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  1. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    If the news story in question revolved around a volunteer firefighter who was using the bay in the VFD firehouse to wash a boat, would there be as much controversy?
    The situation would be unchanged.
    #1: The guy who complained would still be ****ed off since this probably isn't about the boat (as illustrated in several posts above.
    #2: Most everyone else (on here, in the dept, most elsewhere) would see it as a non-issue.
    A lot of PR would be spent by #2 to undo the perception caused by #1.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    If the news story in question revolved around a volunteer firefighter who was using the bay in the VFD firehouse to wash a boat, would there be as much controversy?
    We have had a complaint when someone saw a member washing his car on the ramp behind the firehouse. It didn't make the news though...

    You are right, there are obvious differences in how the public perceives a career house and a volly house.

    It's probably also no coincidence that this story follows the story from a few weeks ago about raises the union negotiated.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Having read a majority of the post on this thread, it reminds me of the time a "concerned" citizen called saying that an ambulance was blocking the road she took to go home. I of course was the unfortunate person who she talked to. I tried numerous times that I could not come and get the ambulance since I was the only one at the station but it seemed to go over her head. Finally, I informed her to contact our communications if she wanted to register a complaint. I gave her the number, and politely hung up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    If the news story in question revolved around a volunteer firefighter who was using the bay in the VFD firehouse to wash a boat, would there be as much controversy?
    No! well at least not at our Dept. Heck free water and soap to wash your truck along with that free t-shirt and hat are all we get for all those long hours away from our families.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Was this guy who "complained" even a taxpayer in the City of Boston, or just another crapstirrer?
    Please do tell... inquiring minds want to know.
    How about not evading the question with hypotheticals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Are we going to allow John and Jane Q Public to dictate Department policy to us, whether it be using an empty bay or using lights and sirens on calls?
    I think there's a difference between response policy and allowing on-duty personnel the use of city property for activities that could potentially cause the department a public relations problem. Especially when said activities might demonstrate a level of income or comfort that John and Jane Q Public may not be able to afford or even dream about the way things are going.

    If you want to stay tone-deaf to the community, fine. But stop bitching about them when they send cellphone video of you doing so to the press, or vote down your bond referendums unless you're willing to curtail unnecessary actions and behaviors that only exacerbate the situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emt161 View Post
    I think there's a difference between response policy and allowing on-duty personnel the use of city property for activities that could potentially cause the department a public relations problem. Especially when said activities might demonstrate a level of income or comfort that John and Jane Q Public may not be able to afford or even dream about the way things are going.

    If you want to stay tone-deaf to the community, fine. But stop bitching about them when they send cellphone video of you doing so to the press, or vote down your bond referendums unless you're willing to curtail unnecessary actions and behaviors that only exacerbate the situation.
    Well put, and that's basically what I've been trying to say. But clearly it depends on the community and the department. I could have raised a stink over the Mayor stopping the daily visits to the store with the ladder truck, but it wasn't worth it. The next question would have been why they couldn't bring their food to work with them in the morning like most people do with their lunch. Not to mention the original problem which was people complaining that we were asking for millions to hire more personnel on the basis that we were getting killed with call volume and yet our crew somehow still found the time to show up at the grocery store every day at 4:00 pm. Weird how that ladder truck and its crew never seemed to be needed at 4:00 pm. I wasn't about to have a grocery store visit kill our hiring of more people, and that's what could have happened.

    In my old department it was definitely about money. A firefighter could easily make 6 figures with a little overtime, and this wasn't an expensive place to live either (average home price $170K). When people (very few who made over $50K) would read about those salaries in the paper, and then see our guys sitting out on benches and waving at girls or out back washing trucks, etc, you can imagine what that did to some of them. Yeah, it's jealousy and it's petty but you also need to be willing to deal with the consequences if you ignore the complaints.

