I know i'm gonna open a can of worms (or a can of whoop ass) on myself but i wish to pose a question and i hope to avoid the usual responses and get some direction on a topic that is incendary. Without saying exactly where its going on because i see it happening everywhere, i would like to hear opinions as to why the volunteer fire service is dying or being put out of service in some areas of the US. Where i'm at in florida (some) volunteer departments are being forced out of existance for legitimate and non legitimate reasons and i wonder how volunteer departments in this situation are handeling it?

As a former volunteer association president i am well aware of the reasons people join but i when i got a resignation i asked for a sitdown to find out why they were leaving and the majority revolved around their work responsibilities (due to downsizing and having more work to do) and the member not having enough time with their family.

In one case when a member used "wanting more family time" i looked at their individual responses vs. the type and amount of calls he actually went on (7 years worth) and saw that this particular person had a tendancy to only respond to the "good calls" and not the BS ones. I called him on it and discovered that the truth was that he was having a personality conflict with some members and decided that quitting was easier. I asked why didnt you just try to work it out and discovered that the conflict was that since we were a combination department he felt that there was a paid vs. volunteer atmosphere and the volunteers were being excluded or viewed as second class members

The way we were structured back then the paid force was supplemented with volunteers and as a paid FF i will say it was nice pulling up with 4 or 5 on a single engine or truck and it worked out real well but we did have a few that took the "i'm a volunteer and i'm not doing that" stance when it came to the less glamerous portions of the fire department and after a claraification session they made their choice BUT on the paid side anamosity grew because some were able to get away with the "they allways make me sweep and mop the floor...while they wash and wax the truck" or "they make me wash the truck while they cook the dinner that we all eat together"-(but they would forget that we would never ask the night vollie to pay into the meal we just threw him or her in)

I guess i'm just wondering if the paid fire service is really that invested in the demise of the volunteer service. i spent the majority of my carrear as a paid FF-EMT and i never felt threatened by the vollies because i started out as a vollie (and in retirement, i'm back with them) but i am disturbed by what i am seeing in the fire service that i love so much.

Again i'm not looking to start the volunteer vs. paid war, i am looking for what i can do to help preserve the volunteer service because i believe both can exist as long as there is an atmsophere of MUTUAL RESPECT

 

(this is one "add discusion" i hope i wont regret)

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You are seeing something that we have all been seeing in the fire service for quite some time now.  I hope and pray that this is not being caused by the career departments but I do know that the governing body that sets the standards and guidelines for the fire service are the ones pushing this because they feel this is the only way to save the Fire Service.  After sitting through countless state and national meetings it gets pretty plain to see where this is all coming from.  All over the country they are cutting fire service programs from large city departments to small county departments.  Because Volunteer departments make up well over 60% of the departments in this country by eliminating the Vollies this will force the hands of all communties from rural to urban to staff career firefighters.  

You are right that leadership is a huge part of the perception that one has wether career or volunteer.  The Fire Chiefs and Officers need to make sure that their actions and words are those of positive leadership and not negative.  Attitude will always reflect the leadership that is provided.  I do think it is riduculous that anyone especially a career firefighter can look down on any volunteer.  The "Jolly Vollies" as some people refer to us as are who started the fire service.  You would not be a career firefighter if it was not for the vollies.  What I hate is that some of the career firefighters are missing out on a wealth of great knowledge by looking down on volunteers.  There are so many older volunteers that I have learned so much from.  As one of the career chiefs put it one day in one of our trainings "these men have forgotten more then you will ever learn in your lifetime".  Just because some of these men were farmers, bankers, school teachers, etc they still have fought hundreds if not thousands of fires.  They did not get all of their training out of books they had to get it from the real deal, not a simulator or fire tower.  I guess my question is why does everyone think that career are better than volunteers because that is baffling to me.  We need to take the knowledge of both and help and grow the fire service, not try to determine which one is better. 

There are pros and cons to both.  One of the pros of being a volunteer is that I can guarantee that I can drive around the community in which I serve and I can tell you something about every household either EMS or Fire related.  The people of our community know us by name and are comfortable with us being there to help them.  We help in every way we can to educate them about fire prevention and safety and we do check ups on the elderly in our community to make sure that their health issues are being taken care of.  There are things we have to do more than most career departments like dump tanks because we only have 4 hydrants in our entire district, or using our own POV to get to a patient because the Engine or Squad cannot get back to them.  None of this might seem important to a career firefighter but it means everything to the people of our community.     

