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    Default Absolutly impractical

    KIMBALL, Tenn. -- Tennessee might have to ditch its "Volunteer State" motto when it comes to firefighting, Kimball officials say.

    A mandate from the state Legislature forces volunteer firefighters with less than five years' experience to complete 65 hours of training at the state fire training center in Bell Buckle, Tenn. The cost is about $1,500, and firefighters must take the course on their own time.

    Kimball officials said at the March meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that the problem of unfunded directives from the Legislature is getting out of control.

    "They just keep handing these mandates down and sending me these books telling me what my guys are going to have to do," Kimball Fire Chief Jeff Keef said. "I don't know what we're going to do."

    Chief Keef said 78 percent of Tennessee firefighters are volunteers. He fears that the mandate will force rural fire departments to close because their volunteers can't afford the required training.

    "I know it puts the city in liability if we don't do it," Kimball Vice Mayor Rex Pesnell said, "but I know there are other departments that can't do it."

    Alderman Mark Payne, a former volunteer firefighter, said it's sad that the state is penalizing men and women who give so much of their time to help others.

    "All they want to do is help somebody," he said. "All they want to do is help somebody put their house out and not lose their grandmother's piano or whatever. All they want to do is pull somebody out of a wrecked vehicle and help save their life. (These unfunded mandates) are running them out of business."

    The mandate problem is only getting worse, officials said.

    "They just keep passing the buck down to local city governments with these unfunded mandates," Kimball Mayor David Jackson said. "I don't know what the city and the county are going to do. It's just getting out of hand."


    I have no idea how any legislator with half a brain expects this to happen. It is simply impractical and unrealistic from a time, logistical and cost standpoint.

    If this isn't rethought, the volunteer fire service in TN is in a great deal of trouble.

    Simply unbelievable.

    Does anyone have any info on what prompted this legislation?

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    The only people that will still take the course if it is instituted is people who want to be career firefighters. The only way around it is for the department to pay and then demand a serious time commitment from the trainee. It's things like this that make me love the system we have in place in Iowa.

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    It's things like this that make me love the system we have in place in Iowa

    Out of curiousity, what is the system?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    It's things like this that make me love the system we have in place in Iowa

    Out of curiousity, what is the system?
    Every class I choose to take is free to me. As long as I find the place to take it, and somebody is holding the class, it is free. Of course I have to pay for my gas, food, etc. The instructors are still paid, and testers are still paid, but to the students it is free. All it cost me was $50 certification fee, so I can't complain.

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    Looking into other articles concerning this, it looks like it only applies to volunteers that join after July 2009.

    I can't imagine the thinking behind this except the legislature is trying to increase level of capability.

    If they want to rasie the bar, then they should fund the ability for volunteers to receive the training. I don't see that happening in this case.

    One article mentions this is adopted on a county basis; requires a 2/3 vote to opt out.
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    Why is having a minimum standard for training such a bad thing?

    Lets be realistic.. some departments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on "parade pieces" to be competitive with the neighboring FD. 65 hours of training @1500 is $23 per hour. Some people blow that amount of money in a night at a bar, dining out, buying cigarettes or buying stuff from Galls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's... and paying for that training would be tax deductible.

    Some of the volunteer fire departments are nothing more than social clubs, with few members actually responding.

    A trained firefighter is a safer firefighter.. don't you agree?
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    LSU tried that last but the legislature would not approve the extra tax on the fire insurance premuims to fund it.

    They will teach hazmat Awareness, NFA and NIMS classes for free and will do some regional classes at no cost, but any of the FFI/FFII, tech rescue, Driver/Operator, etc classes are charged.

    In fact, last week they just up the cost of most of thier classes by $200.

    I'm sure the volunteer departments that rely on them for training are really happy about that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Why is having a minimum standard for training such a bad thing?

    Lets be realistic.. some departments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on "parade pieces" to be competitive with the neighboring FD. 65 hours of training @1500 is $23 per hour. Some people blow that amount of money in a night at a bar, dining out, buying cigarettes or buying stuff from Galls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's... and paying for that training would be tax deductible.