    On a slightly related noted, I was just reading an online newspaper article from where I used to live and they had an article about how 8 firefighters might be laid off from the local fire department due to budget cuts. Rather than the "save our firefighters!" I was expecting to see in the comments I saw one that said, "Quit threatening it and just fire them! Nobody cares about lazy public servants with taxpayer-funded pensions!" And then a subsequent comment basically agreeing with the first, albeit in a nicer tone. A third comment said they didn't want to see firefighters lose their jobs, but there was no way they were paying more taxes to keep them. Depressing that these are the times we're living in.
    Last edited by roykirk1989; 06-20-2010 at 11:34 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Ken... the practice is allowed with the permission of the company officer.

    Are we going to allow John and Jane Q Public to dictate Department policy to us, whether it be using an empty bay or using lights and sirens on calls?
    Gonzo
    Above statement is ridiculous and I'm sure you know it. Yes the public will and should be involved in FD policies regarding use of public owned and maintained equipment. Its the old "Golden Rule" They who control the gold, will make the rules. Operations are governed by a large number of agencies, but use of public owned property should be under the auspices of the public. Washing a boat while duty or off is not part of any intended use of a fire station, unless said boat is also owend by the FD.

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    A policy regarding washing boats and cars or where firefighters are allowed to hang our around the station smoking or chatting is not about operations, but it is about public perception, and public relations.

    I don't think anyone is saying allow the public to dictate how you respond (though that Federal Q at 3AM on an empty road may be overkill), but we do need to consider public perception, especially in areas where there have been citizens showing hostility towards the department or the members.

    There is no doubt that part of it is the economy, but I think there is also an element that is watching how tax dollars are spent far more closely than they have been watched in the past. The fact is our downtime is not accepted by the public as it once was, and because of that, we need to take the downtime in areas where it is not visible to the public.

    It's really not that hard to say no more car washing or no more sitting in front of the station. In the long run, it may make a difference in terms of public relations.

    In our case, it was a simple as moving the smoking area to the side of the building and moving the car washing area out of the public view. Even though all of the car washing is done by volunteers or career members on their off time, taking it our of public view removes the perceptions.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-20-2010 at 02:11 PM.

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    We once had an elderly gentleman drive up on the ramp at the station, and he politely asked to have his car washed. Obviously he read the look of confusion on our faces and explained that he'd seen us wash our cars on the ramp, and the least we could do is wash his also since he lived in our response district.

    Wadda ya do?

    We washed the guys car for him. Was it right or wrong? Who knows - sure, maybe we ran the risk of setting a precedent that we'd wash everyone's car that asked. Maybe he wanted to prove a point. Nevertheless, he was thankful for what we did, has never come back to see us, and our Sunday afternoon was interrupted for a whole 30 minutes.

    It was certainly a not-so-subtle reminder to us that sometimes perception is reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    If the news story in question revolved around a volunteer firefighter who was using the bay in the VFD firehouse to wash a boat, would there be as much controversy?
    That would depend on whether the department was public or private. We have departments around here that are owned by the membership.

    Ethics rules are put in place for a reason. Public officials are held to the highest standards. This is done to even avoid the impression of corruption or misuse of power. Federal and State employees are prevented from receiving gifts of more than $25.

    As a public employee you have to answer to the public.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roykirk1989 View Post
    Well put, and that's basically what I've been trying to say. But clearly it depends on the community and the department. I could have raised a stink over the Mayor stopping the daily visits to the store with the ladder truck, but it wasn't worth it. The next question would have been why they couldn't bring their food to work with them in the morning like most people do with their lunch. Not to mention the original problem which was people complaining that we were asking for millions to hire more personnel on the basis that we were getting killed with call volume and yet our crew somehow still found the time to show up at the grocery store every day at 4:00 pm. Weird how that ladder truck and its crew never seemed to be needed at 4:00 pm. I wasn't about to have a grocery store visit kill our hiring of more people, and that's what could have happened.

    In my old department it was definitely about money. A firefighter could easily make 6 figures with a little overtime, and this wasn't an expensive place to live either (average home price $170K). When people (very few who made over $50K) would read about those salaries in the paper, and then see our guys sitting out on benches and waving at girls or out back washing trucks, etc, you can imagine what that did to some of them. Yeah, it's jealousy and it's petty but you also need to be willing to deal with the consequences if you ignore the complaints.