In my opinion career firefighters are lucky because they get to do something that they love as a career.  So when someone makes a comment like "we don't have the "luxury" not to go like volunteers we have to go!".  LOL...you need to think about that comment for a minute.  Of course you better go that is what you GET PAID TO DO!!  Just like I get paid to come to my regular job you get paid to go when the tone drops.  Please don't think I am putting down career firefighters, I have the upmost respect for them.  I would love to be a career firefighter but unfortuantely where I live I can't support my family on what they get paid.  Let me also say that I have always felt that the fire service is one of the most under paid careers in our country.  However, my point is that we should be working together as a team not against one another.  We need to continue to make the fire service a strong brother and sisterhood that are forever bonded.  We need to continue to strive to find better ways to serve our communties and above all else we need to RESPECT one another.  Career members need to remember that we have our certifications just like you, we worked hard to get them just like you, we do our training hours just like you, we love being part of the fire service just like you, we serve and help protect our community just like you, and we will put our lives on the line to save a stranger or a fellow firefighter volunteer or career just like you.   

The only thing we can do to save the volunteers is keeping the support from everyone including the career firefighters and letting Congress know that the vollies are an important part of the fire service and to thier communities and they need to continue to be part of it and not be pushed out.        

Bob,
Quite simply, you are the one coming on here and touting the use of the "take what you can get" approach and advocating of making spots for people to volunteer as opposed to concentrating on having an effective fire service which meets current standards. That is what I mean by "snake oil", this is the same advocation which has led to issues within departments and services provided. There are depts that have subscribed to current standards, physicals, PPE, etc, etc that are facing issues because of changes in demographics, call volume, personal committments, and so forth......your retort, water down those standards and allow anyone on the dept.

You are also fixated on the whole damn FF1 issue, despite the fact I haven't made a push to make it a standard. I do advocate there should be a minimum standard for all firefighters to meet, and this should not be left up to the individual depts to decide.

The fire service has been, currently is, and will change in the future. We don't have people riding tailboard anymore, apparatus must meet standards, PPE must meet standards....we aren't seein raincoats and 3/4 boots, and so on. Quite frankly there is no reason that there should not be a minimum standard set for all FFs to conform to, especially in this age of interoperability and mutual aid and so forth.

 

I could really care less about your combo and volunteer depts, the issues they face is nothing different than many others face. Yet, there are many that have looked outside the box of looking to maintain a level of service to the community, and if the current dept can't meet this, then solutions need to be found, but there is no reason to leave the minimum requirements up to the decision of an individual dept......how else do you ensure FFs are trained to a minimum level, especially if their services may be asked for elsewhere.

First of all Sandra, did you read the replies here before making your comments? You are really all across the board here and it seems as though you did not go through the comments. One of the issues the OP was fearing was this thread turning into a career vs volly debate, and up 'til your post, has remained relatively so. I have picked out several of your remarks to respond to that aren't in the same order you made them.

 

Please don't think I am putting down career firefighters, I have the upmost respect for them

 

Just condsider what you said late in your post and then read how your comments are laid out to see how the sincerity of these remarks can come into question. I will not turn this into a C vs V, but instead give a different perspective, which I don't think you are grasping.

 

I do think it is riduculous that anyone especially a career firefighter can look down on any volunteer. The "Jolly Vollies" as some people refer to us as are who started the fire service. You would not be a career firefighter if it was not for the vollies

 

Let's consider the reason that career FFs have started in the first place as well, because much of the same reasons then are the same reasons we see a decline in volunteers today. Yet, let's also consider history and the aspect of volunteers first. For many volunteer companies, the dept was not there for the community as it was more for the insurance money that companies were paid for services rendered...thus questions the validity of your statement. It was not uncommon for competing volunteer companies to fight one another on a fire scene as to who's fire it was, etc.

