1. #1
    Forum Member
    firemoose827's Avatar
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    Aug 2011
    New York

    Question Volunteer FD's Commissioners

    I have had experiences with a couple of different volunteer departments and their commissioners and have seen the full spectrum of qualifications...(if you can say they had any). In my first department on Long Island they had to be past officers and vested at least 10-15 years in the department and knew about firefighting, EMS, rescue, Haz-mat and how the dept works and functions. They had meetings separate from the dept and had to approve all major purchases and changes in dept policy and SOP. They worked close with the officers and did what was best for the dept.

    In another department they were just there...no specific function other than auditing the books at the end of the year, didnt even decide things or have meetings. Some of them were never even firefighters anywhere, just wanting to help out some how and ended up getting appointed to the commissioners by the town board.

    My question for those of you that have them, is what are the qualifications? How do they get voted/appointed into office? What are their terms if they have any at all? (How long can they serve). What functions do they serve the dept and what limitations or failsafes do they have?

    Just curious to know and all info/chatter would be appreciated.
    Thanks and stay safe.
    Last edited by firemoose827; 10-27-2011 at 08:33 AM.
    "Amatuers train until they get it right, professionals train until they cant get it wrong."

    Brian Jones, aka "Moose"
    Captain, Carlisle Fire Department

  2. #2
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    tree68's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    Jefferson County, NY USA


    There are commissioners, and there are commissioners.

    Some fire departments have what amounts to an executive council whose duties vary - as you describe. These commissioners exist only within the fire department and requirements vary from department to department.

    In NYS we have "fire districts," a municipal entity not unlike a township or a village. Those commissioners are elected public officials, and just like other municipal governing bodies, do not have to have any experience in their field. Once elected, there is training they have to get, but it has more to do with financial accountability than firefighting (thanks LI).

    NYS Town Law calls for a board of commissioners to consist of from five to seven members, serving for terms of five years. Elections are held on the second Tuesday in December, with a couple of exceptions.

    Our fire district board has seven members, currently consisting of a local businessman who is also a firefighter, another local businessman who is not a FF, a former mayor (FD member), a former congressional aide (not FF), a nurse (FD member), a mechanic (FF), and one guy I'm not sure what he does for a living (FF). This is the most fire department members we've had on the board since the district was formed. Usually it's been just two or three.

    Having non-firefighter commissioners is actually a good thing. What may be "obvious" to us will likely require a little explanation to them, which provides some checks and balances and prevents the inmates from running the asylum.

    The commissioners (as a body) have little to do with day-to-day operations - they are simply the governing body and source of funds. The chiefs are appointed by the commissioners after having been selected (nominated) by their department, thus they answer to the commissioners. Our firefighters are also appointed on recommendation from the fire department. In theory, they could be members of the fraternal "Fire Department, Inc," but not be line firefighters.

    In our case, the district owns the apparatus and the stations. We have a banquet hall they have nothing to do with.

    This and this might help you understand fire districts.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

  3. #3
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    JayDudley's Avatar
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    Jan 2006

    Default Fire Commissioners

    As a present Fire Commissioner I think I can try to address this issue. I can only speak of our Fire District and no others. Our make up is there are five of us and we are elected to our positions. Our district comprises of 165 square miles and we have five stations with one manned full time the others are filled with volunteers. The experience on our board is as follows.....Our President is an ex-company manager and current Volunteer for many years,our Treasure is an ex-engineer with an automobile company and very sharp with our finances, one local electrician and security expert, one is an retired Fire Captain with over 30 years fire experience and myself who retired as a Fire Engineer and worked with the retired Captain as we were from the same Fire Department. The daily operations of our Fire Department is handled by our Fire Chief and he has a budget set up by us and we meet once a month to hear reports from The Chief, board members with concerns and the public if they need to voice their opinions and questions. I like to think we have an outstanding relationship with our Firefighters and staff. The equipment and stations are owned by the people of our Fire District and our funds come from them and the County. I personally think that having someone on the Commission with Fire experience is a plus when it comes to trying to help with fire related questions.
    I hope this will help with your question about Fire Commissions....
    Jay Dudley
    Retired Fire
    Background Investigator
    Lifetime Member CSFA
    IAFF Alumni Member

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