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  1. #1
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    Default San Diego County Fire Volunteers must be fit for the job...

    Article link- http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stori...&zIndex=118624

    County requires fit volunteers

    New mandate that calls for physicals could take toll on backcountry fire departments



    By Anne Krueger, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

    2:00 a.m. June 18, 2009


    Gilbert Turrentine, 73, who has served as a volunteer firefighter for 56 years, said he is physically fit except for a back injury he suffered in a fall from a firetruck three years ago. (John R. McCutchen / Union-Tribune)

    Volunteer backcountry firefighters say a new county requirement that they pass a physical will prevent dozens of them from serving their communities.

    County officials say the move to ensure that firefighters are physically fit is among the steps they are taking to improve firefighting in rural areas. They also say the physical requirement will lessen the county's liability in case of an injury.

    “We want to be sure we have healthy people responding to the emergencies,” said Ken Miller, fire service coordinator for the county.

    One frustrated firefighter is 73-year-old Gilbert Turrentine, a volunteer firefighter for 56 years. As chief of the San Pasqual Fire Department, Turrentine is responsible for supervising as many as 65 firefighters in rural North County.

    Turrentine said he is physically fit except for a back injury three years ago when he fell off a firetruck. He said that under a new contract proposed by the county, he and dozens of other volunteer firefighters in the backcountry would be ineligible to serve.

    Many of the veteran volunteers are supervisors and are not doing physically demanding firefighting tasks. Turrentine said replacing experienced volunteers with younger firefighters would hurt fire protection in the backcountry.

    “We would lose the people who drive the firetrucks and make the decisions in the field,” he said. “We'd have people who don't understand the terrain and the fire conditions.”

    Last year, the county set aside $15.5 million to form a fire authority to oversee the patchwork of 27 fire departments that serves rural San Diego County. Miller said the authority is providing equipment, training and reimbursement for dispatch services to volunteer agencies that often relied on bake sales and spaghetti dinners to pay their bills.

    Miller said the fire authority is authorized to bring in 550 volunteers, who must pass the fitness test and a criminal-background check. Numerous other fire agencies around the county routinely require physicals for their employees and reserve firefighters, he said.

    Miller said 408 volunteers so far have passed the background check, and an additional 108 have passed their physicals.

    Dan Johnson, chief of the Ocotillo Wells Fire Department, said he expects to lose five or six of his 18 volunteers if they must take a physical.

    “They're basically ripping the hearts out of the departments in the backcountry,” Johnson said. He said most of the department's calls are for medical emergencies, not fighting fires, and don't require as high a level of physical fitness.

    Other rural fire department officials were less concerned about the fitness requirement.

    John Francois, a Cal Fire battalion chief who is interim chief of the Boulevard Fire Department, said he must undergo a physical exam every two years.

    “The county wants to make sure everyone is healthy and physically fit,” Francois said. “It's saving people's lives.”

    Miller said the county is also providing $73,000 per station to pay stipends to the volunteers, many of whom previously received little or no compensation for their time. Beginning Aug. 1, the county will begin offering stipends to the volunteers of $95 to $110 per 24-hour shift, Miller said.

    Turrentine said he and others feel that the contract provisions are designed to trim the number of volunteer firefighters in the county.



    Anne Krueger: (619) 542-4575; anne.krueger@uniontrib.com
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-19-2009 at 02:02 PM.


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    No doubt it will have an affect.

    Let's hope they have a plan in place to deal with it. And keep it all-volunteer.

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    LA- Actually, San Diego County's fire protection has been lacking for years, like 25+ years behind the times. They need to move forward and make a real county FD and stop relying on bandaids, volunteers and outside agencies. This is why you see the big fires there every years and major losses, the protection there is lacking.

    As for the Volunteers, Like I said a long time ago- Volunteer Firefighters should be held to the same standards of Reserve Police Officers. Meaning if you are going to play, you need to meet and maintain standards.

    Bou
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-19-2009 at 02:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    No doubt it will have an affect.

    Let's hope they have a plan in place to deal with it. And keep it all-volunteer.
    Great attitude from a guy that claims to make a living from firefighting.

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    I'm pretty sure this dept is not alone in the fact that a lot of Vol fire depts are lacking in this aspect. The same probably holds true for some career depts as well. If you look back on the headlines on FH.com, virtually every week we hear about a dept that loses a man due to " colapse or sudden death" at a station or fire scene. FF is a young mans game, but even seasoned vets need to keep themselves physically fit and health wise.

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    Great attitude from a guy that claims to make a living from firefighting.

    The vast majority of our department's emergency response is volunteer. We have 5 paid personnel and in excess of 80 volunteers.

    The 3 paid shift firefighters are here primarily for maintainence and testing tasks required by our rating. In addition 2 of the 3 are paramedics, almost agrunteeing an ALS fire department response.

    When possible during the day, we keep the fulltime personnal on task ansd utilize volunteer rideout personnel and members responding from home to handle the routine EMS and fire responses.