As time went on, and there was an increase in call volume and service demands (sound familiar?) it was decided that a community was better protected with having one fire dept as opposed to multiple competing ones. The aspect of call volume and population growth and so forth thus morphed into the career aspect of hiring people to provide the services so others could concentrate on their personal lives. (Sound familiar?) Even going back before volunteers the community was basically "protected" via bucket brigades and each household would have a bucket and turn out for a fire in the community. That morphed to volly depts, which morphed to career. The aspect of you basis here doesn't account for all the realities involved.

 

I hope and pray that this is not being caused by the career departments but I do know that the governing body that sets the standards and guidelines for the fire service are the ones pushing this because they feel this is the only way to save the Fire Service

 

Um, no. The standards established for the fire service are not about one service or the other, it is about the safety of the public, safety of the firefighters and emergency workers. The reality is that materials, construction, household goods, etc, etc have changed, which in turn have further changed how we deal with fires. A room and contents fire of the 1950's with natural materials still didn't produce the amount of heat and toxins that furnishings of synthetic materials of today produce. We see fires burn hotter and faster than in the past.......as such standards have evolved and changed and is not about driving towards one side of the fire service or the other.

 

Because Volunteer departments make up well over 60% of the departments in this country by eliminating the Vollies this will force the hands of all communties from rural to urban to staff career firefighters

 

The fact of what volunteers comprise has nothing to do with "forcing the hands" and to make a change from volunteer to career. There are a number of reasons that once all volunteer depts have become combo or career, etc. I would suggest you read my first post on page one which highlights what I would put here.

 

What I hate is that some of the career firefighters are missing out on a wealth of great knowledge by looking down on volunteers.

 

How so? What are you basing this off of? You are lumping people from their employment status without regard to personality. You are making broad generalizations, even if you personally experienced some of this.

 

I guess my question is why does everyone think that career are better than volunteers because that is baffling to me. We need to take the knowledge of both and help and grow the fire service, not try to determine which one is better.

 

And, the question is basically turned back to you. Again you are generalizing here and if you go back into the multitude of posts and read things, nobody here is making this stance you are questioning. Nobody is saying career is better, you need to take a look at the big picture.

 

One of the pros of being a volunteer is that I can guarantee that I can drive around the community in which I serve and I can tell you something about every household either EMS or Fire related. The people of our community know us by name and are comfortable with us being there to help them

 

Yeah, so? Your Point? You do realize many career members can say the same thing. Even in large cities much of the same can be said. While members at a station may not get to know everyone in the community, most do know their neighborhoods and their response areas and there can still be that kinship you are touting.

 

There are things we have to do more than most career departments like dump tanks because we only have 4 hydrants in our entire district, or using our own POV to get to a patient because the Engine or Squad cannot get back to them.

 

Yeah, again so? Sure there are volly depts that could run circles around a career dept when it comes to water shuttles and establishing water supply. I can reflect back on a significant fire in a rural community 15 miles outside our city limits where our dept went for mutual aid and a water shuttle operation was set up. It went well and was effective. While our dept rarely would have to draft, they did then and did just fine in such an operation, but let's also look at the other aspects in differences as well. A career dept may be handling highrises, operate aerials on a regular basis and so forth. Point being is there are going to be differences, just because one may be more experienced in those differences only means they are using it more.

 

As for using a POV to get to patients, in what aspect? as a First Responder while waiting for an ambulance to get on scene? Yeah that happens, but I hope you are acting in an official capacity and have some type of jump kit in your POV if responding in such a way. I hope you are not alluding to TRANSPORTING a patient in your POV....because that is a huge can of worms.

 

So when someone makes a comment like "we don't have the "luxury" not to go like volunteers we have to go!". LOL...you need to think about that comment for a minute. Of course you better go that is what you GET PAID TO DO!!

 

Think about the reality of the statement too Sandra and look at it in context as well. In reality, it is not uncommon for volunteers to screen calls and make a selective response. Many depts have those members who show up for any fire, MVA, etc, but are no where around for a lift assist, false alarm, sick person types of calls. When looking in context, there are many volunteers who like to claim they are always on duty 24/7.....yet, if such was true, then there would never be a call they didn't miss, correct?

