need some advice on how to get the paid guys to work better with the at this dept it seems like the paid guys are running off all the vollies, i have been with this dept for about 20 years and before we went paid we were aleast 50 strong on the vollies, as the years went on and we become an paid dept the vollies seem to be dropping off at an great deal,we are down to about 10 maybe 15 vollies left. can i get some oppions from others on getting the vollies back and working with the paid part of the department????.

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First (and honestly, no offense) you seem to be caught in some kind of pop psychology/motivational speaker/kumbaya loop.

You can NOT dismiss that " comes from the top and leadership is key."  To think otherwise promotes anarchy.  Training has to be appropriate, directed and documented. 

Your thought that each firefighter of each department take on "...personal responsibility to ensure that every firefighter below him is prepared and as knowledgeable as himself...", while warm and fuzzy is both unworkable and wrongheaded.  How can you expect someone to make it their responsibility that the guy below them is appropriately trained?  And you expect that each person is capable of determining the needs of the person on the rung below them? 

"I think the span of control is destroyed when we focus completely on the group trainings to support every firefighter."  Honestly, I really don't understand what you're saying here.  Why can't the Chief, or Asst. Chief, or Training Chief or whatever the designation, put forth training requirements and then expect (rightfully so) the station captains to ensure that said training is performed?  There are reasons why NFPA has standards for Fire Instructor, so that people can be trained to train.

"We use a combination of group trainings and mentoring to help meet each person’s educational needs."   Sounds like part of a mission statement from a magnet school.

On the one hand, if your paid guys need help to meet their "educational needs" you might want to reassess your hiring practices.  On the other hand, this ain't rocket surgery, how tough is it to tie knots, put on PPE/SCBA, throw ladders and follow instructions?  If your basic membership can't do the aforementioned then no amount of mentoring is going to be affective, you are going to have to raise your entry requirements into the club.

Overall, most of what you wrote were platitudes with no workable solutions other than feel good mantras and warm fuzzy feelings.

"Usually when a department goes to a combination the volunteers perceive the full time staff as “taking away” power from them.  The truth is that the volunteers have given up the power by conceding to them because they have more training."

I suspect the problem when a VFD goes combi is that hard feelings arise from the vollies that don't get hired.  It has nothing to do with power being "taken away" from them. You're absolving bad attitudes with the idea that they simply need to be 're-empowered'. I'm wondering if that comes with spheres, reiki therapy and drum circles.

The volunteers haven't given up power, their department went combi because either there aren't enough volunteers, or enough volunteers responding at needed times.  You make is sound as though the 'paid guys' are some sort of anti-volunteer conspiracy.

"The volunteers need to be brought back in to the department and re-oriented to how they have just as much if not more experience and training then the full timers." 
See my comment above on reiki, spheres and drum circles.

Am I the only one missing the point that the 'full timers' ARE full timers probably because they have more and better experience and training.

 Are the paid guys former Vols. of the department?

  I ask because I was once on a all Vol. dept. that went to paid standby, then combi. Most of the carreer guys there started out as Vols. No recruit class or anything. Just a letter offering them employment.

Well Moose,

you got me you did say most, and I will once again say what a load of excrement.


Besides being a carreer FF and a member of 2 POC FDs, I also have been a Fire Serrvice Instructor with the tech college for 31 years.  I would hazard that I have been in, and tught in more FDs than you have eve seen so don;t go there with me.  Primarily my students are VOLUNTEER and POC FFs.  I see more and more FDs requirinf FF1 and FF2, as well as Driver Operator and Officer if you wish to fill those positions.  While both POC FDs I am on require FF1, many FFs are going well past that and taking FF2, Drive Operator, Inspector, Instructor, and many more non-certified outside training courses.  Are there still slugs and FFs in name only?  Of course, and they where the uniform of the volly AND career FF.  Perhaps in YOUR state there arre no minimum requirements, well in my state there are and pay status doesn't mena jack suat in egards to that.


No, I really don't wonder why the death rate is higher in volunteers and most often it has not one damn thing to do with training, it has to do with fitness.  The majority of volunteer firefighters die from heart attacks/overexertion. 

Its funny because being both career and volunteer I have to remind myself everyday when I wake up who to hate that day!


Ten days a month I have to hate the vollies because I am working my career FD.


Twenty days a month I have to hate the careers guys because I am off from the career job and being a volunteer.


It gets confuisng on the days I am not sure who I am and I start yelling at myself in the mirror about how much I hate the (fill in the blank) firefighters!!

You might wanna seek out some FF's from long established combination departments and see what they do to retain the volunteer membership. And you might wanna talk to the paid guys to see what is happening, and get their take. Just my 2 cents.

My 30 some years as a volunteer in a combination county fire service I can see the changes that made problems for both sides.

 There is the changes to politics, life styles, technology, jobs, taxes, and population.

My fire company had volunteers around the clock with a career staff of four during the day and one man at night.

We had county fire chiefs that kept everyone in check to keep things working.