    The fulltime Deputy Chief responds on a small percentage of the calls and instead remains in the office dealing with admin and attending out of district meeetings, training, briefings and officer-level training.

    My job is primarily public education and day training. I am also responsible for developing training programs and lesson plans, and for documenting training. I did the pubed gig on a volunteer basis for almost 6 years, until the Chief decided that the combined workload justified a position. Again, I spend most of the time in the office or conducting training activities, and basically backup the volunteer force for more serious incidents, often acting a safety officer as compared to a hands-on firefighter.

    I strongly support the volunteer service and strongly beleive that for semi-rural rural communties, it's simply the not only most cost-effective way to do business but it is simply the BEST way to do business.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-19-2009 at 04:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    I strongly support the volunteer service and strongly beleive that for semi-rural rural communties, it's simply the not only most cost-effective way to do business but it is simply the BEST way to do business.
    Please elaborate. I understand cost effective part, but the second half of that statement seems to be difficult to imagine. I'm not being anti-volunteer, but how is it that you can really believe this? I'll give you that there are some great volunteer firefighters out there, but...

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Great attitude from a guy that claims to make a living from firefighting.

    The vast majority of our department's emergency response is volunteer. We have 5 paid personnel and in excess of 80 volunteers.

    The 3 paid shift firefighters are here primarily for maintainence and testing tasks required by our rating. In addition 2 of the 3 are paramedics, almost agrunteeing an ALS fire department response.

    When possible during the day, we keep the fulltime personnal on task ansd utilize volunteer rideout personnel and members responding from home to handle the routine EMS and fire responses.

    The fulltime Deputy Chief responds on a small percentage of the calls and instead remains in the office dealing with admin and attending out of district meeetings, training, briefings and officer-level training.

    My job is primarily public education and day training. I am also responsible for developing training programs and lesson plans, and for documenting training. I did the pubed gig on a volunteer basis for almost 6 years, until the Chief decided that the combined workload justified a position. Again, I spend most of the time in the office or conducting training activities, and basically backup the volunteer force for more serious incidents, often acting a safety officer as compared to a hands-on firefighter.

    I strongly support the volunteer service and strongly beleive that for semi-rural rural communties, it's simply the not only most cost-effective way to do business but it is simply the BEST way to do business.
    Look, this is not a paid vs. vollie debate. It is about protecting those that provide service regardless of status. The BEST way to do business is to take care of your personnel and ensure that everyone comes home to see thier families. If you can't pass a physical, you should not be on the line as an active combat firefighter.

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    Frosty ..

    Yes and no.

    Define active combat firefighter.

    Is a driver/pump operator an active combat firefighter? Command? Safety officer? Dumping tankers?

    There are VFDs that use these older mebers in these single-purpose roles. Do they need to meet the same physical standards as the guys going interior or working on a roof?

    I agree interior firefighters should have physicals.They are combat firefighters

    However, I can see many support jobs on the fireground where some physical issues may not be ..issues. And in those cases, members should be allowed to continue support functions.

    And this issue is about fire protection. Gut the volunteers and then you have to bring in paid members .. at a cost. Is it cost-effective to pay full-timers in a low run volume area? Can the community afford the cost? And, can the community afford to hire enough paid folks to match the manpower level of the volunteers, or even act effectivly or safely? Does the community have a response problem now with the volunteers?

    This issue may sound simple but it becomes very complex very quickly.

    We have the funding to hire additional paid personnel, but we don't, because it is simply not cost-effective for the limited runs we have requiring additional mapower. instead, we spend that to retain volunteers, as for us, that is much more cost-effective in the long run.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-19-2009 at 06:00 PM.

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    RFD ..

    Volunteer departments allow for community involvement and offers opportunties to volunteer.

    Offers a chance for juniors to experiment with a career choice. Offers the nurse to use her medical skills or a construction worker to use his skills on a collapse team.

    Offers community a chance to be proud of the department.

    VFDs are usually more involved in staffing and organizing community events.

    VFDs fire halls are often avaialable for community meetings and often function as social centers.

    Often the volunteer response, on average, is far greater than the community could afford with paid staff.

    There are many reasons why a VFD is a better way to do business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    RFD ..
    There are many reasons why a VFD is a better way to do business.
    So do you have your house built by volunteers or have the plumbing installed by someone who wants to try their hand at the business? Maybe have the wife's car fixed by someone who enjoys "tinkering"? None of your examples give any consideration to the final product. The best way to do business is the way that provides the best product for the more responsible cost. Maybe this can be a VFD like in Hwoods area or maybe they need a staffed FD.

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    Obviously the final product counts.

    I know of hundreds of VDs that provide better service at a much lower cost than a combo or full-time neighbor.

    I would hardly say that they are tinkering. In most cases they are doing a fine job

    The issue I have here, in this case, is does someone need the level of an interior firefighter to run a pump ,or dump a tanker. Does he need that level of fitness to be IC or safety officer?