 

Yes, it is the job of a career FF to go on a call and all calls they are dispatched to, yes it is their job to do so. Yes, there are times volunteers can't leave work, or personal committments and so forth, but nobody is mandating they have to go either. Face it, there is a significant selective response aspect that plagues the volly community, especially when a community sees increased call volume, changing demographics etc. When responses get sporadic, it forces a community to rethink their service level and hence another reason contributing to the demise of the volly service.

 

Career members need to remember that we have our certifications just like you, we worked hard to get them just like you, we do our training hours just like you, we love being part of the fire service just like you, we serve and help protect our community just like you, and we will put our lives on the line to save a stranger or a fellow firefighter volunteer or career just like you.

 

This is a comment which can be easily argued and often debated. However, go back a couple posts where you have one member advocating that a dept should choose the training level of the members and should not be beholden to minimum certifications. So when you have folks like that, and depts like that, it makes it questionable about your claims here.

 

Furthermore is the aspect of training hours. Again a claim that can be easily debunked, especially if record keeping by a dept is lacking. There is also the aspect that most volly depts may train a couple times a month for a few hours, which is hardly the same amount of hours that most career depts do. It is simple math.

 

The only thing we can do to save the volunteers is keeping the support from everyone including the career firefighters and letting Congress know that the vollies are an important part of the fire service and to thier communities and they need to continue to be part of it and not be pushed out.

No. The only way to really save volunteers is to get the community to TRULY support them, which typically means financially not just morally. A volunteer dept is on its own accords to ensure they are providing good service and meeting the changing needs of the community. That means having a good response time, having adequate turnout for calls, responding to all calls in a effective way, meeting current standards in training and ensuring all members keep current, etc.

 

Congress and career firefighters have nothing to do with ensuring volunteers are "saved", it comes down to the individual communities and depts. The reality is that things have changed, demographics have changed, populations have changed, standards have changed, call volume has changed and so forth. All factors that play a part in the community's decision to maintain with a volunteer dept, merge with another service, or hire personnel. It is about looking at a big picture.

Sandra,

All I can say is you spew so many stereotypes and out right falsehoods in your post that I can see why YOU have problems with the volly / career thing.

I am glad to see so many well pointed, intelligent and informed responses from individuals in the fire service that seem to span from the very seasoned veteran to the newer members. I will keep this brief. I am the creator of a TV show concept called Volunteers The Series, and I have had the pleasure of communicating with Volunteer & Career stations all over the world who support my efforts. In some areas volunteering is thriving, in others it is becoming a thing of the past, for many of the reasons mentioned here in your reply's.

I will refer you to the U.S. Fire Administration - "Retention and Recruitment for the Volunteer Emergency Services: Ch... 

Outlined in this detailed report are many reasons volunteer departments are on the decline. Also in this report are recommendations to remedy many of the reasons a station might be in a state of decline. Some of the reasons have no remedy, and are simply geographically or socially relevant issues that can not be solved by the corrective actions of the department itself.

Other however can be solved by making changes from within. I think it comes down to whether the station has the leadership to anticipate such issues and take corrective action prior to disaster. So much for a brief comment. I am going to drop the microphone. 

I appreciate that so many of you are incredibly passionate about making a change, and discussion like this is the first step. I am sure most of you are willing to go back and do your part at your respective stations and I wish those of you who are having issues, the best of luck. If there is ever anything I can do to help, please let me know. 

I will leave you with this thought. I would ask you all to consider focusing your energy on the bigger picture for a moment. What can a group of passionate people like all of you that are involved in this discussion, do to make a change to the service on a larger scale? I can only imagine what a cadre of individuals with the amount of knowledge and experience you all have, joining together for the greater good of the service. Not a sermon, just a thought. 

There are 18,000 of us on Facebook who are all fighting for the same cause and discussing these types of things daily. You are welcome to stop by and join in. It may be a pipe dream, but I think we can make a change on a larger scale by exchanging what works and what does not, and connecting on a more personal level. Strength in numbers right? Also, should the TV show concept get picked up by a network, I think that would solve a few of the other issues, the most important being awareness of the volunteer fire systems needs from the communities that we serve. If they do not know what we do, or what we need, they will never help us.

Peace and be safe, Travis

clearlysix@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/volunteerstheseries

Volunteers The Series : Sacrifice from Dropping Plates on Vimeo.

