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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Mike, my humble advice to you is to test for as many full time departments as you can and as soon as you can and then leave your department.  You're fighting a noble up hill battle that will only get worse.  Do yourself and your career a favor and leave.

The problem with that line of thought is - he still lives there.  He might get on with a paid full time department, but would you be able to leave the house every morning knowing that if something goes sideways, the primary department protecting your home is basically untrained?

Our department meets weekly, year-round, with an additional once a month business meeting.  One of the weekly meetings each month is vehicle maintenance, the rest is training.  Because of that training, myself and the two other guys that joined after me have been able to hit the ground running on the scene of every call we've been on - we might not be knocking down a door and charging in with a hose, but we're helping out on the incident scene.

My advice as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie is get the younger guys together, and start training with them on a regular schedule.  Let the rest of your department know what you're doing, tell them anyone that wants to can come practice with you.  If you catch flak, explain that there are younger guys on the crew that don't have the experience, and want to gain it before they need it.  Make it optional, don't pressure the good ol' boys.  If there's a few that you are in good with, ask them to come help you train and impart some of their wisdom to the young bucks.  Once you have a decent program going with the young guys/new members, start working it into the bylaws - "Any member with less than X years on the department must meet a minimum training standard of Y hours per year"

I had a similar discussion a month ago with one of our captains, regarding some of our members that weren't meeting the training requirement (and weren't putting in much of an effort towards it, either).  His comment was "I'd rather show up at a fire with 3 guys that I know have trained and know what they're doing than a dozen guys I have to babysit"

Try to make training fun?  I'll go for auto extrication any day (it's crucial to know, and destroying cars in class is kinda exciting).  With my previous department, we had a couple ladies cook dinner for us every Tuesday night for our weekly drill.  We trained hard for a few hours and then ate a hearty meal afterwards around 10:30pm.  It was great.  Also, friendly competitions sometimes help.  Who can get their gear on fastest (and correctly!!), which team can set up a ladder and haul tools to the roof fastest.  Who can locate a "victim" blindfolded in a house fastest.

Just remember Mike if you make this your fight it is going to be a up hill battle and is going to get worse before it gets better.  Now don't let that statement keep you from fighting it because it is a good battle to choose.  Training is quint essential in the fire service because things are always changing.  Now if the Chief wants to stand his ground fine stand it but get the younger guys and y'all go train and if the Chief and his group doesn't want to fine when they hurt or kill someone then they can get on the stand and explain themselves. 

The problem is it sounds like that the lack of training is well established on this department, and the precedence has likely been set by the actions, or in this case, possibly the inactions of the Chief for not mandating more training before this time. To pick a fight with the Chief and try to split the department in to 2 camps ...... the non-training camp and the training camp ..... would likely not be a good thing for either the poster, or the department , in the long run.


The simple fact is for this to work, there must be the backing of the Chief, especially since the poster has been around only 5 years.


Take the advice of the posters here. Develop some reasonable objectives, that probably won't meet all your wants, but may satisfy some of them and can be proposed to the Chief as a compromise. Develop some type of skills evalaution so you can get a baseline picture of the capabilities of your personnel. And then develop a plan to address those issues that reared their heads during the performance testing.


Take it slow.


And if the Chief balks, go back down to FF and let somebiody else take the heat if things go bad.

Thanks for the comments. It has really helped reading the stories and suggestions here. I want you all to know I will make a valliant effort to slowly chisel this Dept into the well oiled machine it should be. If I cant gain the smallest amount of ground I will step down from this position to protect my ass,  assets and family.

I knew coming into this discussion the fix would not happen over night. It took years to come to this and will take some patience and organization to get where we need to be. 

I`m going to put myself at the station for training once a month and let them come to me. I know I can count on my 5 newest guys to join me and hopefully increase the numbers as time goes by, and eventually get the older fellas in there to see why everyone is having fun with training. I need to document my attempts to train and any negative push from anyone that doesn't want to participate. 

I like the comment about having a few guys that can get stuff done is sometimes better than a bunch you have to babysit. If I can work with the guys that are willing to work with me, eventually as the older crowd retires we can become a department that is mentally equipped and able to tackle what comes our way.

Thanks Again for the comments, feel free to keep them coming.

We run 500 calls a yr, and do not run medical assist. We have roughly 40 ff's on the books and 15 you can count on to be around. We train EVERY thursday evening and when we have houses we can use we have trained 2-3 days those weeks.

I feel for you and what you find yourself in, it can not be an easy one. I think you are right in the fact that you have to start this with your younger guys that want to improve and be better. I would consider stepping down from that position in order to protect you and your family from loosing everything, and you could still work with the young guys and teach them. I do not believe you will be able to change the older members so if you want to improve your company start with the young guys and any new members you get.

This is the biggest challenge for small volunteer departments.  Motivating the members to train when they seldom get to use their skills in the field.  But Mike, atleast you recognize the problem.  I encourage you to stay motivated and keep pushing the issue.  The lives of your members depend on it.  If you have a good relationship with neighboring departments, you may be able to cross-train with them.  We are in an area with several small departments but we have a strong mutual aid association.  Each month one of the member departments host a training night for the area.  We try to have a trainer from the LSU fire school come in on those nights.  This gives you an opportunity to not only break up the routine of training but also get to know the brother FFs who will be showing up to help at 2:00 AM.