    On a slightly related noted, I was just reading an online newspaper article from where I used to live and they had an article about how 8 firefighters might be laid off from the local fire department due to budget cuts. Rather than the "save our firefighters!" I was expecting to see in the comments I saw one that said, "Quit threatening it and just fire them! Nobody cares about lazy public servants with taxpayer-funded pensions!" And then a subsequent comment basically agreeing with the first, albeit in a nicer tone. A third comment said they didn't want to see firefighters lose their jobs, but there was no way they were paying more taxes to keep them. Depressing that these are the times we're living in.

    We have a local department that is experiencing the same thing. The send a truck to every EMS call in the city to assist the Ambulance service. The residents are saying they should drop the whole EMS thing because all they do is stand around and watch the Ambulance guys.

    But ask this question - What would happen if the snow plow driver plowed his own driveway with the city truck?

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    I find it amazing that people try to justify this boat washing incident and others like it.

    I am an auto mechanic. If I were to pull my POV into the shop and work on it while 'on the clock' I would be disrespecting my employer(the one who pays my wages) and would likely lose my job. If my employer chose to allow me to do so it would be no one elses business.

    Paid firefighters are public employees. Meaning the public is their employer (the ones who pay their wages). It is no less disrespectful in this case to use public facilities instead of private for personal use while 'on the clock'.

    Was everything in the firehouse, apparatus bay etc spotlessly clean?

    Did the firefighter know all there is to know about his duties? And if he did, were there others he could be training?

    The public has every right to be outraged at things like this. No, the public shouldn't dictate department policy, but they should demand accountability. There is so much waste and misuse of public resources nowdays that people have every right to be ****ed. Public employees should be aware of this by now.

    Appreciate what you have and don't abuse it. Lose the entitlement mentality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    That would depend on whether the department was public or private. We have departments around here that are owned by the membership.
    Our volunteer department is both public and private. The fire hall (used for meetings and training as well as social events) is ran by the volunteers and funded by donations. The Fire District uses the same building, has elected board members, and houses all apparatus and equipment and is taxpayer funded. Only the fire hall, not the apparatus bays, is available for personal use. ANYpersonal use of district property is strictly forbidden. The only exception is that the duty officer may use the utility vehicle for personal use as long as they remain in the district and are ready to respond at all times.
    Last edited by Blulakr; 06-21-2010 at 12:51 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    Our volunteer department is both public and private. The fire hall (used for meetings and training as well as social events) is ran by the volunteers and funded by donations. The Fire District uses the same building, has elected board members, and houses all apparatus and equipment and is taxpayer funded. Only the fire hall, not the apparatus bays, is available for personal use. ANYpersonal use of district property is strictly forbidden. The only exception is that the duty officer may use the utility vehicle for personal use as long as they remain in the district and are ready to respond at all times.
    Good thing We wash our personal vehicles and boats outside on the apron.
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    I washed my personal vehicle as a volunteer and a career ff. I think I have every right to be outraged that the public, who generally doesn't give a poo about what we do or who we are, only pipes up when they see something we are doing that they don't like. I don't know that I would have washed a boat, at least with the door open, but I think there is more to the person being upset than the boat (i.e. pay raise). And I'm sorry, but having worked 24 hour shifts (unlike a lot that are obviously posting), I think it is a little extreme to make someone arrive at work and train/clean for 16 hours straight and then go to bed. Or are you against sleeping on shift too? You are right though, lets take all the garden hoses, kitchens, TV's, and beds out of the firehouses as they are waisting tax dollars. They are obviously abusing pride and morale too. Dump that. Entitlement? Sounds to me that someone is bitter, uneducated, or both.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    Was everything in the firehouse, apparatus bay etc spotlessly clean?

    Did the firefighter know all there is to know about his duties? And if he did, were there others he could be training?
    One of the things I try to keep in mind when I read this is that only those who've worked for a career department understand what it's like to be in the firehouse for 24 hours at a time for sometimes 240 hours a month or more.

