1. #1
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    Default Is this fire fighting?

    I've been pretty clear that I'm not a firefighter yet. Yesterday morning, I went to my first day of training to become a volunteer with my local department. Primarily, it's a career department with almost 200 firefighters. The volunteer program is still in its infancy, as we found out we're only the third class to date. In our training, we'll be learning fire supression, search and rescue, salvage and overhaul, forcible entry, etc. There will even be a live fire exercise, followed by a state exam.

    However, I found we'll only be used in a support role. I asked for more specifics and was given examples of changing SCBA bottles, rolling hose, holding a clipboard (I guess to keep account of who is where on the fire ground) and things like that. After the training, we turn in our turnout gear and get a pager, a vest, and a city map.

    Now, while I'd prefer to actually go inside the fire and put it out and all that fun stuff, I have no problem doing the support role stuff. As I understand it, this is stuff firefighters have to do, as well. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed, but I'll just bust my *** as a volly and get more training and hopefully get on career. If not, that'll be OK since doing the support stuff frees up a career guy to go in and do what needs doing!

    However, with just being allowed to do the support stuff, is that really even firefighting?

  2. #2
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    I think your mostly worried about if you can actually call yourself a firefighter or not. Yes, the duties you described are those that a firefighter has to perform on scene. However, as in my department, we have two "roles" that a person can sign up for. We have "Firefighters" and we have "Support Personnel". To be honest with you the duties you described are performed, again at least in my department, by the support personnel and Incident Commander (the keeping up with who is on scene and where they are part).

    The job titles and duties assigned to those differ by department. This is really something you need to discuss with whoever your superior is. Perhaps the classes you went through were not, parse, to be certified as an actual firefighter, but to give you an idea of what the firefighters you are supporting are going through. Even here our support people can attend training classes and even, under certain circumstances, get hands on in the training.

    If the department you are on has over 200 paid firefighters then honestly I do not see why they would also need volunteer firefighters to fight fire also, unless you were a combination department but usually in those, at least around here, there is just minimum staffing on units and still have volunteers respond to fight fire (usually these departments have more volunteers than paid personnel).

    I'm not trying to bust you bubble or discourage you, but as I said before you really should talk this over with whoever is your supervisor or other person in command.

    I wish you the best and hope you get to where you want to be someday.

    P.S.

    Maybe there are other volunteer departments nearby you could join that you could fight fire?????

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    Maybe ask someone who was in one of the other two classes about this and how they ended up. Also, ask your instructor how you'll be utilized in the future.

    There are several roles that need to be filled during fireground activities. Everyone can't have the first due nozzel in their hand. Think of the soldier on the front line in combat. There are many support positions needed from bullets to band aids to communications that without them those guys on the line couldn't do their job. Sometimes it just takes a little time to get where you want.

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    I would say your part of the fire dept., however, not a firefighter. Hopefully this volunteering will help you get to where you want.

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    Thanks folks. Even though the department is calling the folks who have already finished the training "volunteer firefighters", it didn't really seem like they were interested in using us as actual firefighters. I agree, with almost 200 paid personnel, there wouldn't be a lot of reason to need us to fight fires, but they offered and I answered.

    I figure I'll continue with the intent to either become a career firefighter, or to help guide the program in a better direction. Volunteering certainly wouldn't hurt me when applying for a paid position, that's for certain (though no guarantee's it will help either.)

    As for the training, I'm not sure what purpose it actually serves. Especially when I learned that this wasn't a FFI class (I'll have to go to the local tech school and get that out of my own pocket).

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts. Obviously, more are still welcome after all
    Last edited by Tomcat1066; 08-10-2008 at 04:49 PM.

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    You're just starting with your department.Keep raising your hand when someone says the word"Training" and learn as much as you can.
    Like len said,there's plenty of jobs on a fireground that don't just need doing,they HAVE to be done.Be diligent especially when you hold the accountability charts.If the scene goes south,they'll be looking at you to know who was where and what they were up to at the time.You will be holding your fellow members' lives in your hand then.
    You'll get your chance.I spent about 6 months worth of calls after finishing probie class waving traffic,handing out drinks and sandwiches on long calls,having to tell people that just because they said they were related to whomever lived at the house where we had fire trucks,cop cars and ambulances that they didn't have to know right now what was going on,as well as carrying the BLS and O2 bags or bringing tools and fans to someone else who put them to use before I was told"...You'll be with me,grab the irons and open up doors after you check them..."
    With a lot of people on the department,you have to bide your time before you get to drag the hose and find out what a hot job it really is.Just do whatever you are told to do as well as you can and ask questions when riding back about why a job was done a certain way.Make any effort you can to learn from the older hands about this job.You'll get noticed in a good way a lot sooner.
    Last edited by doughesson; 08-11-2008 at 01:13 PM.

