Volunteer Leadership Roundtable

Volunteer fire-rescue leaders share their views on funding, staffing, training, health and safety, and other key topics.


Firehouse® Magazine is proud to present our first “Volunteer Leadership Roundtable,” featuring the views of a cross-section of leaders from the volunteer fire-rescue service. These are people who have stepped forward to take on demanding roles and responsibilities at a challenging time for...


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Jackson: The average age of our fleet is 18 years. At this time, several vehicles are in need of replacement. Our plans for the current time involve only fleet replacement and do not include increasing or downsizing the fleet.

Turno: Our oldest is about 15 years old. We will not necessarily increase our fleet, but would like to purchase one replacement vehicle and then use this older vehicle as a reserve.

SPECIALIZED OPERATIONS
Can your department handle specialized rescues or responses to WMD (weapons of mass destruction) incidents, or hazardous materials, foam or water emergencies? Please explain.

Borry:

Devonshire: This is sort of a trick answer. I will say that yes, we can handle these responses. While we would not handle them solely on our own, through mutual aid and the use of local resources, we could respond to and effectively mitigate any of these responses.

Jackson: Our department is equipped by the State of Oregon to serve as a Regional Hazardous Material Response Team, serving four counties. The resources provided to us by the State of Oregon equip our department to handle most hazardous materials incidents in our area. As part of the Maritime Fire Safety Association and in conjunction with our local Port Authority, we have some specialized equipment and training for response to maritime fire incidents. Our department operates a 9,000-gpm fire boat and has equipment that, when combined with other member agencies, provides for effective response to shipboard fires on vessels of various sizes in our jurisdiction.

The Astoria Fire Department is equipped for limited WMD response through equipment and training provided to our hazardous materials team. Our jurisdiction is surrounded on two sides by navigable waterways with a presence from the United States Coast Guard, Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police, all providing water rescue. At this time, we do not have personnel, equipment or training resources for response in areas such as water rescue or other specialized rescue fields.

Turno: Yes, since this is the primary role for our department. We are trained in hazardous material, WMD and COBRA (chemical, ordnance, biological and radiological threats).

SAFETY
If there was one safety item on your shopping list that you couldn’t purchase before, and now you are able to, what would that be?

Borry:

Devonshire: Not so much of a “purchasable” item, but I would ask for more staffing. In order to be safe in our operations, I need more staffing at the scene quicker to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be conducted simultaneously. The staffing required for interior attack, rescue, ventilation, establishing a secured water supply, backup lines, rapid intervention teams and enough command structure support staff on a typical residential structure fire requires the use of many of my mutual aid departments.This translates into time spent waiting to secure enough personnel to make an effective and safe fire attack. I am sure many would argue the fact that a quick, aggressive attack can thwart the spread of the fire until reinforcements arrive; however, is it worth the risk of injury or the death of a firefighter for being aggressive when conditions deteriorate rapidly due to short cuts in proper fire attack? Not at all.

Jackson: A second thermal imager would be a priority purchase for our department if funds were available. Our current imager is an early model and carried on our career engine.

Turno: No. Currently, I feel we have what we need. However, during our last response, I did see smaller personal monitoring systems that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Coast Guard were using and am budgeting for them in my next budget.

STAFFING
Do you have more manpower now or five years ago? Do you have adequate staffing on your apparatus?

Borry:

Devonshire: We have been holding steady over the last five years. Is the staffing adequate? No. There are not enough staff members to cover all the bases within the first few minutes to operate safely and effectively. Does this mean we are conducting unsafe and risky fire attacks? In the big picture, we are definitely stretching the envelope. We have added additional mutual aid companies on our initial dispatches to reported structure fires to make up the difference and take a proactive approach. Again, this adds to the time that is required to assemble the necessary staffing to make a safe, effective, coordinated interior fire attack.