1. #26
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    We took over seven cities during my career. The savings were typically in the elimination of middle and upper management and some of the support staff.

    There were indirect cost savings to the city in that there were costs for HR issues (hiring, firing, representation), mechanics, payroll, and workers comp. The price to the city was all inclusive.

    None of the cities we took over in that time frame had more than three stations.

    I don't know if that model would work anywhere else. But it did seem to work in OC.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    We took over seven cities during my career. The savings were typically in the elimination of middle and upper management and some of the support staff.

    There were indirect cost savings to the city in that there were costs for HR issues (hiring, firing, representation), mechanics, payroll, and workers comp. The price to the city was all inclusive.

    None of the cities we took over in that time frame had more than three stations.

    I don't know if that model would work anywhere else. But it did seem to work in OC.
    The trick is that in all likelhood, all the savings were in labor.

    in a situation where a number of volunteer departments consolidated, labor would be a significant additional cost as it's unlikely that the new department could still be effectively managed by volunteers. As Knight stated, any limited savings in duplicate apparatus or bulk purchases would likely be eaten up, and then some, by the newly required command, training administrative and operational staff.

    Completely different models when discussing a career-career or volunteer-volunteer consolidation.

    Of course the real issues come when it's a career-volunteer consolidation.

  3. #28
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    Knight is one he11 of an act to Follow. And he's Right. We have 38 independent Volunteer Corporations operating 45 Fire/Rescue Stations in a County and approximately 30 Municipalities in that County. And we operate seamlessly like one County Wide Department, and we've done it that way for many, many, years. IT'S ALL ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER. The same thing can be said for almost the entire State of Maryland. Fire Apparatus and EMS is Dispatched by a Countywide FIRE Dispatch Center, one in each County. BY LAW, 911 is the only number to call in an Emergency, and each County gets the calls that originate in their area. All EMS is "Fire Based" even though there are some Volunteer Ambulance/Rescue organizations in seperate stations. When you need help, you get it. 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, and a Heavy Rescue Squad is the Normal assignment for a Structure Fire in my County. That assignment comes from those Stations that are closest to the Emergency, regardless of any Political Boundaries. Town, County, even State lines are meaningless, you need help, you get the closest help. We have a System that works well for us because we want it to. Many Years of work with the State Legislature has resulted in Maryland being a very "Firefighter Friendly" State..... And we like it that way.
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  4. #29
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    Thank you Harve... you are too kind sir. You have been known to raise the bar from time to time and establish new standards yourself.

    @SC: The suggested merging or taking over of small full-time town departments is entirely a different matter. This model can effectivily reduce costs by the elimination of duplicity. You have my support on these... and in light of the fact that many can't get their act together, this is where you need to throw out the baby, the washtub, but keep the water, it is still valuable.

    I stated before, I never back up so see my first post on this. I have lived through these and the only winner or loser that counts is the public. Everything else is just noise.

    But as I and other have stated... there is alot of that pride and fiefdom going on. Use some common sense here. If you're going to call yourself a fire department, then act like it. The Mission comes first. What we want for ourselves should be way down on the list of priorities. The only race is with ourselves, not each other, but I have seen departments that race each other to the fire.... since the first due will be in charge.
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    I agree with most everything Paladin Knight has posted. What I have heard from fire service vendors is that many of the consolidations have not turned out as hoped. Problems arose. For many volunteer departments, the problem is trying to keep up with all the codes and regulations. Trying to solve that be consolidating does nothing to change the problem and when they try, they realize that somebody is going to have to end up paying more for their fire protection. And that usually ends up being the one that got eliminated. I have been told that very often that creates hard feelings afterwards.

    Someone mentioned what happens when schools consolidate and we know how that is working out for us.

    But back to keeping up with the state and federal demands. We have known for a while that there was going to be a breaking point where fire departments where not going to be able to afford to keep up. The affordability factor. State and Federal agencies each want to impress upon everyone that their reason to exist is more important than the other agencies. The important part of that is that was pointed out is that it isn't one department trying to 'keep up with the Joneses department'. Its one regulatory agency trying to jump ahead of another regulatory agency which passes that regulation down to the end of the line. Which is the local government or fire department.

    These agencies have got to stop. I mean it. How much more safe can a fire apparatus be? Pretty soon we are gonna have apparatus that when break down to cost per call or cost per resident that are going to become unafforable just because of the required codes.

    Every firefighter in the nation is going to be required to have FF1, FF2,FF3,4,5,6, and so on just to be able to touch a hose. And each one of those requirements costs money. AFG for 2010 didn't ask what your plans were for your department to reach NFPA 1001 FF1, in one year they wanted to know about your plans for every member to reach FF2.

