I see it anyway, and personally, I'm not even factoring in any criticizing but instead offering my friendship, advice and resources where ever I can. That's what the fire service is all about.


Mike Schlags, Fire Captain/Paramedic/Hazmat Specialist (Retd.)

Note: Google "Gaviota Coast and Hollister Ranch or Hwy 1". Trust me, I very much understand rural america, ranches, and an independent way of life. That's why I always chose the more remote rural fire stations to both work at and live in the same area.


Going along with what you said Captain Busy .......

One of the best ways to define what skills and training your people needed is to go one step beyond charting and tracking runs at the good Captain has described. What you want to do is attempt to chart and track the skills you used on those runs. How many times did you pull 1 3/4"? 2 1/2" How many times did you drop ponds? How many times did you lay a line? How many times did you perform forcible entry? So on and so forth ....

Tracking your skills will give you an idea as to what evolutions your department actually performs, or in other words, what skills does YOUR department need most of the time to operate.

Now you take that data and you simply develop a minimum skills checklist for your department. These are the skills that members need to be able to perform to function at the most basic level.

Of course, all of this still requires that the Chief, and the other senior officers buy into the need for identifying key skills, testing on key skills and increasing training. Having served on 7 volunteer departments and teaching on the regional level for the last 15 years, I fully understand your delimna in regards to losing personnel if you increase training standards. My previous VFD did it and we went from 60 members to 35 members in less than 2 years. My current VFD did it last year and we went from 22 members to 14. Was it worth it?. IMO, yes. We both my previous VFD and my current now have members that show up to training, understand procedures and are at training often enough that know that we have moved equipment, or changed an SOP. The cost is fewer members responding (though not as much of a drop as you would think as most of the people not attending training did also not run many calls) until mutual aid arrives. So if it was worth it, I guess, is something that each person will have a different answer for.

My current combo department (where I am a full-time employee) also has weekly training, but as i stated in another similar thread, we only require that they make 1 training per month. To me, that is not acceptable, however, the current command staff is comfortable with this policy.. Luckily, we have a strong long-term base that is very knowledgeable and experienced, as well as at least 10 volunteer members who are full-time firefighters with neighboring all-career and combo departments. Still, I feel that out attendance policy needs to be tightened up, even though it would likely mean the loss of probably 15-20 members (out of about 90 firefighters, juniors and support members).

I don't think anyone who is a realist out there expects a small town VFD to have the same abilities as a career department, nor do they reasonably expect the vast majority of volunteers (excluding those who work full-time for another department), especially rural volunteers, to have the same level of training and experience as a career member. That being said, I think it is fair to expect them to be able to, at a minimum, be able to properly and quickly perform the bread and butter skills identified by your, or any other volunteer, department. And that takes time and training, much of it can be performed in house at regularly scheduled and frequent training sessions.

That being said, and here's not only the tough part, but the part that your senior leadership, including the Chief, must buy into if you are going to have any success at all in developing the skills not only for your department to be effective, but also to give your members a reasonable chance of going home, after a fire, which seems to be your primary concern. Your department has no choice, if you want the above to occur,  to develop a training program and mandate a minimum attendance policy for your personnel. if they do not meet it, your department needs to be willing to cut them loose. If that does not happen, it sounds to me like you are going to be stuck on the same revolving wheel dealing with the same issues regarding their safety and your liability as training officer 6 months from now, a year from now, 2 years from now and on down the line.

Certainly this is a decision that only you can make. You honestly have to . IMO, be able to realistically expect light at the end of the tunnel, or else, you likely will get quite frustrated. If you can see that light, it may take time, and only you know if you have the patience for that change to arrive. Good luck brother. Shoot me an e-mail if you would like to talk to me at all about this out of the forum.

While I understand the big picture and that your world is dependent upon using any means possible to both maintain your ranks and get the job done, I also, in good conscience, and without lamenting over this, feel the need to explain to you why what you are doing, and in fact, anyone using children in and around the fire ground, or handling contaminated tools, including hose are needlessly exposing products of decomposition, which in some cases are very toxic to at risk individuals that are boys and girls under the age of 20.

Children, and I use this term for kids that are closer to 21 years of age biologically, are still growing and changing everyday. So, when exposed to things that have burned, which means that some materials have vaporized literally and reduced to their simplest form, molecules, will be exposed. These unburned radical molecules connect with other materials forming other airborne compounds that can be inhaled, ingested, absorbed through the skin or in the event of an injury, injected below the skin surface.

Exposures to children... look at them as biological units with multiple dividing cells that when their bodies are insulted with these products of decomposition (aldehydes, ketones, vapors and mists) the results to these exposure(s) take decades to manifest. Cancers, illnesses, diseases, shortened life span, organ failure and so on. As adults, and knowing that repetitive exposure over a long period of time has shown over and over to cause problems down the line, and possibly into off spring.