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    Actually, we were told specifically that would would not go into a fire, that the paid guys are paid to go in and so volunteers wouldn't. I believe the exact quote was "you will only be used in a support role." Of course, I had to ask questions as to what that actually meant.

    I'm sending an email to the volunteer coordinator later today to ask if the plan is to only use volunteers this way, or if it is open to change down the road. I'm hoping it's open to change, but knowing the city, it probably won't.

    If not, then I did stumble across a volunteer department nearby. I'm going to talk to them and find out what I can about them. I want to fight fires to badly to just let it go indefinitely, you know?

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    If the coordinator says it is what it is and you decide to look elsewhere don't burn your bridges behind you. A new place will probably check on you with your previous department. Whatever you do and say can follow you to a new department, or make its way back to where you came from.( That place sucked, they didn't let me do anything). Also, don't go into a new place saying "I'm here and I'm ready to kick some fire ***". Use your ears more than your mouth. You're going to be the new guy there too.

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    Understood. I don't like burning bridges in any case. You never know when you may need to cross them again .

    Besides, I have far, far to much to learn to not listen and keep my mouth shut.

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    I would give it a shot too. You might be surprised at what happens when the crap hits the fan and the career guys are worn out in the first two hours of a huge event, or the calls start stacking up during a large weather event, etc.

    And if it is a new program, you and all the other volleys will have to justify the fact that the volunteers CAN perform at the necessary level. That will come with time and experience. No volley fresh out of school can hope to keep up a with a seasoned crew, so take the time to watch, listen, and learn.

    Who knows where it will take you...
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  11. #11
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    Thumbs up Well.................

    Tomcat, If I may ask, what part of the Country are you in. I'm in the Mid Atlantic area and the "Support" stuff is kinda odd to me........... Our County has about 700 Career firefighters, along with around 1,600 Volunteers. Volunteers do everything that the Full time folks do.


    Also, your posts seem to show a reasonable, level headed person with a sincere desire to do something constructive. Best of Luck to you.
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    I'm located in South GA, and frankly the "support" stuff sounds odd to me as well. The next closest department is a combination department where volunteers do everything that the career guys do as well. It really sounds like it's specific to this department.

    I was thinking that part of the reason to keep volunteers in a support role was fear. After all, if a volunteer was killed in the line of duty, that could stir up a $#!t storm of problems with people wanting to know why a volly was even in the fire when the city has paid guys to do it. I know deaths happen, but this community seems to latch on to anything to complain about, so maybe that's part of the reason? I don't know.

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    Since you stated that it is a new volunteer program, they might just be trying to take things slowly to figure out what minimally trained folks can do before they invest the time to train you all to a FF I/II level. Those support roles that you mentioned are very critical to a large incident, but I can see where you would be frustrated about being limited to them. I would continue with the training if I were you. Then hang out with at the fire house with the career staff as much as you can and show them your dedication and desire. That will help you make the case in a year or so to expand the role of the volunteers.
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    Thanks Dennis. I sent an email to the volunteer coordinator basically asking if there was a chance in the future. However, regardless of the answer, I'll continue with the training and do whatever I can do. I figure that if I bust my butt and show that I'm learning my stuff, more options should open up either way.

    Unfortunately, I'm still disappointed to say the least. I don't have a problem paying my dues or anything, I just want a chance to actually fight fire down the road. It'll be hard to keep going if that never becomes available.

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    I heard back from the volunteer coordinator.

    Here is a copy of what I sent to him:
    Saturday, you said we volunteers would be used in a support role. Is this up for change down the road? Or is it pretty well set in stone?
    His response stated that there has been talk of ride alongs, but that the higher ups had to approve it and that there is a lot more we can do besides fighting fires. That that is only 3% of what the fire service is all about.

    I replied and made it clear that I have no problem actually doing that other stuff, just that I would like a chance to do that last 3% at some point.

    I hope it makes a difference. Thanks for the advice from everyone. I'm going to stick it out for the time being and hope that things begin to move in the direction I'm hoping they take, while working toward getting a paid position if possible.

    I sure don't feel right about being called a firefighter though, since I won't be allowed to fight fires.

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