    This is done without real logic behind it. they forget there are other state and federal and insurance requirements that have to be met and nothing, I mean nothing is being done to address this.

    Consolidation? Why, it usually turns out bad for a government to charge a neighboring one for its fire protection, but the problem all stems back to government agencies being out of control.

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    Paladin Knight is mostly right,

    But the real problem is that there are so many government agencies that are flooding the fire service with all these new regulations and codes and each one of them wants to impress on the departments that they are the most important one to be paid attention to first. And meeting each one costs money. Each and every one.

    This is why departments and local governments are going broke. We are powerless to stem the flood of them and they keep piling on so what do the departments and their governments do? They get in a panic and begin to think that consolidating with a larger or a smaller department will solve the problem. It doesn't, it often makes it worse for one of them. Everyone has to pay for their fire protection and some consolidations end up costing more for one of them.

    So in my opinion, it would be better if the government began to ease off. Stop these sub agencies from piling on. Tell NIMS to freeze its requirements is an example. (They promised their requirements wouldnt change and they did).

    FEMA must begin to listen and cooperate instead of only regulating. NFPA and USFA and CFSI and the other also.

    The problem isnt just them. It is us once in a while,. but nobody can deny that they are unrealistic and definately 'out of control'.

  7. #32
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    Consolidation can work if it is mutually agreeable and benefits the customers of both parties. Our department was two separate small Island departments that were both struggling to keep up with recruiting members and buying equipment.

    The boards of both presented a plan for merging them 20 years ago. It took a couple years to work out the details and complete the merger. much of the time was working out the legal corporate paperwork getting the filings done.

    In the 18 years since we have become a well rounded financially sound department , with good equipment and enough members to get the job done. It take a lot of work to do it right and the public needs to be behind the consolidation efforts.
    We have a couple of us that have been fairly successful at grant writing efforts from AFG, Safer, & corporate grant programs. This has allowed us to update all of our safety equipment , PPE , packs and communications gear, in addition to getting us cutting edge EMS equipment .
    We have great support from the combined community who came out to our annual yard sale & auction last weekend to help us raise over $35k in two days. Thats a BIG piece of our operating budget.

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    I think perhaps we have to define the level of "consolidation" that we're talking about. After reading some of the answers to this thread, it seems like maybe the conclusion to be made is not that "Consolidation works for some and not others," but rather "Consolidation can work in any case, to a degree.

    PaladinKnight has touched on the heart of the issue, IMO-- and as usually applies to government, it's money. Money provides both the enticement (however false that may be) and the obstacle to fire department efficiency. In order to [B]completely[B] consolidate several fire departments, financial consolidation has to occur, which causes a severe complication in two ways: some cities/towns would end up paying more for fire protection, and some full-time firefighters (as part of combo departments) would take a pay cut.

    The consolidation that I see as being most efficient is not a consolidation of departments, per se, but a combination of services. One example of this would be to take an honest look at how many apparatus a particular dept. can staff. Your department can have as many apparatus as they want, but the central communications will only dispatch those that you notify them will be able to make it out the door.

  9. #34
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    Thanks jam24u.

    @moose88: Thanks, let me see if I can expand a bit and help you out. I think you might be hitting the target, but not the center just yet.

    islandfire03: I am a familiar with what you guys went through. But yours was a merger not a consolidation with a new operator. That is what I am really talking about here.

    But if you were there when your agency went through the process, it took a long while, and it did come with a cost in terms of money, hurt feelings and the elimination of roles that some people worked in. Those are the very things I speak of. Yours has been successful in terms of building a final product while increasing the level of service.

    I was just finishing my first 20 year career when your agency emerged from the Darkness. There were others that watched what you did around the region that did it the other way... a lot of arm twisting and bloodshed. The fall-out of many of those is on-going still today. I did some TA work for one of your neighbors a few years ago and the anger was still quite previlent in the thinking. I'm sure you still see some of it if you get around some. The bad stuff and resentment is handed down to the new members much like we pass our history to future generations.

    But as I said in regards to your own situation, it was one of the ones that was planned by all parties, and the players never forgot who they served, for the most part. But isn't that what we are talking about, the public?

    In our haste to "protect the public", many of these consolidations are ill conceived. They are advertised to be in the public good, but when you clear away the smoke, you find it was nothing but a political power play. There were very few winners and a lot of losers. The public many times lost in terms of taxes, fees and service. The actual cost of doing business went up, not down as promised. The service that once was a mixed bag with a few better than others, became lopsided in many ways as the more populated areas had better service than the rural areas. All you have to do is look at where the money is, and that will define where your friends are in terms of the payback.