    Some of the volunteer fire departments are nothing more than social clubs, with few members actually responding.

    A trained firefighter is a safer firefighter.. don't you agree?
    All very valid points indeed. I see trouble with recruitment if the bill passes. I agree with the minimum training requirements, but you can't put that on a volunteer to pay for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Why is having a minimum standard for training such a bad thing?

    Lets be realistic.. some departments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on "parade pieces" to be competitive with the neighboring FD. 65 hours of training @1500 is $23 per hour. Some people blow that amount of money in a night at a bar, dining out, buying cigarettes or buying stuff from Galls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's... and paying for that training would be tax deductible.

    Some of the volunteer fire departments are nothing more than social clubs, with few members actually responding.

    A trained firefighter is a safer firefighter.. don't you agree?
    I am all for increasing training. Realistically though - 65 hours at a specific site in the state is a VERY big commitment for a volunteer to make. This is 8 8hr days requried at a site that is several hours drive time from parts of the state.

    Reasonableness says keep the requirements but don't mandate the location. Simply require state certified instructors with the state curriculum and utilize portable training trailers where needed. (hazmat, live fire, rescue etc). A regional approach would reduce travel times and encourage training.

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    Why is having a minimum standard for training such a bad thing?

    I have no issue with a reasonable minimum standard. In fact, I supported the 50-hour basic class as a minimum when it was proposed here a few years ago by the state firefighters association. Unfortunatly, though it was passed by the association, it never made it out of committee in the legislature.

    My last VFD had a basic 60-hour class that every new member ghad to take, in addition to also attending weekly department training, before they could ride. It worked quite well.

    We have minimum training standards for new members, though the delivery is a little less formal.

    My issue is the cost, which is unreasonable for a rural VFD and having to travel to one place in the state to take it, as that is simply impractical for volunteer personnel.

    How many volunteers can take almost 2 weeks of from work to travel to the academy? How many departments or volunteers can afford to stay at a motel and eat on the road for almost 2 weeks?

    Institute a train-the-trainer program through the state fire academy. Train volunteer personnel in each area of the state to deliver the course and train additional trainers so that it can be taught on a county or department level.

    That would be the practical way to deliver the program.

    It's not the class. It's the delivery that's impractical.

    Lets be realistic.. some departments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on "parade pieces" to be competitive with the neighboring FD. 65 hours of training @1500 is $23 per hour. Some people blow that amount of money in a night at a bar, dining out, buying cigarettes or buying stuff from Galls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's... and paying for that training would be tax deductible

    How much have you travelled through TN? I really don't think too many volunteer departments live like you describe.

    Pretty big generalization there bucko.

    Some of the volunteer fire departments are nothing more than social clubs, with few members actually responding

    Wow. Another broad generalization. Good thing you don't seem to have anything against volunteer fire departments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFNG View Post
    I am all for increasing training.
    Reasonableness says keep the requirements but don't mandate the location. Simply require state certified instructors with the state curriculum and utilize portable training trailers where needed. (hazmat, live fire, rescue etc). A regional approach would reduce travel times and encourage training.
    Basically our system right there. Everything is standardized throughout the state. Little things vary between instructors, but all the same material, and any department can have any class they want. All free of course to the firefighters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFNG View Post
    I am all for increasing training. Realistically though - 65 hours at a specific site in the state is a VERY big commitment for a volunteer to make. This is 8 8hr days requried at a site that is several hours drive time from parts of the state.

    Reasonableness says keep the requirements but don't mandate the location. Simply require state certified instructors with the state curriculum and utilize portable training trailers where needed. (hazmat, live fire, rescue etc). A regional approach would reduce travel times and encourage training.
    That would work. I could see a burn qualification day at the Academy site, as the training could be done under controlled conditions and under NFPA 1403 guidelines.