    Even after I rest for 6 hours, do PT for an hour, allow 2 hours for the day's three meals (cooking/eating/cleaning), spend an hour doing admin stuff, an hour on house chores and washing the engine and medic, 1.5 hours doing pre-plans/walk-throughs/inspections, and let's say four hours on calls (if on the engine, upwards of 10 if on the medic), I'm still left with 7.5 hours of "down time".

    According to a lot of people, both in the public and on these forums, I have no right during those 7-or-so hours to be doing anything but reading my IFSTA manual, browsing the latest copy of Fire Engineering (or Firehouse, of course), browsing trade-based websites, teaching a class to the shift, or doing some other activity directly based around the fire service. Since my brain is so big, as soon as I've finished one of these activities, I should go right into the next....can't lose that momentum, ya know!

    Yes, I've washed my car at work. And in fact, I'll probably to it tomorrow after dinner too. I'll use my own suds and bucket, but will borrow the county's water and hose - both of which are permitted by our SOPs.

    We have the public in and out of our station all day doing recycling and they see us doing this stuff. I think if it was that much of an issue, we wouldn't have gotten bond referendums for five new fire stations passed with a 89% voter approval rate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    We once had an elderly gentleman drive up on the ramp at the station, and he politely asked to have his car washed. Obviously he read the look of confusion on our faces and explained that he'd seen us wash our cars on the ramp, and the least we could do is wash his also since he lived in our response district.

    Wadda ya do?

    We washed the guys car for him. Was it right or wrong? Who knows - sure, maybe we ran the risk of setting a precedent that we'd wash everyone's car that asked. Maybe he wanted to prove a point. Nevertheless, he was thankful for what we did, has never come back to see us, and our Sunday afternoon was interrupted for a whole 30 minutes.

    It was certainly a not-so-subtle reminder to us that sometimes perception is reality.
    We had this happen once at my old department as well. In our case it was a young guy showing up obviously intent on making a point. He demanded we wash his car because he had seen our firefighters washing their vehicles while on duty. Our BC got rid of him by telling him that we brought our own soap and mitts when we washed our vehicles (not exactly true...okay, actually a bold faced lie) and that if he had both we'd be happy to wash his car. If he'd returned with soap and a mitt we would have been screwed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    One of the things I try to keep in mind when I read this is that only those who've worked for a career department understand what it's like to be in the firehouse for 24 hours at a time for sometimes 240 hours a month or more.
    Not true. Our district has a duty officer at all times. Being an officer I regulairly pull 72+ hour duty, for free. I'm not saying it's the same, but I get a good taste of what it's like.

    I don't think I'm being unrealistic. There will always be the need to take care of essential personal business while at work. Especially for extended periods. Sorry, washing your POV isn't essential. Not only that, it just looks bad.

    You mentioned inspections, pre-planning etc. So you are obviously not required to be "in the firehouse for 24 hrs at a time". What about teaching fire and life safety at local schools? Hosting first aid\cpr classes at the firehouse? You could do these things and be able to respond to calls as well. If you have the time and energy to wash your POV, you certainly can do some of these things instead.

    You should appreciate the public that passed those bond measures and use their money wisely and appropriately or it may not be there next time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    Not true. Our district has a duty officer at all times. Being an officer I regulairly pull 72+ hour duty, for free. I'm not saying it's the same, but I get a good taste of what it's like.
    I too volunteer, and being in the volunteer station and at work are just two completely different things. Not better or worse, just different.

    I don't think I'm being unrealistic. There will always be the need to take care of essential personal business while at work. Especially for extended periods. Sorry, washing your POV isn't essential. Not only that, it just looks bad.
    No, it's not essential. No one on my shift makes a regular habit of doing it, maybe once a month. Everyone on my shift it aware of my expectation of professionalism and public perception. I simply don't feel that washing the car every few weeks is something that I'm going to fuss over as long as I have a shift that performs solidly on the fireground.

    You mentioned inspections, pre-planning etc. So you are obviously not required to be "in the firehouse for 24 hrs at a time". What about teaching fire and life safety at local schools? Hosting first aid\cpr classes at the firehouse? You could do these things and be able to respond to calls as well. If you have the time and energy to wash your POV, you certainly can do some of these things instead.
    That's what we have a section of our fire marshal's office assigned to do. Putting a CPR class on hold every time the engine and/or medic catch a call doesn't make for a very conducive learning environment, unfortunately. The FMO folks are very good at their presentations and work very closely with the administration of the 70 public schools and countless private schools in our locality.