    There is a county in the midwest where there was a complete overthrow of all of the volunteer departments about 10 years ago by the County. What replaced them was nothing more than a bunch of political favors, Chiefs appointed who had no background in Fire or EMS. Volunteerism plummented and the project lanquashed. Property loss and lives lost increased due to increases in response times; stations responding from up to 3 times the former distances. The cost of operating the project escalated and consumed 20% of the county budget alone, before any bridge or road was ever touched. This was due to supporting the now padded salaries of a very few. Funny thing, no new equipment was ever purchased, with the old seized equipment still in use or parked. People became outspoken and the pressure mounted.

    Fast forward a few years and you see the complete reversal of the project. New blood was elected into the positions that turned it around. They decided they didn't want to be in the fire business after all and pushed to privatize it again. Within the new charters and resolutions was also the full support of the State. All of the districts became protected territories and special districts, with their own home rule. To further protect themselves the locals incorporated their townships or communities adding an extra layer of shielding and their own voice. They know who they are; I see many of their guys within these forums. I had the priviledge of working on the TA team that engineered the Charters and Resolutions.

    Today, this area is one of the most progressive and functional models of success. Every district is volunteer, operating out of multiple stations with modern equipment. The districts have one of the best mutual-aid systems I have ever seen. They pool their resources in training and equipment standardization and collectively establish the benchmarks where they want to go. With their massive purchasing power, everyone wants to talk to their equipment committee. That is success. It is the model of cooperation. But it came with a huge cost, and still found its way out of the darkness when progress failed. It came down to people that just decided to do the right thing rather than doing their own thing. There are no bitter rivalries or bad blood because they were all born of the same cloth... but aren't we all anyway?

    I recently went to a large (NW State) District to perform some hydrology and TA work. They were in the middle of selecting a new Chief so I was dealing with the Board members and junior officers. The Interim Chief (Asst Chief) didn't have time to work with me since he had more important things to do... like "operating the dept"... his words. He expected to be named the new Chief within days. He wasn't. The reason? Everyone around him saw only a guy that believed he was entitled... it was his turn. The board hired a guy from another district that brought new blood and ideas with him. A salary of $60,000 does strange things to people in charge of combination or volunteer depts. This district was already the survivor of consolidation, and they are trying very hard to do it right. If they weren't trying, they would have not hired me to help them. It is people within the organization that are holding the train at the station. The new Chief and I have continued to discuss the project plan that I developed because he gets it. His bosses paid for it, and it is his job to make it work. It isn't about him... or me... but rather the people they serve. The interim? Oh he quit after his meltdown and temper-tantrum. Typical isn't it? I expect to see great things at that department because the new chief has brought a sense of excitement and adventure back to the members.

    Again, I say we are our own worst enemy. We fight over the dumbest stuff. Rather than focusing on delivering service we aim at each other. We let our egos take over and push our common sense out the door. What does that solve? When the public or local government gets tired of the playground activites, we begin to point the finger at each other, making the situation worse. Then when we are theatened with extinction, we join forces out of survival because a new common enemy now has emerged to eradicate us; Consolidation with new management. We lose, the public loses... But wasn't the public already the loser anyway?


    Many times the only way we find our way back to common ground is when we have the ability to accept the fact that we need each other and we are all the same. We all put our gear on the same way, some better than others, but the end result is mostly the same.



    I talk to a lot of fire department officers and boards throughout each year. I try to make them focus on mitagation and management. I preach the message you are only as good as your weakest link, so that is where we start to improve. Where is this in your fire department? Training. funding, both? How do we change it?

    My message is clear, if you're not progressive and open-minded, you become stagnant. If you don't allow your members to become the best they can be, you're operating a regime of regression. If you do not keep the mission of protecting the public as your reason to exist, then your ego is your driving force. If this describes your fire department, do your customers a favor and quit and let someone else take over. You are doomed anyway so save us the time.

    I have been challenged many times during my speeches because of my words... and these people cannot help but reveal themselves. This is the stark reality of human nature. Some ego-burdened guy works his way into the Chief or Administrator job and begins exercising Thumb Rule. You know this guy, he keeps his thumb on everyone and everything. Nothing gets by him and nothing changes unless he allows it. He holds back his people because while he is not motivated to preach a message, he doesn't want them to hear a message either. Progress stops. The purpose of the fire department is not to protect the public but to feed this ego. "I am the most important Sob around.... come bow at my feet."

