My experience with a small, rural volunteer fire company in NY has left me completely disgusted and disheartened.  "We're only volunteers" is the excuse for everything from not training to crass favoritism. Of course they never decline the tax money with "we're only volunteers."

So I need to know: are ALL volunteer fire companies just bullshit? Or are there some that really do the job and do it "professionally" and with integrity?

If you know of a kick-ass small, rural volunteer fire company serving between 2000 and 3500 people, PLEASE write and tell me about it.

I'd like to believe that the volunteer fire service isn't entirely half-scam and half-sham, and a complete waste of time.

Be safe.


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NO!!! Alot of the volunteer FF's are in it for the right reason. Wash your hands of these guys and move on. If I read your post correctly, this 'attitude' will catch up to them. I am privelaged to work with some AWESOME people. They serve with pride, honor, and integrity! We are not perfect..and we work on those areas. We train often and hard..pulling no punches, our lives and the lives of those entrusted too us depend on getting it right. I'm in charge of our cadet program, and i'm proud to say I've have seen in the last year, two of my former cadets (now FF's) perform in stressful circumstances like pros.
Keep your head up, and keep looking for a better fit. It may take some time, but that will be rewarded back to you. Keep us all posted on how things go.
Take care and God Bless
Thanks, Eugene.
I would disagree with you only on two points:
First, I don't believe it's enough just to volunteer. People volunteer for a variety of reasons, not all of them noble. And it's not enough to WANT to help, you have to be ABLE to help, have the skills and knowledge you need when you need it. Without that, well-meaning people can make things WORSE.

Second, it sounds to me like you ARE on the kick-ass end of the scale.

Thanks again.

Thank you, M, very much.
Right now, they've done their best to smear me and black-ball me with all the other companies around. I have an appeal hearing going on and I hope to be exonerated of certain false charges, and re-instated.
Their behavior goes from unethical to criminal, but I can't seem to find any "enforcement" agency who cares or has the authority to make them clean up their act.

Go K Falls!
Got a reply I really liked, but it's gone now, so I don't know if I should still mention it. But it was so important I have to comment. The reply mentioned how people pass on their training and do it "over and over until it's second nature."

Here's what I wanted to say about that, for your consideration:

Excellent point!
Repetition is the ONLY way to get skills to be on "auto-pilot," and the smart money says that when you're in a high state of emotional stress --- like, say, fighting a fire --- as your heart-rate elevates, your performance deteriorates EXCEPT for your "auto-pilot" skills.
This is SO damned important!!!
It's not enough to "know" this stuff "cognitively," you have to know it in a psycho-motor way.
Tough to get across because so many people only know the kind of learning the did in school, sitting on their ass, everything in their head and that kind of learning is the wrong tool for this job,

Here's the wisest thing I maybe ever heard:
"When worse comes to worst, you don't rise to the challenge; you sink to the level of your training."

we have about 25 vollies we serve a town of 4000 the only problem we have is half of the members dont show up for anything there is only 4 of us that run on every call we can. it can be 1000am or 200am it does not matter to us. we are all 19 to 27 years old and some have less then 5 years on the department but we still want to learn and get the job done.
Hi Steven,

Where I am, if someone asks how many members the fire company has, I say, "Between 3 and 40 -- 3 when it comes to calls, and 40 when it comes to the annual banquet." Slight exaggeration there just to make the point.
But it seems to be in almost EVERY organization, you'll find a small number of "kick-ass" sparkplugs who step up and get things done.
The real trick is to set things up to encourage, support and reward that kind of behavior. I think just everybody is capable of it, it's just a matter of establishing a "culture" where that's the norm. It can be amazing how the least likely people will step up when the circumstances are right.

With your 20's crew you've probably got lots of drive and energy to go around. Seems like you could really have a great outfit. Setting an example is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Are you meeting any resistance to your efforts, or are you supported and appreciated?

Stay safe.

I'm not trying to boast but I think that our brigade is kick-ass. We try to go about our business in a professional manner. We dont do the job volume of the staff stations but we like to know their procedures and be trained to a level where we can work with them at any sort of job and not have a knowledge or skill gap. No one says they know everything and if we can learn ways of doing things better we will. If you train you get on the truck if not then your left behind.
Hi Andrew,

Sounds good, Can you tell me more?
What kind of leadership structure? Training program? Etc?


there is only 22 members in our department and we train as much as we can with conflicting work scheduals,last spring we put out a trailer fire in which a lady died,85% of the trailer was left standing when we were done,the police and coroners service gave us a letter of appreciation stating that we handled the fire and scene retaining what evidence that they needed to investigate the cause of the fire just as well as most paid departments,during our auto extraction course the instructor timed us without us knowing as we took a car apart after we were done he congradulated us saying that even the paid members in his department would be proud of how fast we did what we were told,i am proud to say i am a volunteer firefighter it is unfortunate that you had that experience but some people use the saying that "we are only volunteers"to make excuses for themselves,there is very few strictly volunteer departments where i live, most are paid by their governing body or community association for calls in their fire protection area,or by the provincial emergency program for MVI's outside their fire protection area which makes them paid on call firefighters.people who move from a big city to our small town call 911 and expect firefighters to look like firefighters and act like firefighters when we show up and we do our best,that is why we train as much as we can when we can
Hello Ian,

I HATE trailers. They're death-traps. My condolences on losing that woman.
But congratulations on preserving the scene.

Sounds like you guys try to keep on the ball. Maybe the way to go is with paid-per-call FF's. Then there's a financial incentive to train, too.
There's some cautionary research on the effect of extrinsic rewards, but I think if it gets people to train more it's well worth it.


you should come check out tea fire and rescue in tea south dakota we have our problems but we maintain a proffesional atti tude alot of the depts around us love working and training with us the sioux falls paid dept realy likes when we show up because they know we are there to work with them give me a shout and i will tell you more

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