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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I don't disagree ... in theory.

The problem is that there are thousands of very small communities with avery small pool of pysically capable citizens to pull from that likely are operating, as we speak, with a 10 or 15 member volunteer fire department. That is the reality.

And yes, some of them may not be attending training as required.

So what exactly do you do?

The reality is that these communities likely have no funding available for any career staffing, and in many cases, they have recruitied the majority of the population that has the time, the interest and the physical ability to operate on the fireground.  So do you tell the 20%, 30% of 50% that aren't making drills and training but likely makes those occasional fire calls that you are putting them on the inactive list, or dismissing them, and operate with a 6 or 8 or 10-person deparrtment?

 

What have we done to the response capability and the fireground safety of that department?

 

It's certainly not an easy question to answer as going either way causes issues, but in many small communities, it's not as easy as telling the 10 not participating in training and meeting requirements to hit the road, leaving you with the 20 or 25 that are.  

Bob, I'm not stating this is for every small department out there. I'm well aware that there are plenty of small departments that do a good job with what they have. I agree this will most likely will not work for most departments. We have 37 members over 20 interior but this is what we had to do. A department with 10 or 15 guys will have to do something different. The fact of the matter is when something goes dreadfully wrong with a volunteer fire department the country looks at it differently then say it was the NYFD. We need to do everything in our power to make sure our guys are doing everything at the highest possible standards. I understand departments have trouble getting the needed funding they need and deserve. They do what they can with what they got. But the bottom line is in most cases it is all about the leadership or firefighters their self's not standing up for what is right and trying to do something about it.

       I wish i had a good answer for these departments that have this problem but i don't. I do believe if they try and do not give in it will get better. I deal with some these small departments and sad to say most are grumblers and do nothing to improve the situation they are in. May-be someone else will have some input on this! 

     

Don:

You may be right, but I always thought that I outsmarted the bastards!

In the 21st century, it saddens me that we still have departments that are operating like it's the 19th century.

I resisted going from a hose line to chief because I wanted to FIGHT fire. I wanted to have a direct effect on the outcome, but you know what?

Choreographing an effort, watching for changes in conditions, being responsible for every firefighter on scene, adjusting the tactics and doing all of this from the best seat in the house was amazing and humbling.

And rubbing elbows with Lasky, Enright, Drennan, the Hoff brothers, Bobby H. and others is time that I will always cherish. They made me better; they made the fire service better.

It's all about getting the next leaders to step up.

There will always be a need.

I agree that volunteer firefighters should be held to standards and they should conduct themselves in a professional manner, but if the community only pays for a bucket brigade, then they should expect nothing more.

Very well said! I can't agree more!

Bob,

Very well said. My department is a 100% volunteer department that has a 1st due response district of only 12 square miles. Needless to say, we are also in a very rural area.(The county has a career fire-rescue department~we are solely "support")

For the first time 99% of our roster have jobs that keep them from home so they are not always available to respond to calls. The department spent it's first 10 years with a very small roster~it started with only 4 members. The roster has changed as the first members stepped down due to physical limitations and for awhile there was no one to fill the gaps. Last summer(Summer 2011) the department started to grow. Two Junior members were added to the list in the fall(myself and one other) in addition to five younger members. At this point we have sent out letters and have advertised that we are acepting new members ever since the dept. was established in 1991. Those citizens that have the desire and the ability to join and assist their community have done so~eventhough we have an active roster of >15 personnel right now. We are lucky to have a very active roster right now~heck the guys responded to a smoke alarm, two brush fires, and a structure fire within hours of each other on a recent Sunday!! Some of the members are seen occasionally for training but are able to respond to calls that they have been trained for. I can't wait until I can be the "active" volunteer I want to be!! (I have 255 days until I will be 18 and "old enough to be an active volunteer"!!!)

Every small department ebbs and flows in terms of membership.

Right now my VFD, which is very rural compared to comi department I work full-time for, is going through a very tough period. Two years ago, the then Chief, with the support of the officers, developed tougher policies ragrading training. This policy lead to the dismissal of 6 members on a 20-person roster. Since then another 3 people have left or been dimissed due to the training requirements. We have had 4 new members apply but only 2 has stuck with it.

 

We have just sent out a mailer to every home in the district at a cost of about $560 and followed it up with a newspaper article in the neighboring small cities paper (which serves as a regional paper for that part of the parish). We have already gotten 2 calls,a nd we'll see what it brings in.

 

My point with the above post is there are places, like Don's, where there is a significant history of volunteerism that will bring in dedicated members willing to certify. I was anorthern firefighter for the first 24 yewars of my volunteer career, and have served in many such places including my previous VFD in Vermont. There are also places, such as the south, where the tradition of volunteering firefighting is not as deep, and members are less willing to put in the training hours that some may be wlling to in other departments and other palces in the country. Are there exceptions down here? Sure, but in my experiences they are the exceptions. 

 

So right now we are running wirth an active roster of 4 offiers, 6 firefighters and a couple of supportmembers/drivers. Those numbers are not atypical for the parish departments as a whole.

Very thorough commentary. Thanks for sharing.

thanls to everyone for the comments.....i knew i was going to get my ass kicked when i posted, but it was worth it

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