    Remember .. a politician thought this "having the training in one locations" thing up... perhaps at the request of the hotel/motel lobby?
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Why is having a minimum standard for training such a bad thing?

    A trained firefighter is a safer firefighter.. don't you agree?
    I have to agree with you Gonz.

    The minimum standard is not enough (in my opinion). But that is asking alot from some people, unfortunately.

    Before you even think about putting a new guy into a worker he better know what to expect, know how to protect himself, and know not to abandon his partner. He had better know what his is doing.

    We all hear about guys that join today and get the t-shirt that says "Firefighter" tomorrow.

    Those people are not firefighters; well they might be a t-shirt firefighter... but that is not a Firefighter.

    But still, to be a volunteer means you have to commit; to the department, the community, yourself, your team, your training, etc. If it comes with a cost... then it is part of the deal.

    I understand cash-strapped situations in departments or individuals.... but this is dangerous stuff and should not be taken lightly...

    It just isn't a hobby or like playing weekend warrior.

    And no, I am not picking on volunteers. I am merely talking about untrained volunteers. I have seen many, many, very good volunteers that are just as capable as career guys.




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    Posted by LA
    How much have you travelled through TN? I really don't think too many volunteer departments live like you describe.

    Pretty big generalization there bucko.
    Never been through Tennessee. There are wealthy VFDs and dirt poor VFDs everywhere.

    Wow. Another broad generalization. Good thing you don't seem to have anything against volunteer fire departments.
    I have nothing against VFDs, I'm not like you who is against career firefighters.

    You are entitled to your opinion... even if it is wrong.. which is the majority of the time....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Does anyone have any info on what prompted this legislation?
    Could be that someone in TN finally realized the volunteers were of minimal if any asset to public safety.

    The notion that there are folks who have nothing better to do than wait for their pagers to go off and go play hero is a naive concept at best.
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    Another classic case of a state mandate with no way to pay for it. Big Brother is looking out for you so you don't have to...

    There is nothing wrong with minimum standards, but it needs to be a local thing. If the citizens are not willing to pay the added cost then they are willing to accept what they get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    Could be that someone in TN finally realized the volunteers were of minimal if any asset to public safety.

    The notion that there are folks who have nothing better to do than wait for their pagers to go off and go play hero is a naive concept at best.
    Or maybe TN is trying to emulate CA and NY and ruin their states.

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    SC ..

    Nice shot at the 800,000 plus volunteers protecting over 60% of the country.

    Good thing this didn't turn into a vollie v. paid thread.

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    I have nothing against VFDs, I'm not like you who is against career firefighters.

    So saying that there are many communities that could utilize volunteers as a component of the department, reduce the number of career personnel, save money and still deliver the same quality of service is anti-volunteer?

    Yes, i beleive there are too many paid firefighters in this country and not enough money going into volunteer recruitment and retention.

    I guess I'm anti-career then.

    Now let's discuss the topic at hand and not get this thread shut down w/ vollie v. career.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    SC ..

    Nice shot at the 800,000 plus volunteers protecting over 60% of the country.

    Good thing this didn't turn into a vollie v. paid thread.
    Not exactly what I meant. What I am saying is if you cannot afford all the training then you go with what you have. This may mean in house training. But expecting every town to come up with $1,500 to send a guy to an academy is silly. We have departments around here that have a $6,000 or $7,000 budget for the whole year.

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    In NC the State provides free training for all public safety groups. All you have to do is show that you belong to such and such dept. be it fire, police or ems. The Community Colleges runs the classes at as directed by the State. The chief or the training office calls the college, request the classes that he wants and the college sends out an instructor. The only requirement that the college requires is at least 12 people attend the class. The State pays the college $50 a head. Works great here.
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    Not exactly what I meant. What I am saying is if you cannot afford all the training then you go with what you have. This may mean in house training. But expecting every town to come up with $1,500 to send a guy to an academy is silly. We have departments around here that have a $6,000 or $7,000 budget for the whole year

    I was referring to SC's shot over the bow at volunteers.