Once the body is internally contaminated, it is very difficult to get the things that can hurt you out. Just think in terms of the last structure fire you fought... How long after the fire did it take for you to stop smelling smoke in your hair after the fire? There's your answer.

The only difference between you and the kids explorer scouts is that you are done growing, your organs are no longer developing, bones are done growing and the way you are is pretty much set in stone. Not so for young people, and the risks associated with where fat is located makes the prognosis for young girls even worse.

There are plenty of things for kids to do and learn without putting them into an IDLH atmosphere on the fireground. And this includes being outside in whisps of smoke, moving used fire hose and being anywhere near the structure or any equipment used until they have been decontaminated. There is plenty of time to be able to actually do the job, but the health risks are not worth the risk in the long run.

I find it irresponsible for anyone knowing what I shared to put young children at risk. I encourage active participation of explorer scouts to learn about our job, the equipment and tactics. But not on the actual fireground. 


Charles ......

While I agree that in many VFDs there is a lack, or a limited amount of command presence, that it not the case in all VFDs.I know of many VFDs that have a have a very strong command structure both on the admin side as well as the fireground side.

And I also agree that there are VFDs that do not fully understand the entire scope of the job, however, that being said, I know of many, including my previous VFD that id have very stringent training standards and have significant expectations in terms of how the members approached the job.

In the case the poster describes, neither one sounds like it is the case, and yet, that represents a significant hazard to the firefighters on this department. Does it sound like things need to change? Yes. Does it sound like the current Chief will lead the change? No. And because of that, all the great intentions of this poster may go for naught as the command staff, lead by the Chief, needs to not only by into the change but needs to lead and be a component in the change. Yes. firefighting is dangerous, and yes, it requires a professional approach and a command presence, but there are some very fine VFDs that bring that to the table every day, most often in communities that simply cannot, and never will be able to fund career staffing.

We also run a low call volume we had 100 fire calls and started doing medical in june with 115 calls. As a small department we cover 36 sq/miles. We are required by state to have a certain amount of training hours. We have to train to know who is backing us on a line. On a car accident. Training is a must at all departments. It is proven that LODD's are decreasing due to training. So why not train?? You never know what you will come across in our field. If we dont train here its simple we are not allowed to roll in the truck!!! 

The point that everyone is missing here is IF THE CHIEF DOESN'T SUPPORT THE ADDITIONAL TRAINING NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.  The ones who want to train will do it, and will do additional training, the ones who don't want to will feel no pressure to do it if the chief doesn't mandate it.  Until the leadership either wakes up or changes this is a losing battle.


What did I do to change this in my #1 POC FD?  I took on the job of Training Officer.  Was I frustrated by the lack of support from the chief and some of the officers?  You bet I was.  Finally I sat down with the chief and said look, it is a waste of my time to plan, organize, and set up drills only to have limited people participate, including officers.  I need the support of the chief and the officers to make this work.  He said I was right and the very next training he nipped it in the bud, he said we will be doing the training that Don set-up.  Everyone participated and it went well.  People even thanked me and had ideas for the next drill. 


The big turning point is getting that support.  If the troops see that the chief, and officers, support the training and participate then they will do so too.  It really is that simple.  On top of that make the training relevant, interesting and keep the sessions short no more than 2 hours in most cases.  Remember most of your vollys have spent the day at work and are tired and want to get home to their families.   


Those are some great points!  They are all relevent, even in a department that has a rigerous training schedule such as the one I'm on. 

Thank you for your insight.

Thanks, that is the plus of these sites, passing on what we have learned from past experiences.


I work hard at listening to things guys want to train on.  I also try very hard to keep the trainings 2 hours or less.  Attention span gets really short when people are tired.

Relevant is IMO, possibly the most critical point here. If your personnel are training on skills and evolutions that they likely will not use, they will, more than likely view the training as unnecessary and not give it their full attention or effort, and much of your efforts will be wasted. That's just human nature.

As I stated earlier, one of the first things you need to do is develop an inventory of the basic skills, utilizing your equipment, that you are likely to use in your operations. Not the neighbors, or not what skills a book tells you that your members should have, but a list based on your operations. After you develop that skills inventory, plan your training around it.

After you feel they have mastered those basic skills, expand their skills little by little. That will keep it interesting, but always remember to integrate a little bit of refresher training on those basic skills as you expand your training as they are the basis of your operations.

As Don stated, and I have stated as well, if the Chief refuses to buy into this, you will have a very tough time, and likely, many of the older members will not buy into it either. Without the Chief's support and active participation in the process, you may be in for a very frustrating time.

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