We all got training to keep everyone working together. We had people that came and went because they didn't meet the standards to stay. Others moved around or made a home where they landed and work together.

Around the 80s things got to be a mess when politicians got in and stayed in power for four terms until the people voted in term limitations, but the damage was done. The taxes drove people out to other areas where taxes were less. The populace of the county changed so those that supported the fire service were somewhere else and those that moved in could careless who showed up and sometimes gave everyone a hard time too.

The school system went into the pits which drove more people out.

People put more time into their jobs and travel longer to get home. Families, jobs and life styles took away people from the volunteer side and their time to be around or take training.

Technology has taken over alot of peoples' time like home computers or cable and things that keep coming along.

Some of the county chiefs that came along after the 80s either couldn't cut it as a combination chief or became tyrants and tried to big time put people under their thumb which caused their early retirement.

 The latest group of polticians seem to trying to work against volunteers but are also preventing pay raises for the other side and other county workers who have not had raises in years to keep up living cost.

So many in county force live in the other areas where taxes are less, some in other states.

Training for volunteers is not as frequent like years before because of money. Some of us have been forced to take classes on line to have our training.

I could bring up many other factors that are affecting us all.



The one thing that I will still disagree with is "Training comes from the top and leadership is the key". If each firefighter of any department takes on a personal responsibility to ensure that every firefighter below him is prepared and as knowledgeable as himself then the fire department will grow in both ability and camaraderie. I think the span of control is destroyed when we focus completely on the group trainings to support every firefighter


I understand the sentiment in which you wish to portray, but the realities are different. Not to restate what Jack has mentioned, but the points are valid. My response that training starts at the top and leadership is the key, is absolutely the facts. It is the responsibility of the fire chief to ensure the personnel are trained and requirements met. This befalls the chief, the training officer, etc.


You see, when there is an issue, be it a LODD, LODI, fatalities, significant events etc where there is an investigation, records get checked. If there is a departmental event like an LODD, significant injury etc and subsequent investigation, the very first thing looked at is training records. This is why training starts at the top and leadership is important, whereas your contention of a senior person training the junior doesn't really fit. First off, how do you guarantee consistency? How do you know the senior person is doing it right? Does this mean the senior person is responsible for training records and ensuring requirements are met? No,it isn't.


So when it does come down to training and really anything with the ultimate responsibilty, it comes down to the chief. This is also why the span of control is thus enacted. Now some small dept, the chief can play both chief and training officer etc, yet for most places, you see more personnel involved with training. This is why the span of control is important, the chief can create the training calander or pass that task on to the training division and down in turn through a chain of command.


Span of control is a focus on smaller groups and breaking things down as opposed to one group. So like a chief thus passing control to training, to which tasks etc are passed down and so forth, the same can be done with training. There is no need for one on one training when we work as a group together. Those who struggle can get help etc, but reality is you can not continuosly coddle those who can't grasp the group setting. It thus becomes the individual's responsibilty to seek out extra help rather than having others seek out the person struggling. If you can't cut it, well then perhaps this isn't the job for you, be it career or volunteer.


Now, as I said, I understand your intentions of "mentoring" and ensuring every FF below another is prepared and knowledegable is more about crew cohesiveness and interoperabilty as opposed to training. Now there are close knit crews and some where people don't get along, it is the nature of people, yet what matters is that the job gets done. I've seen plenty of times where FFs got in significant disagreements and kept their distance, even looking to change shifts etc, yet still work together on a scene, that is what matters, not some kumbayah feel good session.


The amount of training and time spent to maintain highly effective firefighters is simply too much for administration to effectively handle.


Yet, funny how large departments like FDNY, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Miami, etc can accomplish the tasks. Could it possibly be because of span of control and leadership starting at the top?


I don't know who posted this originally but I copied and pasted it out of John Crabbe's response to it.


i am not as you say soley blaming the paid guys but if you have been at this department and seen some of the stuff, it would make you wonder to. im not saying the vollies are any better either i have been to the station and seen the vollies just sit around and do nothing while the paid guy are out busting their ass getting station duties this isent about that this is about trying to get them to work togher as an team.


This comment may be part of the root of the problem.  Why are the volunteers sitting around doing nothing while the paid guys are doing station duties?  Yes, I am fully aware that the paid guys live there and they get paid to clean up.  But if the vollies are hanging around all day, using dishes, using the bathroom, being in the dayroom, why not look at the paid guys and say "Hey, how about i get the vacuuming today?" or "I'll mop the hallways." or "Can I get the bathooms today?"  If you want to be part of the team, then be part of the team. 


Because my followup to that is who washes the tucks after a call at 3 am?  Who puts hose in the tower or dryer, who takes care of the equipment?  Because if the volubtees say I have to leave because I have to go to work, or whatever, and leave tht work to the paid guys they are NEVER going to be looked at as even close to equals.  

I agree with you in the fitness argument, absolutely.  Our area alone has cardiac related cause stamped on a majority of the LODD reports and its sad, I myself am overweight and need to get back in shape which I am working on.


