Recently, the Fairfax County Fire Department was questioned about the need and cost of having over two dozen take-home vehicles. With a struggling economy and inquisitive citizens, has your department reduced the non-emergency use of department vehicles?

Fairfax County Fire Department Questioned Over Cost of Having Take Home Vehicles

"Page after page, we found no emergency call-outs at all. And those logs that were filled out listed emergencies like 'retiree's dinner', 'recruit graduation' (in which multiple vehicles went to the same event at the Government Center) and 'funerals' for non-County employees."


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We had a neighboring department (all volunteer) that had a chief that'd take his vehicle to and from work (about an hour drive each way). When the media caught wind, it was a huge ordeal. However, I think since he obtained such a position, and he's a Chief and has that knowledge, that it's plausible that he kept his vehicle, as long as he didn't do to another state or something.

Now, where I work a lot of people have take home cars. This is mostly because they can respond from home, which they may have to do at times. Do I think it's fair that they get a take home car and free gas and make top notch salaries? Not really, but there's nothing that I can do about it. It really is logical, as they may need to respond at any time of night.
My question is this....why should they get a take home vehicle to respond from home, why cant they use their own POV ??? If its about responding with lights and siren in the take home vehicle....how is that different than responding with POV lights and siren ?? Im just asking and curious is all....
I'm a vollie. In my department, we all respond with POV. Event he Chief officers. The chief's have lights and siren, as well as radio communications installed. All of the rest of the officers and membership respond with POV. The only reason Chief's have red lights is due to the fact that they respond directly to the scene. In a perfect world it would be nice to have a chief vehicle and paid fuel for it, but our reality is that it is just not feasible. In an urban setting, maybe top department heads and leaders of specialized teams surch as Haz-Mat, Tech Rescue, EMS Chief, etc. might be a good idea, but there has got to be a limit in my opinion.
Fairfax County VA is a combination department and has 12 volunteer departments within the county. As is often the case, perhaps (some, most of) these vehicles are for volunteer chiefs as a perq for their unpaid position? Just speculating; it could be waste, but it could be something else.

It's a County Fire Department, maybe these officials get called out to respond to incidents, NOT at their assigned district but within the county, perhaps right where they live (even if it IS an hour from their assigned district.)

There's not enough information in the FFN post nor in the linked article, it only mentions 'more than two dozen senior officials.' Could this be yet another case of the media blowing something out of proportion?
Dunno...not like they always get THEIR facts straight.
Myself and Asst both have Quick Attacks that go home with us at night. We are both the only full time paid members of our force. the rest of the 38 are volunteer. We respond directly to the scene. I believe the public perception is a big issue throughout this nation. We make an effort to only use these vehicles in official capacity when ever possible.
I see you r point and do understand you position. Well stated. :)
I have a take home car and provide my own gas. It works out in the end because I take it off on my taxes at the end of year. With a take home car I respond to emergencies after hours or attend meetings, etc. Either way I would be putting gas in my personal vehicle or the city car...this way as I said I take the mileage at the end of the year. I also utilize my personal cell phone and get an allowance on taxes at the end of the year on that. It makes it easy...I don't have to answer to anyone whether it was a business call or personal. I think its something every city should look at. I don't utilize the city car to go shopping or anything but would you if the city paid for the fuel anyway.
Fairfax County is a metro-sized urban fire department with 1,390 career firefighters, 137 civilians, 229 seasonal (part-time) and 270 operational volunteers.

Go to STATter911 (Here) to get additional information on this issue, including the 2009 inquiry by the county Board of Supervisors.

The department provided take-home vehicles to senior career chiefs and individuals with specialty responsibility (arson dog, fire investigator, USAR commander, etc.)

The criteria for assigning the vehicle was that the position/individual was handling 2 to 4 evening or weekend call-outs every month. Required to submit a monthly report of vehicle activity.

The issue in 2009 was abysmally poor documentation and a couple of high profile examples of subsidized commuting without any call outs.

Including a couple that worked at headquarters (both senior chiefs) and commuted in separate county-supplied SUVs.

Since 9/11 many of the vehicles are unmarked police package sedans or SUVs with complete light packages/radios. Individuals using unmarked vehicles get charged on their W-2 forms - the cars are carried as a perk and part of their compensation package.

The county has required all agencies to curb the use of take-home vehicles since the recession started biting. Some members of the board want to eliminate vehicles as a senior staff perk for all agencies.
As chief of a volunteer department I have 3 assigned "take home" units. Chief, Asst Chief and, an EMT that lives in a more remote area of the district. (we have few EMTs) All cars are used and obtained as hand me downs from other state agencies for little to no acquisition cost. POVs are not provided red lights/sirens except in rare circumstances (basically some that were grandfathered in) Then of course there is the POV insurance issue that does not cover "emergency use". So the take home units actually protect the county against lawsuits so they and their insurance carrier prefer them over POVs. All units are equipped to respond directly to the scene and carry essential gear and equipment. These are used to respond to nearly every call. Folks only take them out of district for FD business (saves us the $0.55/mile reimbursement for POVs). In district they can use them for just about any purpose as long as they are available to respond to a call.
"Page after page, we found no emergency call-outs at all. And those logs that were filled out listed emergencies like 'retiree's dinner', 'recruit graduation' (in which multiple vehicles went to the same event at the Government Center) and 'funerals' for non-County employees."


And who exactly is "we"?
The problem is that such subjects like this and when such statements are made the question becomes more accusatory rather than inquisitive. As such you see a defensive posture being made to justify such issues like dept vehicles. Many times such "questions" come from outside the community, such as the volunteer chief from LI, getting bombarded by a journalist. Also much like in Boston with the "investigative journalist" reporting on a fire engine being used to shop. Often times the "issue" is aired publically without any question even being asked inquisitively by someone.

What I mean here is that it is easy to have such "questions" become part of a news story or a "gotcha" clip instead of making a genuine attempt to clearly ask the question in a polite professional manner, vs the accusatory approach we so often see today. Meanwhile at the same time such phrasing of questioning puts a biased spin out there and the uniformed accusations and mindsets can run rampant. When an answer does come it suddenly becomes an "excuse" rather than the answer. Another aspect is the ones typically asking the questions either live outside the jurisdiction or don't care to make an honest attempt to learn or ask honestly.

Now there can be several reasons as to bring home dept vehicles and a dept should be able to honestly and easily justify the reason. I do agree that if a vehicle is being used "outside" the scope of rules for such a vehicle the questions should be asked, but just because there are vehicles being used, most times the reasoning if for a quick response for those who may be on call or because of their position.
Fairfax does not allow for responding in a POV to my knowledge
Well at my department there are 3 take home vehicles, Chief, Asst 1, and Asst 2. Every-now-and-then there is a 4th and that is only when the Capt. is running as the BC. We do require that they stay with-in our county, and if they leave the county (unless FD business) the member driving the vehicle is responsible for fuel. As far as FFX County goes I was told that the rules for their take-home vehicles is basically the same.

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