New Department: The neighboring county is starting a combination department form scratch!

If anyone has been through creating a new department I would like any advise. I am currently a volunteer, and the county beside us is creating a combination department in which I stand a pretty good chance of working for. There is already a chief in place and he knows his stuff, so thats a step in the right direction. Does anyone have any suggestions of what I might need to look out for or any constructive ideas that I might be able to suggest. Even if I do not go to work there I would like to be able to assist them and see them suceed. Thanks!

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When you say "work for" are you implying as a full time FF or as a volunteer?
As for building from scratch, is this combining several other fire departments into one or how is this working? I can't imagine a new department getting rigs, personnel and so forth without combining some types of services together. I have heard of county wide fire departments and would fall into a combination department, with career and volunteer FF's. Sometimes what you see is the career dept maintains FT FF's, but you may see some FT FF's put into volunteer stations to have some staff to get the rigs out and then volunteers respond to the scene to assist. This tends to lead into the hiring of more FT FF's which could be the case.

Here in WI, we have had some FD's merge into a new dept. In the mid 1990's seven suburbs of Milwaukee merged into the North Shore Fire Dept. It is a mostly career dept, but several departments still have some volunteers who will assist when needed. Some things considered was the contracts of other career FF's, the creation of a fire authority because no one jurisdiction has control over the others.

As for any constructive ideas, I'm not sure. You sound like you are an outsider in this deal and may have a shot of getting hired. I guess the issue does come into the integration of both volunteer and career FF's and not to make it a pissing match. Hopefully the career guys realize that they should also help with cleanup and so forth and that it isn't just a volly's responsibility. Likewise vollies shouldn't leave stuff left over from a drill night because the career guys will be in in the morning and the need "something to do". Just like every department out there, there will be successes and there will be problems, hopefully everything works out.
Thanks for your respons John. This is kind of an unusual deal. There is one decent size city in the county that is a full time dept. It has provided coverage for the entire county through contract with the county. There are some other small cities in the county that have very small volunteer depts with very few firefighters, but no coverage for the county after dec. 31st because the contract is not being renewed. This new dept will be a county dept that will incorporate the volunteer stations and eventually man them with a paid firefighter. To start there will be two main stations on the outskirts of the main city with one paid firefighter per engine and three inmates as the crew. The paid firefighter is in charge. They have already bought 5 brand new engines and a used heavy rescue. I am in a combination dept now as a vollie, and the biggest problem I see as as you mentioned keeping volunteers involved with all aspects of the job.
I am on the outside, but stand a good chance of getting offered a job and am wondering what to expect and or look out for. I did not explain it to well in the original post.
Hiya John,

Not to pick a fight, but 5 new trucks and several stations which are at least partially manned is hardly starting from scratch!

Whith that being said, I would recommend seeing what the new chief has planned and offer your assistance where ever he needs you. With a focus on communications and coordination of the network of stations because I believe that will be your first hurdle.


Don't worry I am not one of those guys who likes to take offense on a whim like I have seen on ffn here recently. I am sure you know what I mean.

Well the chief definantly knows what he is doing and has been in the fire service a long time. I was very surprised because I was talking to him and I was asking questions about infrastructure of the new department and apparatus acquirement came up. That is when he told me about the new trucks and I was shocked. It is hard enough to get one new truck much less five.

Thanks for your suggestions.
Sounds to me like the Chief's "Grant Paperwork Submission Officer"(aka Hoop Jumper) should get a commendation!
I am not sure but I think the county bought them. As of right now he is the only employee of the department. That is what I am worried about the most I guess. They are notifing the people they are hiring on nov. 4 and the dept has to be in service at 12:01 am jan. 1. A lot to hapen in a short amount of time.

I think you hit the nail on the head with communication
Good luck on this endeavor. I think it is going to be worth your while. I think your main problem may be volunteers thinking they are being replaced instead of augmented. Most of the comby dept. I am familiar with are basically '9-5' operations. They provide protection to their 'clients' when traditionally volunteers are unavailable to respond. Since you are already in a comby dept., your insight to the new chief may prove invaluable.
He has been talking with my current chief to gain some insight on how we do things. Most of our depts are 24 on and forty eight off 24/7 365. The paid guys handle all the little calls by themselves and page us out when it a structure fire or something they need help with. It works great except it is hard to keep volunteers interested when we only get called once or twice a month on average.
Thanks for your input
My 2 cents, that's a crappy way to recruit and retain volunteers.
Sounds like a really nice mixed bag going on.

So you state there is one city with a FT dept and the rest of the county being volunteer, and looking like a station with inmates too. So is the FT dept going to be a part of this system or no? Is there going to be a fire authority or there going to become a part of the FT dept?

I can see the FT person at a volly dept and augment with vollies, but I'm curious as how the FT dept plays into the picture. You say there is one chief and right now he is the only county how does he fit in with the FT dept? Is he the current chief of that dept? How about contracts with the FT FF's, are those being redone or are they not going to be a part of the county FD? Kind of like LA City and LA county?

Here in my area, we are looking at merging our unions together. Right now we are the largest dept in the county with 3 other FT depts, of which those are really combination depts. There has been talk about a possible merger, but the biggest holdup is the politics. In the future we may merge as a county FD, but the stuff being discussed is how contracts and so forth play in. Being unionized, we can still be one union with different entities, but if merging it may be more beneficial for one city to become the authority or else there would have to be a new fire commission established. If there is only one FT dept in this county for you, that could be a non-issue, but politics is an issue here as well as volunteer depts not wanting to get involved. Problem here is that the volunteer jurisdictions are growing and the depts will need to add FT people soon, but the most cost effective way would be a countywide and like you, the issue becomes how to keep vollies involved.

Personally, my take there is you either will volunteer or you won't. I was a volunteer for a dept that ran few calls, but then again, isn't our job to focus on prevention instead of calls? Are we not there to be used at the worst of times, hoping that people don't really need us? Personally, I feel if you are doing the job just to run calls and go on fires etc, you really aren't doing it for the right reasons.
Your attitude about this department is one that I wish everyone would have. Helping a department to succeed is half the battle. I am on a combination dept. myself. Training, training and more training is the key. Be careful of who you let join. Do your background checks because it only takes one knucklehead to start the department on the wrong foot. Set up your SOP's and preplans. Setup the program for new volunteers. Make sure they are aware of all the local laws around your district. Be close with law enforcement. I could type all night on this subject.

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