    You should appreciate the public that passed those bond measures and use their money wisely and appropriately or it may not be there next time.
    We must be doing something right. It was 89% approval rate in 2000 and 92% in 2005.
    Last edited by BoxAlarm187; 06-21-2010 at 03:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post


    I simply don't feel that washing the car every few weeks is something that I'm going to fuss over as long as I have a shift that performs solidly on the fireground.......



    ...............The FMO folks are very good at their presentations and work very closely with the administration of the 70 public schools and countless private schools in our locality.



    .
    Washing POV's is just one glaring example. My point is there are much better things that can be done on 'down time'. If it would not likely be allowed in a private business, why is it ok for a public employee?

    Going to schools and CPR classes etc were just the first things I came up with. Believe me, a private employer would find something constructive for you to do and there would be no 'down time' so that he gets the most for his $$$. Why should taxpayers have to settle for less?

    Why couldn't you coordinate with the FMO and use firefighter down time to assist with public school programs? You could achieve similiar results with less cost.

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    I think a department should be free to allow the washing of personal vehicles as they see fit. Many employers both public and private allow theses sort of perks. They cost little money and can be good for morale. Making the argument that just beacause we are paid by taxpayers means we shouldn't get perks is as ridicuolus as is thinking just because we get to wash a car in the firehouse all taxpayers should. When I was in the military we were able to fly all over the world on military transport provided there was room. It was a perk that cost the government little but helped the morale of the members. By the logic of a few in this forum that process should be discontinued or all citizens of this country should be able to fly on military transport at no cost if there is room. Allowing small perks can be an effective tool to help off set what in many places are low wages etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    Why couldn't you coordinate with the FMO and use firefighter down time to assist with public school programs? You could achieve similiar results with less cost.
    If you can predict when the calls are going to come in, and schedule all of those calls, our training, inspections, pre-plans, and admin work outside of school hours, I'm sure we'd be able to run over to the school and give them a hand.

    We're budgeted to have "X" number of members assigned to the FMO to handle tasks like that. That's their assignment. We put the fires out and pick up the sick people. We don't mind helping each other out when needed, but they're distinctly different jobs, and money isn't driving that.

    We better agree to disagree. There is no private sector job that is like the fire service, and holding a person who's assigned to a work location for 24 hours versus 8 or 12 to the same standard is difficult at best. I mean this in all sincerity: if you'd like to come do a tour or two with my shift and see what it's like, I'd welcome you anytime.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    Not true. Our district has a duty officer at all times. Being an officer I regulairly pull 72+ hour duty, for free. I'm not saying it's the same, but I get a good taste of what it's like.

    I don't think I'm being unrealistic. There will always be the need to take care of essential personal business while at work. Especially for extended periods. Sorry, washing your POV isn't essential. Not only that, it just looks bad.

    You mentioned inspections, pre-planning etc. So you are obviously not required to be "in the firehouse for 24 hrs at a time". What about teaching fire and life safety at local schools? Hosting first aid\cpr classes at the firehouse? You could do these things and be able to respond to calls as well. If you have the time and energy to wash your POV, you certainly can do some of these things instead.

    You should appreciate the public that passed those bond measures and use their money wisely and appropriately or it may not be there next time.
    You pull 72 hours straight at the fire house? As a volunteer? More power brother, thats nuts...... Have you ever been in the EMS world? On an Ambulance?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtg55 View Post
    You pull 72 hours straight at the fire house? As a volunteer? More power brother, thats nuts...... Have you ever been in the EMS world? On an Ambulance?
    While on duty we don't stay at the firehouse. There are no living quarters there (yet). We take the command vehicle home. We must remain in the district and ready to respond at all times. Since I can't go anywhere while on duty I usually spend most of my time at the firehouse preparing for drills, performing vehicle maintanance, etc.

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