1. #1
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    Default Blowin' Steam (please comment)

    I am a volunteer at a small rural department, where I have called home for the last 13+ years. Our department is strictly volunteer, and we have always had a policy that job & family come first. We now have a chief that is a little gung ho, and has "ordered" us to start responding to more incidents. This chief acts as if he is a hired chief, or a large paid department, rather than an elected chief of a small volunteer department. He forgets that the department as a whole is supposed to make decisions of major purchases, as well as other issues. Recently, we were talking about getting an urban interface pumper, after our station got an add on. He took it upon himself to order a large tanker, that we dont have room for. Now, we have 5 trucks in a 3 bay station. On top of that, he also requested a SUV from the county, so now he has this vehicle in town at his house.
    At a recent meeting, a new member was making suggestions about how our training should be handled, and the chief was going right along with it, as if "thats how it was going to be from now on", and then I spoke up, the chief got mad because he thought I was going against his authority, and then all hell broke loose. The suggestion was to create a committee of people to perform the trainings, then the chief would assign members from that committee to train the other members. Our dept is too small to be having an internal committee on training, and we dont have any members who are qualified to do training. This discussion went on for 30 minutes, in a veryheated manner, and the chief was in total agreement with the other member, and he said "we WILL do this!" At that point, another member made a motion to table the discussion until our first meeting after the first of the year, and the motion was seconded. Then the chief proceeded to say that we will adopt this new policy at the next meeting. I told him no, we have a motion on the floor, so now we needed to vote on it. He said something to the effect that he was the chief and he decided what was what. I said no, we need to vote on the motion. (We always follow Roberts Rules of Order in our meetings, and he has absolutely no idea how to conduct a meeting in that fashion). The other member that had made the original suggestion then had to tell the chief how the voting process worked. Before the voting, another member started in on a little rant about how things needed to be and that we needed to start doing more training. I stopped him, I told him that he sat there and kept his mouth shut during the entire discussion period, and now we were voting so he needed to shut it. That didnt go over to well either. The motion passed 7-4. And the chief STILL said we are going to discuss at next meeting. What a moron. I am not bitching at the suggestion of training, just the manner in which they are going about it. Coincidently, the member that has suggested the training has been to one call since he has joined the department, and is also responsible for burning up a 2way radio, and a power supply, due to failing to install a ground wire on an outdoor antenna.(he told us he was a qualified radio equipment tech, and he seemed to know what he was talking about).
    I dont know what to do now. I dont want to be there anymore with this chief acting like this, (he has a severe case of big-head syndrome). Seriously thinking of quitting the department that I helped to build, I am one of the few remaining original members. Considering going to a local department that neighbors us. I have had a mutual aid agreement with them for several years. Maybe someone has some advice for me.

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    1. Sounds like you need to either update or create by-laws/SOP's for how your department operates. Without that, it's a free for all...plain and simple.

    2. If you don't have something written somewhere that says you are to follow Robert's Rules...no one has to follow them.

    3. Based on what you have stated above and my guess at #1 and #2 missing...no one is in charge of your department, so therefore it will default to the highest rank.....the Chief.

    4. Based on your post...your department has a lot of work ahead of itself. Good Luck.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    After the first several sentences, I stop reading this as it was all running together.

    Why didn't you space some of this moaning and groaning out.

    Hey you guys elected him to be the CHIEF! Vote him out next year.

    In the meanwhile suck it up.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    Well, this seems familiar. I went through a recent chief change in a similar department. Change is hard. It is hard for the members and the leadership. I used to be a very active member, and now... to save myself and the hardwork I have put into the department I am just coming in to do my truck checks before my shift and minimum required meetings/trainings.... once I figure out the new chief and how I fit in I will pick the activity up a little.

    Just enjoy your time there, and if you are not having fun... spend less time there.

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    Bones covered it very well. Your by-laws or whatever governing documents you have should spell out the responsibilities and limitations of each position. Withoout those, it's up to the individual to decide how much power he has.

    You don't mention how the Chief is selected. Is it by election, is he appointed by some other authority or what. That makes a difference in what you recourse may be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    Bones covered it very well. Your by-laws or whatever governing documents you have should spell out the responsibilities and limitations of each position. Withoout those, it's up to the individual to decide how much power he has.

    You don't mention how the Chief is selected. Is it by election, is he appointed by some other authority or what. That makes a difference in what you recourse may be.


    ....This chief acts as if he is a hired chief, or a large paid department, rather than an elected chief of a small volunteer department.

    I know I had to read his post several times as it ran together a bit.

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    Look across the table at him at the next meeting and say in a calm clear voice...

    "I guess you don't much care about being re-elected do you?"
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnee View Post
    ....This chief acts as if he is a hired chief, or a large paid department, rather than an elected chief of a small volunteer department.

    I know I had to read his post several times as it ran together a bit.
    Thanks, missed that the first time around.

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    What part of this do you have control over?