Mike, you also need to look out for yourself and your family.  You need to think about your liability within the department.  If things don't improve, you should consider resigning you position to avoid future litigation if things go bad.  I know we don't like to look at things from that perspective, but these days it has to be done. 

Ass't Chier Mike,

You are getting advice from people that have not clue one about the situation you are in, and if they would live it they would be amazed that more f/f's doen come home in a body bag.  I 've been there, done that.   Been a FF, Trainin g Officer and Chief of a small ND community, now Chief of Fire Academy ND. 

First,  talking to the Chief is a waste of time unless you tell him what your plans are, as if he had the leadership, you would not be in the situation you are in now.  If he had it, he would display it, and since that has not happened, he does not have "it".  So you need to tell what your plans and proceedures are, and that is the way it will be.  Your position is more important than any other on the Dept. as the overall operations will directly relate to the training.


Second, get your core group of people together that will back you and meet with them seperately first.  Get the plan, dont waste time on crap you dont need for your type of situation (nims for example is a total waste of time for people in your dept) it is more important they understand how to get water out of the first line engine.  Now, many readers wont undrstand, but being from a small ND area, I do know -- very well.  I have had to stop drills to show incoming Depts how to operte their pumps so we could continue a drill.

Individually, go through wiht each one your PPE, SCBA's, wtc. etc. - stuff they need to know as far as personal protection and proper use, when to use, why to use it etc.

With this core group, pick out twelve topics (one for each month) and do them in order of the FFI course, it does not pay to learn how to use a ppv fan when the crew has NO CLUE about venting to begin with.

Atyour next meeting, here is what you do:

Advise the monthly meetings will be training meetings starting at 7:30 pm.  The business meeting will be handled by elected officers (Chief, A/C's, Captains, Sec/Trea) but anyone else is invited to be there.  (imaginen the time wasted on business meetings - if we all went to Washington DC to vote on every issue, but instead we vote in representatives to handle that for us - F should work the same way and use the time for training.  Anyhow, lay out this "smorgesborg" of training and invite all of them.  Your core group will back you, giving reason for others you dont expect to back you to also climb aboard.  If any quit, good riddins, they aint worth a shit anyhow, and will hurt others that do train.


So now you have this smorgasborg of opportunity,  as the Department improves, you will now bne ablel to attract new people that "didnt have time for them kind of meetings" but they DO have time for meetings where they can learn something.  The less fire,s the more training- cause you dont get the fireground time/experience.  Your dept will shine after training cause things will be done safe and right, and you will attract others, inclluding mutual aid depts.


In future years, dothe same basics over, but adding scenarios.  Go out and practice on old buildings etc (there is not a shortage of them in this part of the US) fro instance, lets say your first year, to get this rolling, on ladder training the first time through, you may want to ladder the fire station, the second year, add to it by doing an old houose wiht unique roof style, or a barn roof etc.  Add a  little imagination and you can come up with hundreds of cost free drills that enlighten and allow your crew to think and do SAFELY


now, as someone mentioned, when you do have an injury or lodd (God forbid) at least you can stand before a jury and tell what you did to the best of your ability and the results you attained.


There will be some members pissed of at you, but hold your head high - you are doing this for THEM and YOUR community.  In the event you wish to contact me, check out and you will be able to get in tough. I have trained many MN Depts on pump operations, probably even yours years ago.  I will be happy to help any way I can.  Chief Darrell Graf, Fire Academy ND

Follow IFSTA or other manuals and start with fire behavior/classifications/extinguishers, then get into ventilation- proper and safe ways and tool which need to be used, dual ladders if roof venting, etc. then get into pump opertions, hose streams etc.



I just wanted to note, I edited my draft, and the edited version did not get on, and it sounds rough, although the message is there, I want to start with my first line "you are getting advice by...."

this was to change to "you will be getting advice by some that ......

There were several typos and spellings I corrected, but edited version did not get on, so if offended, the more clear message was lost somewhere???


also on the edited, I mde a point to get a training form with each member attending to sign on  for evidence, for ISO records and for local records that NEED to be kept.


there you go darrell tell him not to teach nims and now lets make it impossible for him to get FEMA grants.  NIMS can be done by each individual member on the computer that is something that is important i don't give 2 shits how small of a department you are and plus why not have a unified command system they can follow.  Yes getting water out of the engine is important but so is all of the other small things that have to be taught also.  And yes i have come from a department like that so don't sit here and blow smoke up my ass.  You can do all the right training may take awhile but it is doable.  

Hi Mike, if I understand correctly that now you have dan only 2-3 times a year where you meet in an exercise?
That would never be realized here in Germany!
We meet regularly every other Wednesday in the evening and Sunday morning for exercise.
plus additional exercises in the month for the guys with breathing apparatus, and the other special people.

We could never otherwise keep our standards and we are not just a big voluntary fire department.
last year we had only about fifty alarms where we've also had years where there were about 140th

why you people for no loss often have to do exercise?
have you thought about a certain exercise concept to make the times where people are not allowed to do something special where trained so well?
that can motivate or sometimes very specific exercises.

which may not be missing after the exercise is a cozy dinner together to be with what, and maybe one or two of beer.
for us it's always like that and we are all very happy in our department.

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