    The fact is that these type of "physical requirements" for these support functions may be quite unnecessary.

    And by requiring them, you can potentially gut a working VFD introducing the need for paid personnel, either in part or whole, where the need simply does not legitimately exist.

    Again, I don't oppose physicals for working firefighters. Before a system of physicals is implemented, there needs to be a lot questions and a lot of answers, or else rural America will have a lot of problems with thier, for the most part, quality fire protection.

    Obviously i don't know the situation in SD County. If it is a CAL indicates, the loss of these volunteers will make a bad situation worse.

    Is that really the best situation for those residents?

    Career or combo protection is not always the best protection.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-19-2009 at 07:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    No doubt it will have an affect.

    Let's hope they have a plan in place to deal with it. And keep it all-volunteer.
    For some reason, I think it's better when people get paid. Of course, I also think we have an obligation to protect lives and property.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CALFFBOU View Post
    LA- Actually, San Diego County's fire protection has been lacking for years, like 25+ years behind the times. They need to move forward and make a real county FD and stop relying on bandaids, volunteers and outside agencies. This is why you see the big fires there every years and major losses, the protection there is lacking.

    As for the Volunteers, Like I said a long time ago- Volunteer Firefighters should be held to the same standards of Reserve Police Officers. Meaning if you are going to play, you need to meet and maintain standards.

    Bou
    I agree with this completely. Our "volunteers" in OC had no physical standards. No response requirements. Their training was literally half of what was required of a professional and their monthly requirements were about 60% of what was required of professionals.

    They were a joke.
    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

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    What a shock...LA has turned yet another topic into a paid versus volly battle.

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    This is a great thing. If a person isn't fit to do the job then they shouldn't be endangering themselves and their fellow fire fighters. We need more of this throughout the industry. Kudos to San Diego.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    No doubt it will have an affect.

    Let's hope they have a plan in place to deal with it. And keep it all-volunteer.
    YOU SLIMY PIECE OF TWO-FACED $HIT! QUIT YOUR FOOKING JOB IF YOU WANT TO BE PRO "ALL-VOLUNTEER" YOU ******BAG. WHAT AN *********!
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    YOU SLIMY PIECE OF TWO-FACED $HIT! QUIT YOUR FOOKING JOB IF YOU WANT TO BE PRO "ALL-VOLUNTEER" YOU ******BAG. WHAT AN *********!
    Redbull gives you wings.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    I agree with this completely. Our "volunteers" in OC had no physical standards. No response requirements. Their training was literally half of what was required of a professional and their monthly requirements were about 60% of what was required of professionals.

    They were a joke.
    And I should know, I was one of them for 6.5 years. OCFA Emp# 1914.

    Seriously folks- San Diego County's fire protection has been far behind the times by atleast 25+ years. Too many "kingdoms" and not enough professionals.

    Its time for the kindoms to come down and this is the first step in the right direction.

    UPDATED ARTICLE ON THE SD COUNTY VOLUNTEERS-

    Firefighters Refuse to Take Physical Exam

    NBCSanDiego.com
    updated 7 minutes ago

    Several backcountry volunteer fire departments are balking at new contracts with the county that require firefighters to take a physical exam, which many in leadership positions acknowledged they would not pass, according to a published report.

    Last year, the County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to bring several of the volunteer departments in the unincorporated parts of the region under the newly formed San Diego County Fire Authority.

    The $15 million plan included a provision to cover the volunteers' workers compensation insurance costs, which meant firefighters would have to take a medical exam. Now, at least five volunteer fire agencies are refusing to sign the contracts because of the requirement, reports the North County Times.

    Gil Turrentine, 73, is the fire chief of the San Pasqual Volunteer Fire Department, one of the departments declining to sign the contract. He said many longtime volunteers, including his assistant fire chief, are refusing to take the physical because they believe they will not pass the exam because of high blood pressure, weight and other problems.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-19-2009 at 09:55 PM.

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    My job isn't replacing any volunteers.

    My department is actually committed to remaining primarily volunteer. As I have said before, we probably could easily hire a 2nd firefighter per shift right now but the command staff does not want to send a message to the volunteers that we are attempting to replace them.

    In fact, much of that money that could be used to hire is going to the volunteers through increased incentives, apparatus replacement at volunteer stations, additional volunteer training funding and purchase of new gear for volunteer personnel.

    The volunteers are what makes our department work so much better than the departments around us, who are trying to reduce volunteer participation.

    And it's paying off with excellent recruitment and retention.

    My job was created in part, to perform volunteer recruiting and provide another person who could conduct training and certify them on thier own schedule.

    I suimply asked do the volunteers mentioned in this article who perform driving, pumping and support/command activities truly need physicals? Are they combat firefighters? IMO, the answer is no.

    This is a situation that appears like the requirement to have physicals will significantly damage their ability respond opening the door for paid firefighters in part or whole.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-19-2009 at 10:04 PM.

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