One thing that I have noticed in my county is  that some depts have radical attitudes or ways to run their dept. They want to keep things going the way it has always been and  fight anything the county fire service will try to change or put into standard operations.

Some stations have had county career crews removed from stations over disagreements with the fire service leaving the volunteers to operate on their own. Some stations have had to close if  no crew is in the station and communications will put the station out of service.

The stations have one minute to answer up with a crew and if there is no crew in the station then the next stations are called.

Some volunteer stations have ended up with a full career crew to keep the stations open when the volunteer personnel has delined to a point that runs are failing or undermaned.

Some depts have been said that they are giving into the county by letting career personnel take most of the calls but safety of the public has been the reason for career personnel to fill the failing stations when the volunteers are not there 24/7 like it use to be.

Answer up response has been a thing of old from the years depts started in our county upto the 80s after which most depts made sure vol crews were there 24/7 along with career personnel.

If a crew does get to a station there will be no response by the station unless another call comes in for that response area.

Vol chief officers can respond from home on calls in their area if they live in or near the area and not from outside the county.

"That said, I think any professional firefighter in an area where volunteers are present who DOES NOT EMBRACE THEM is a moron"

 

Very well said Tom!

My county is going through this situation. The Union has come out and said that the volunteers aren't "trained enough" to respond to calls. Yet they are (under contract) to "train" the vollies so that we can assist them onscene. Many of the "career guys" won't even talk to the vollies(onscene or off duty). The volunteers know the few career officers/personnel that appreciate us and we strive hard to continually make a good impression on the rest of the career dept.

A member of my dept. was a very dedicated volunteer. He started to ride every third day with the career dept. and after several months he refused to respond with our dept. (the vollie dept) because he did not want to be associated with "ID10TS" with "no training/skills". Needless to say, he was quickly removed from our roster. To this day, not a single member of the vollie dept. has been able to figure out how someone could go from 100% pro-vollie to 100% "keep the vollies off of my scene".

Just my thoughts.

 The Union has come out and said that the volunteers aren't "trained enough" to respond to calls. Yet they are (under contract) to "train" the vollies so that we can assist them onscene.

 

Rachel,

First off, your profile states you are an explorer and still in high school, so I question as to how much you really would understand of such a contract. Secondly, have you seen this contract and able to cite the specifics where it states the union are contractually obligated to train the volunteers?

 

My guess is that you are providing hearsay here from what others have mentioned as opposed to really knowing the inner workings and specifics. I would like to see such a contract where it states the union is obligated to train volunteers. Training is a departmental obligation as opposed to a union obligation. If this is also a contractual obligation as you state, it would mean that every union member is a certified training officer, which I would suspect is not the case at all.

 

The aspect of statements about not being trained enough does happen, but it depends on circumstances as well and minimum requirements. Simple math shows that training a couple hours a month doesn't equate the same as training each duty day. I won't get into specifics of things there, because I don't know the circumstances, but the setup of how you describe things is questionable. Your profile states you are affiliated with a volunteer dept, but you state here that the union FFs are obligated to train volunteers, what is the deal? Are you an individual dept or are you part of a combination county dept? You mention a member riding out with the career dept and then coming back to your dept etc......so I again question this contract stuff you refer to.

 

I am thinking there is more to things that you really do not know or truly understand to be making the statements you are. It is just very questionable that there would be a union contract that stipulates it is the duty of career personnel to train volunteers. Training is a departmental requirement to ensure members meet the standards, this means it is a managerial requirement, not a career personnel requirement. If you have individual departments as you make it appear as such, then there would be no contractual requirement at all by the union to provide training to an outside dept. Thus it would mean training and meeting requirements is the onus of your individual dept, not some other dept.

John,

The union has been the "spokesperson" for the county (I don't know why-I thought the county Chief would do that).

I am also a political buff~I got especially interested when the county gov't decided to effectively "shut down" every volunteer station without any thought to where they would get their water/manpower from. I have read both the proposed contract and the contract which the vfds are currently operating under. The current contract specifically states that the "county shall provide the following training to the vfd personnel". (Article II~2.5)

The union has an overwhelming say in how the current county chief runs his dept. They want to hire more personnel for their dept. that the county can't be obliged to hire/pay at this time. The union believes by getting rid of the vollies they will be able to have an easier way of forcing the county to hire more personnel.