    This is fiefdom or the little dynasty of repression. Where does this lead to... Regime Change. Eventually the subjects get tired and toss the bum out with they guy hollering that they do not have the right to overthrow the leader. I was one of those guys that held the tar jar once. You treat people the way you want to be treated and you reduce the pain. The ones that do not play well with others you cull out. When we ignore the reality, someone else will come in and clean up our mess and that will lead to our extintion. Consolidation.

    I never stated that all consolidation was a bad thing. Sometimes it is the only course. All I am saying is we have a choice. As long as we do this for the right reason, we are closer to doing it right than wrong. If we don't take ourselves more serious than we should, we might not be lying to ourself. But we must cooperate if we want to get this right. So just get along with your neighbor and get over the crap.

    One of the rewards of having done all of the jobs I ever wanted to do in my life, is I have nothing left to prove. Nothing that I do today is for me. I no longer have a dog in the hunt. The public's dog is still in the running and that is where I put my money. My focus is on how do we serve our customers best. That is my job. I don't pull my punches or words. I have been yelled down and told to leave a station because when the truth hits home, it hurts. I can't blame them, its human nature to want to ignore the ugly side of who we are. I doesn't affect me, why should it. I am merely the messenger and have nothing to lose or gain from the work I do. The paycheck is just a paycheck and not my motivation. The public is all the motivation that I need. They are caught in the middle and trust us to do it right.

    So here is my final words of wisdom on this subject.

    1. If you know everything, quit now. You're done, used up and have nothing left to give. You have outlived your usefulness and drag the rest of us down.

    2. If you think you are the most important person in your organization, watch your back. I advise you to resign immediately before the servants hunt you down and run you out of town. See above.

    3. If you do not have the desire to learn, embrace new ideas or allow your people to spread their wings and use their natural God-given talents, you are a tyrant. See number #1 again.

    4. If you no longer believe in what we do... do everyone a favor and just walk away.

    Anyone eliminated in the first 4 points can now exit since everything that I have to say past this does not apply to you... you have no hope if there is no burning desire. You are still welcome to read on since I might yet save you my friend.

    5. If you wake up each morning, worry about your customers, your fleet, your people, and your budget...

    If you are consumed with trying to solve the many issues that we face daily....

    if you don't eat right, don't sleep right, and spend alot of time fretting over the helpless feeling that the department doesn't have everything it needs to do the job...

    If you worry about your needs last and insist on everyone else being taken care of first...

    You are the guy that will not quit until you get it right.

    You should not have an inner circle of a few. Expand it to include every member on the team. Talk to them, let them help you solve it. Listen to what others that have been there are saying. Look at what others have done. Your job is not to reinvent the wheel... you just have to use it the best way that works for your customers.

    But more important than anything else, stay true to your convictions. Never betray the public trust or your team. It is fine to be firm, but also be compassionate. Extend your hand to your neighbor and offer to help them as you ask for their help.

    Remember, it isn't my dog anymore.... but it might be yours.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

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    Well written Paladin. I'll admit I have nowhere near your level of experience. I try to look at it from the bottom level fireman's point of view. In fact, I think what happens a lot of times in this kind of situation is that new members join with hopes of achieving what you've written about in terms of serving the public, and trying to be the best you can be in your role. However, I think they are quickly turned away by the bad issues that you've cited, primarily politics. There's no doubt that part of the fire service is politics, but like you imply, if we're overcome with politics then we're through.

    I like the sound of the "Cooperative." I'd actually be interested in hearing that whole story. I think that's what I was getting at earlier. However, it's hard for me personally to imagine a system such as that, simply for the fact that where I'm at cooperation only extends so far before there are concerns over money. That's not to say there's no cooperation between departments, but just that, quite simply, there's not a snowball's chance in hell of all the departments pitching in to assist one department with buying a sorely needed piece of apparatus.

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    We have several examples in our county where a fire district (as a distinct municipal entity) covers several fire departments. That means that one entity collects and doles out the tax money for all of the departments in its district.

    Ours was the most recent to do that. A village, a small fire district, the town (in the form of a "fire protection district" - essentially a special assessment district like a sewer or water district), and the two fire departments rolled everything up in to one. The two departments still operate independently, but the district owns pretty much everything. All taxpayers pay at the same tax rate for fire protection. Before there were three different tax rates.

    Both fire departments still do some fund-raising, but it's not essential to the operation - it's for "bells and whistles."