    But let's be honest here. That volunteer has to sleep someplace and get there, so we are looking at probably $2500 for that 65 hour class, without meals, which is probably another $50 bucks a day unless they are going to eat Whoppers for lunch and dinner.

    It's simply not affordable or practical.

    If the state wants to institute a program like this, fund the training of instructors. Fund the training of the instructors going around the state training the current department training staff to teach the program. provide the support materials as there will be hundreds of departments that will not even be able to afford them, much rather send even one member to Blue Bell or wherever the hell it is.

    The let the departments, or a small group of departments teach it in their own stations over 6 , 8 or 10 weeks.

    This idea makes no sense. None at all.

    And again, it's not against training, though I do have a few reservations against teaching a mandated curriculum, rather than giving the locals flexibility about what their local department needs. It's primarily about the way it's being delivered.

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    A few things need to be clarified about the article. One the 64 hr class does not cost $1500 dollars per man, its $50 per man taught by regional instructors at a sponsoring fire station. The only class that has to be taken at the academy is the 22 hr live burn whose total cost is $130 per man including food and lodging for the 2.5 days.
    My department (the only combination department in 3 counties) training officer is certified to teach the 64 hr class which we offer for it free to any department in our mutual aid association (10 counties). We have had firefighters from 6 other departments attend. My city and Kimball are both in rural areas on the outskirts of Chattanooga, there are 64 hr classes being taught both on weekends and weeknights with in reasonable driving distance. Google Kimball and you will find other issues the FD has had with the city council. Also note this law has been out for over 6 months. If time is a true constraint in TN then someone needs to tell Hamilton county (Chattanooga's county) they require all volunteers to take the 240 hr FF1 course which they have people waiting in the wings for.

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    A few things need to be clarified about the article. One the 64 hr class does not cost $1500 dollars per man, its $50 per man taught by regional instructors at a sponsoring fire station. The only class that has to be taken at the academy is the 22 hr live burn whose total cost is $130 per man including food and lodging for the 2.5 days.
    My department (the only combination department in 3 counties) training officer is certified to teach the 64 hr class which we offer for it free to any department in our mutual aid association (10 counties). We have had firefighters from 6 other departments attend. My city and Kimball are both in rural areas on the outskirts of Chattanooga, there are 64 hr classes being taught both on weekends and weeknights with in reasonable driving distance. Google Kimball and you will find other issues the FD has had with the city council. Also note this law has been out for over 6 months. If time is a true constraint in TN then someone needs to tell Hamilton county (Chattanooga's county) they require all volunteers to take the 240 hr FF1 course which they have people waiting in the wings for.


    Okay, much better.

    Any idea why the article was so far off-base?

    Sounds reasonable as long as it is being delivered locally at in small chunks at the hours the volunteers can attend.

    Can you tell me if this is the experience statewide, especially in the very rural areas? Are there enough instuctors? Are there enough classes in enough places?

    Are there any plans to be able to do the burn portion locally with approved facilitates and approved instructors to completely eliminate the need for volunteers to be away from home for almost 3 days, which to me, is still a significant issue?

    I still see the cost of the burn portion as an issue for very underfunded rural departments.

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    The biggest problem now is the live burn. The Academy is overbooked and regulations require a student attend a live burn with in 1 year of attending the 64 hr class. We now have people that can't get slots and may miss the 1 yr window. We were looking into doing the live burns in cooperation with Knoxville Rural/Metro but then asked the question would it meet the 22 hr class requirement, got no comment back from the state. The law was passed with good intentions but not thought through on all fronts. The opt out section will probably make some law firm a pretty penny. Note to conduct a live burn in TN requires special trained instructors (I think it is a minimum of 3) and completion of 18 pages of documentation. Also VFD's in TN are like everywhere else no rhyme or reason as to resources or dedication, with in our county department some are good and other are so ridiculous we will call the next county for mutual aid due to command and control issues with them.

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