    If your department is run by consensus then how many agree with you?

    It sucks to have an all powerful chief (aka firegod) in control. Grow some as a group and vote him out,or find middle ground,or live with it, or leave. You may have other options but chief-o-cide is likely not one of them.
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    Now, lets hear the Chiefs side of this.

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    I agree with just about everyone else on this subject. As a department you have to do what is best for your department. If that is to vote this guy out then so be it. I also agree that your laws need to be S-P-E-L-L-E-D out. We just did a complete make over of our bylaws this last year because I found them to be extemely behind the times and quite vauge. If you don't have a good set of bylaws I would be happy to share a copy of ours for you to get an idea of how they should somewhat be laid out and spelled out.

    Now, as for the comment... "we are JUST a small town volunteer fire department" , "we are not a paid full time department" ... Here is my take on that statement. Shouldn't we as Volunteers be held to the same standards as the paid guys? After all we do the exact same job. I hope that no one looks at their department as "JUST small town volunteer" because whether you like it or not we are ALL firemen. Volunteers volunteer to become a member, after that you are a FIREFIGHTER! At least that is the way I see it. You should be required to respond to calls, otherwise you will only have half your department doing anything. The other half will be sitting at the coffee shop talking bout what the pager or radio said at the last call at that is useless!

    Man up, and stand up for what you believe in, but from my expirence... handling issues like this in a calm collected manner will get you much farther than Bi&ching and moning. You owe it to our community, your citizens, and your fellow members (past and present) to get the organization back on track and back to "the brotherhood" it should be! Good Luck Brother!

    Stay Safe,

    FD5
    "EVERYONE GOES HOME... ALWAYS"

    "Let no mans ghost come back to say his training let him down."

  12. #12
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    Two words

    Para Graphs
    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.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    While "Chief Napolean" may be the chief, he still needs to present himself as "business like" at meetings.

    If he is pushing his weight around, see if he is doing that with authority. Your by-laws should stipulate (or even your city, fire district, etc. policies, etc.) on how money is spent. If he is pushing through purchases without legal approval, there will be trouble ahead.

    Best to confront him before this turns into a bigger problem. If he violates any policies, document it. Cite any approved law, policy, etc. that he violates. Show it to other affected members and confront the chief. If he refuses to back down on purchases without the legal way to do so, seek his removal.

    I would assume you are spending taxpayer money and their must be a formal way to approve purchases (bidding, etc.).

    While it may be hard to change management, you may have to do this!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GVFD5 View Post
    Now, as for the comment... "we are JUST a small town volunteer fire department" , "we are not a paid full time department" ... Here is my take on that statement. Shouldn't we as Volunteers be held to the same standards as the paid guys? FD5
    No, in my opinion. For several reasons.

    For volunteers, firefighting won't pay the rent, feed the kids or make the spouse happy. Expecting a volunteer to jeopardize their family or job is unreasonable. Try this tactic and watch your membership dissappear.

    Holding a volly to the same standard as a paid ff would likely require him\her to have 2 careers. Would you EXPECT a paid FF to also be a journeyman full-time carpenter or plumber or electrician or ??? Some may be able to pull it off, but not many. Especially those with families.

    A small town FD can go for days or even weeks without a call. No need to staff the firehouse.

    As a volunteer, I respond when I can. While rare, I have skipped calls for a variety of reasons. Hopefully there are enough able bodies in the district to respond at any given time. I have also been on calls where we've been short-handed and that's just the way it goes sometimes.

    The original post stated that their policy is family\job first. That is our policy also. Nothing wrong with that. His concern was that they were being required to respond more. I would say that they should review who is and who is not responding and find out why on an individual basis. If a person has a legit reason to not respond regularly, maybe a newborn or long work hours etc. then that's ok. But, if a person is continuously absent for no reason then they should be given an ultimatum. Either participate or quit.

    Increasing the membership can also increase response numbers. Suggest a recruitment drive. Advertise for volunteers, etc.
    My wise and profound comments and opinions are mine alone and are in no way associated with any other individual or group.

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    You refer to the Chief as "chief napolean" --- have you met him ? Again there are 3 sides to every situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blulakr View Post
    No, in my opinion. For several reasons.
    Well, I think I should have explained myself a little more. Maybe our view on Volly FD's is completely different. But, Here is what I was trying to say... When it comes to training, we should train just as much (if not more) than a paid FF. After all, we don't get the hands on expirence as often as a full time guy to keep up with our skills. Training is sometimes the only way we can stay abreast. I would never expect a volly dept. to staff thier station 24/7, that is crazy, you are right there!

    As for responding to calls, we don't require our guys to respond to every call. Our bylaws state you must participate in 1/3 of the alarms or have 10 hours per year of in house training (we average 150-200 calls per year, fire and EMS). Our view on that bylaw is that if you don't do either of those things you run the risk of not being farmiliar with how the department operates on scenes or how the guy you are behind entering a house operates. We want our guys farmiliar with how everyone of us work and what is expected of them before that large structure fire call (that we get once a year) comes out and we are all running around like chickens with our heads cut off! Just my take, take it for what it is worth! Have a Good one!