I think I see what everyones issue is with what I posted.  I Think that everyone thinks I am bashing on volunteers...Im not bashing on any one area, just speaking about the training issue.  Obviously in your area Don, the departments train well and I salute all of their efforts to better themselves.  In my area, which is central NY state, I see far too many firefighters who do not take training seriously, some who do not train at all, and even more who took a basic firefighter course (Essentials of Firemenship) YEARS ago and have not taken anything since and believe they do not have to.  THATS, my issue.  I wish everyone would stop taking my opinons as a personal insult to you and your department or your area.  Im speaking in general terms about some volunteers across the country who feel that simply joining a volunteer FD gives them the right to call themselves firefighters and yet they do not take the training required of them.  Then, to add further insult, whenever this disgusting "Paid Vs Volly" crap comes on these forums and other forums, they are all up in arms calling themselves "Equals" to the career firefighter, who has to take 239 hours of INITIAL training before they can even respond to calls.  I am a firm believer that we all want to help people regardless of whether we get paid or not and I BIGGER believer that we should all work together as a team; my only gripe here is that MOST volunteers do not take it seriously enough, fail to take the necessary training, yet are still aloud to grab the nozzle and enter IDLH atmospheres and put lives in jeopardy.

I apologize if I insulted anyone or angered people, that was not my intentions.  I am just passionate about training and keeping our own alive.


@ Patti, sorry If I insulted you as well, I just got frustrated and posted in anger when I saw your post.  I Love to get PM's from people and if anyone ever wants to challenge me or question me I am always open for constructive criticism and professional debate, it always keeps you mentaly on top of your game and you learn from people that way.  So again, my apologies.

Patti, I apologized to you as well up above.  I am not arguing about "Paid Vs Volunteer" at all.  My issue is with training.  My issue is with certain volunteers who skate by without any training at all, and than come on these forums during the "Paid Vs Volly" issue and yell and scream "We are equals to the career firefighter, we do the same job!!"  Yet they dont even have Firefighter I...It scares and sickens me to no end.  I have been training since I was 14 as a Junior Firefighter on Long Island, and I continue to train aggressively today, so it bothers me too when I see this disgusting argument pop up everywhere.  I just want to work together with everyone and get along.  Hope I didnt actually sound like a chauvenistic pig...Thats the LAST thing I wanted to sound like!!  I am a quiet shy guy normally but this subject (training) gets me fired up! lol

Stay Safe.

Both paid and volunteer just need to show some respect to each other.  If you are going to be hanging out all day then you better be willing to chip in with the house duties.  That is drilled into each recruit during academy.  Everyone cleary knows what their expectations are. 




John and Jack,

 I can agree with the thoughts about leadership being a critical component for training to reduce LODDs and also to meet the “basic requirements” of the fire service.  The ultimate responsibility does come for the training officer/ Fire Chief however it should be the personal responsibility of each individual firefighter to ensure the less experienced firefighters are comfortable completing the task at hand.  This point exactly what I am trying to instill in our department. The minimal training is not enough to produce competent firefighters in today’s fire service.  One big component that has changed is the experience levels our firefighters are getting on structure fires.  If you check the statistics from year to year you can see that almost every department is dropping their amount of fire responses.  Which leads today’s firefighters to less and less situational awareness and on-scene experience.  The basic requirements of “how to tie a knot” cannot show all the different experiences that each firefighter would usually pick up on the scene of a fire in one two hour training a month.

Secondly, we are not in the 1950’s fire service anymore.  The school of hard knocks is closed due to lawsuits for harassment and it has been proven time after time that fear and intimidation for training are less effective ways of educating and leading.  I am I being overly dramatic? Yes.  But to stick to old traditional forms of training, (i.e. one group training once a month and/or to basic level trainings) will be one of the quickest ways to run your volunteer firefighters off.

As for proof that my way of thinking does work and that I am not just using new age mumbo-jumbo bull crap right now.  In September I started as the Recruitment and Retention officer at our department.  One thing that has given our department a fresh and new vision has been training.  I simply told the brand new firefighters we would run a group training every Monday and Wednesday from 1pm to 4pm.  At first I had two guys show up and I let them choose the areas they were weak in and then we practiced that skill over and over with different scenarios.  The next week my group was up to four then six and then the volunteer senior guys started showing up.  I had the senior guys take over the training and help the younger guys learn the skills they needed.  That has been extremely successful and has pushed every guy in our department to improve from bottom up.  That training was not directed by an officer, that training improved our ability to respond effectively, we found problems with equipment and procedures and fixed them, and lastly we are developing a group of volunteer and full time firefighting enthusiasts! The training is now taken as a personal responsibility by most members and the ones that don’t train, either quit or jump on board.  Last month our new volunteer firefighters put in as much and in many cases more time training then some full timers!  That is what the future of firefighting has to be about.  Last year our department had 5,763 hours staffed hours of training with 40 guys!

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