Most of the county personnel are trained instructors, yet they have never provided training. Alll of the training has been provided by members of the other vfds in the county who have their own certified instructors.

I am a member of a 100% volunteer department and we simply provide "support" to the county paid/career department.

Attachments:

Rachel,

First, I commend you for actually supply a contract to view. However, what I see in that contract has nothing to do in regards to union personnel. The contract is really more of establishing a MABAS/automatic aid type of control as opposed to defining the union FFs training volunteers. While you state the union is the "spokesperson" the reality is they are not. Regardless of what or whom you believe the county chief answers to, it is his/her position to follow direction of the elected officials and provide input.

 

While you may feel, as a volunteer, you are being unsurped, you really aren't sitting in the office now are you? Of course the union wants to hire more personnel, from a response aspect, that is the best way to get the service out, unless you have a dedicated volly dept where there is never a disparity. Having career staff also affects safety on the fireground by getting more personnel there faster. It is simple mathmatics and this is something the fire chief needs to balance between the level of service and the cost factors involved.

 

If you go back through this thread and read my comments on page 1, the issues facing volunteer depts is not just about unions trying to get rid of vollies just to increase their numbers. Your debate there doesn't hold water. The fact remains that basic requirements to be a FF has increased, time for training and being involved has increased. Population have changed demographically and so forth....all of which play a role in decision making....well beyond your simplistic conclusions.

 

 

Now going back to the training aspect. In the contract it states on the bottom of page 3, that training will be provided by the county to volunteer personnel. That means that the county will supply training in those areas defined in the contract, as opposed to the onus being on each individual dept.

 

How that training is provided is not defined. Contrary to what you believe, there is absolutely nothing in there stating that it is union career personnel who "must" train volunteers. So that debunks your original comments of how they are contractually obligated to provide training to volunteers. The county can send individual trainers to depts, they can contract with the local tech/community college, they can hold a train the trainer program and so forth. The county may supply funding for depts to send personnel to a school etc. Whatever they do decide to do, there is nothing stating it is the obligation of career union firefighters to train volunteers, regardless of who may hold an instructor cert.

As I read the above contract, it's an agreement between the County Fire Service and individual volunteer fire departments.  In order to be funded by the County the VFD is contractually obliged to adhere to all of the included agreements.  Failing that the contract can be terminated with 30 days notice.  Seems pretty straight forward.

I don't know how FLA allows for volunteer fire departments but it appears that, without funding by the County a VFD would be financially on its own, or perhaps not even allowed to exist.  The statement that the "...county gov't decided to effectively "shut down" every volunteer station..." suggests two things: A typical anti-union/they're picking on us mentality and; that a lot of VFDs weren't adhering to their County contracts.  Because let's be fair, in Hootchiecoochie Florida, pop. 571 it makes no sense, nor would it ever be practical, to shut down an existing VFD solely for the goal of then establishing a paid department.

Further, if in FLA paid departments are run by County government then the predominant union (likely the IAFF) will indeed want to have a say in funding and manpower issues, as John pointed out above.  Mostly this sounds a lot like an anti-union argument designed to roil up the vollies and move an agenda forward.

As for being "support" it appears that could be a result of any number of issues:

Lack of (appropriate/significant) training.

Lack of documentation of training.

An inability to respond with enough manpower, apparatus or in a specified amount of time.

As for providing training, I'm assuming that the County has at least one and most likely several, training facilities and that the training personnel hired are (or would be) those people with the appropriate training and experience - paid firefighters.  The contract only states that the County will provide training, it doesn't specify who or where. 

Mostly this sounds a lot like bits and pieces of fact mixed in with a lot of misinformation and not a little anti-union rhetoric.  Without being able to read any news articles relating the ongoing issues in both the County and in specific areas (towns, VFDs) I can only assume that this is an issue being created by certain VFDs to cover their own inabilities.  After all, 2012 WAS the year that unions were blamed for the nation's problems.  I'm sure in another 2 or so years, when FLA greets 2012 they too will see that unions *generally* have been there to protect the working man.

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