    STAY SAFE!

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    "Let no mans ghost come back to say his training let him down."

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    As has been said, there are more than one side to most discussions.

    My first question would be, "what was this guy like before he got elected?" Further, was he just an average member with no propensities to such behavior? Did this newfound power go to his head, or was he an idiot prior? Does he have enough years in the department that he should know better?

    The way the department is described, it sounds like it is an independent NFP organization, thus is only under such constraints as the contract with the covered community may provide. If it's a municipal department, the guy is clearly overstepping his bounds by making unilateral purchases.

    I would submit that unless this guy is totally out of touch with the entire department, a few respected members (with level heads) take him aside and educate him. I'm sure you've got a few 'old heads' who would qualify.

    I've dealt with folks like this - both as elected officers and as "opinion leaders." The elected officers have accepted criticism and improved. The "opinion leaders" fear that their influence may be lessened and simply hunker down. One has suggested in the past that our by-laws should be "advisory" as opposed to the "law of the land," and that "they ask too much of us" with regard to training. Bearing in mind that the reason for the statements was getting the entire department through ICS100/700 (what, two hours, three tops?), and the pending throwing out of several members who hadn't attended any department activity for a couple of years (but were drinking buddies of the aforementioned member).

    You are not alone in your quandry. Remember why you joined in the first place (hopefully to help your community) and know that folks like your chief eventually get frustrated when nobody will follow and leave.

    Oh, and white space is your friend. A little tip - read your post aloud. Any time you have to stop and take a breath, put in a paragraph break...
    Last edited by tree68; 12-14-2010 at 11:35 AM.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    You refer to the Chief as "chief napolean" --- have you met him ? Again there are 3 sides to every situation.
    Since the original poster did not post the fire dept., location, name of the chief or other particulars, I regard this post as a hypothetical situation.

    I mentioned that the poster should check the bylaws and policies of the authority having jurisdiction (city ,etc), to see if the chief is violating them, when spending money (ie. taxpayer funding, etc.). If the poster cannot find any violations that the chief is committing, then the chief is probably operating within his capacity. If the chief is violating the bylaws, city policy, etc, then the poster has a cause for concern.

    A former FD that I was a member of, had a fellow move up the ranks and eventually became chief. Even before the fellow became chief, he had an ego and tried to knock anyone down that was in his "way". Eventually he became chief and caused alot of havoc that became a legend for his misdoings. That included spending money. Last year, this particular FD had a social gathering, I attended to visit with the members I served with. A former chief gave this particular former chief, Chief Napolean, his name for the simple fact he pushed too many members overboard with his ruthless doings. Believe me, if you have a Chief Napolean, it will be damage the FD beyond repair.

    We are in the fire service to serve, not serve ourselves.

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    This dept has been around for 20 years, and the chief was one of the original members. He is retired from an industrial facility, where he was a member of the fire brigade, so he should know how to conduct himself.

    Our dept has bylaws which indicate that meetings are to follow Roberts Rules of order. After 4 years, he should know them front and back.

    The consensus is tired of feeling like we have to hold his hand, and watch him mutter thru. Every week when he has a day off, he goes to chat with the county fire marshal. He receives "orders", comes to the meeting, flips the script, and then no one knows what is going on, which is one of the reasons we have 5 trucks in a 3 bay station - STILL.

    Thank you all for your advice. Most of it I have considered, but with a limited membership, and few options for another chief, I have come to the conclusion that I will be looking for another station. I know that is the easy way out, but I dont feel as though things will get any better without the removal of a few key members.

    Stay safe brothers

  20. #20
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    Sometimes a change of scenery will help heal the discontent...Dont bet on it... That is not sarcasm, that is reality.

    It is unfortunate that the lines of communication have evaporated.

    No man is an island and no fire department is just a bunch of guys. It takes a leader who will work with others and it takes a fair amount of teamwork to accomplish anything on the fireground or in the station.

    I feel your pain in more ways than you'll ever know, but life goes on. Cooperation is the ultimate key along with getting everyone, and I mean everyone on the same page. This is what SOPs, SOGs, and Bylaws are for. If you are not all playing the tune from the same sheet of music then it will sound like S@#T.

    You have one other option before you go, (maybe), and that is to put your grievience in writting. No, not a gripe letter, rather a list of problems you and others see and proposed solutions to the problems. It does not mean the powers that be will bow to your wishes, but it might open the dialogue a bit more, especially if there is a majority of the membership endorsing the document. Oh, the flipside is the powers that be may hate you for this and boot your a** out the door... Cant please em all.
    Last edited by Fireeaterbob; 01-10-2011 at 03:16 PM. Reason: spelling
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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