    There were discussions of merging the two fire departments - that didn't go so well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by moose88 View Post
    That's not to say there's no cooperation between departments, but just that, quite simply, there's not a snowball's chance in hell of all the departments pitching in to assist one department with buying a sorely needed piece of apparatus.
    One of issues here is that there are many types of local government. In my state the county level is very weak and literally only provides services that each community cannot sustain on it's own: airport, courts, sheriff's dept, records dept, consolidated dispatch services, etc. This makes every recognized town and city it's own fiefdom with little mandate to share costs. In other places, such as MD and areas, the county seems to be a very strong governmental body with responsibility to provide services. Add in places where fire districts are yet another entity separate of typical municipal boundaries and the number of fiefdoms only increases. Few places consider regionalization of any sort (merger or consolidation) until there's a significant issue, service levels or money. Sadly, the latter is the one that really drives most efforts and seems to be the least realistic as a quick fix.

    As you noted, most FD's could not/would not help buy a neighboring FD a truck, but very often they will loan apparatus or otherwise arrange coverage. When money changes hands over fixed boundaries, many people start to micromanage the process, loaning is usually "off the books". My FD basically has one more engine than we can staff. Almost every FD in the county has at least one or two more apparatus than they can staff, yet we all continue to keep them as "spares" which are necessary to keep operating. A shared "spare" pool would free up apparatus bays, and reduce the number of rolling stock to be maintained and trained on, significantly. But with the individual fiefdoms, even a simple start to basic resource sharing such as this is a daunting task. We tried a similar resource sharing with a class B foam trailer to save 19 FD's from adding undersized B foam tanks and systems to their apparatus, to no avail. To date probably not one FD in our county has the capability to fight more than a simple tractor trailer fuel spill, while playing host to many fleets of fuel delivery vehicles for gasoline, diesel and home heating oil.

  13. #38
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    Paladin: Truer words have never been spoken.

    WE ALL need to remember why we are here :
    To serve our customers to the very best of our abilities. They are the reason for what we do.
    To bring everyone one of our crewdogs home safe to their families.
    To inspire the younger members to be the best they can be.

    Time to end the fiefdoms and the private good ole boys clubs, Time to bring the public support behind us ,instead of constantly being at odds with the taxpayers that spend their hard earned money to pay for us..

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    Quote Originally Posted by jam24u View Post
    Paladin Knight is mostly right,

    But the real problem is that there are so many government agencies that are flooding the fire service with all these new regulations and codes and each one of them wants to impress on the departments that they are the most important one to be paid attention to first. And meeting each one costs money. Each and every one.

    This is why departments and local governments are going broke. We are powerless to stem the flood of them and they keep piling on so what do the departments and their governments do? They get in a panic and begin to think that consolidating with a larger or a smaller department will solve the problem. It doesn't, it often makes it worse for one of them. Everyone has to pay for their fire protection and some consolidations end up costing more for one of them.

    So in my opinion, it would be better if the government began to ease off. Stop these sub agencies from piling on. Tell NIMS to freeze its requirements is an example. (They promised their requirements wouldnt change and they did).

    FEMA must begin to listen and cooperate instead of only regulating. NFPA and USFA and CFSI and the other also.

    The problem isnt just them. It is us once in a while,. but nobody can deny that they are unrealistic and definately 'out of control'.
    Or tell the Feds to stick it where the sun don't shine. But there are WAY too many Sheep for that to ever happen. Out of Control may well be the UNDERSTATEMENT of the year. T.C.

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    As has been said already, departments don't have to make the leap into consolidation in order to cooperate on providing the best service they can. It does involve the organization's leadership being willing to let go of some control. Consolidation is usually the way to FORCE cooperation and as such requires administrative enforcement.

    The way the county departments in MD/VA makes a lot of sense. They cooperate at the county level on a great many things that make sense to manager at that level while still managing their individual fire company. With this setup you can have the benefits of consistent equipment, training..etc while still maintain company pride.. It also reduces the amount of administrative overhead..

    For us we're midway between individual fiefdoms and a county department, and trending more centralized every year. County communications/radios, unit numbering and mutual aid. Still a lot of work to do with training and response grid assignments.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    Or tell the Feds to stick it where the sun don't shine. But there are WAY too many Sheep for that to ever happen. Out of Control may well be the UNDERSTATEMENT of the year. T.C.
    And almost no one is standing up to point it out. It is beyond ridiculous. Maybe there is a way to rebel, but it would have to involve both career and volunteer.

    Paladin Knight,,, has been on both sides of the river with these issues and I believe that consolidation does not usually solve the problem. It often just changes the same problem. As I said, there are vendors who travel to meet the different fire departments needs and they have seen these consolidations from an outsiders position and they have said it often makes situations worse. Now I can't but help notice that it would be a good idea to listen to what these guys are saying, and they are saying consolidation on the whole is not having the end result that was hoped for.

    Careful people.

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