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Thread: Issues with a firefighter advice needed

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    Default Issues with a firefighter advice needed

    Every fire department has its own unique situations that come about but I am wondering if anyone out there has had to deal with what we have going on ? And if anyone would be willing to share their opinion on how they would handle it? We are a volunteer fire dept in a rural community, we had a fire chief for 15 years who is a 20+ year member of the department. Last year we had some serious issuse with our chief and the consiquences where going to be, that more then half the department was going to resign if something didnt change, to make a long story short our asst chief threw his name in the hat at elections and won by a landslide. Our former chief wished to remain on the department and was issued new PPE and everything he needed to be a fire fighter or truck operator. He didnt come around much at first but halfway through the year we got busy with structure fires and he started showing up and running the engine on those calls. Of the many issues that is occuring one is that he likes to corner people by the engine (bystanders, firefighters from mutual aid depts and rookie members of our dept) and he carries on telling them that we dont know what we are doing, if was in charge there would be a better outcome, on one call he accused all the officers on our dept of being intoxicated which he openly shared with people from mutual aid departments and any member of our dept he could corner. It even went as far as a chief of a mutual dept came to our engine and requested an ax and he told him no, but a year ago he would have helped him out. He also on several occasions has tried to corner members around the fire house to critisize anything and everything he can with the new management. Its once again taking a tole on our new chief, officers and 98% of the rest of the dept, as its obvious that aside from a couple people on the department that are related to him, even after once being a highly respected chief for a long period of time that there is no respect or trust left for him, after the past years incidents. Our board of directors is starting to recieve written complaints from these members that have seen and overheard these incidents. In our bylaws it states that the board may take action against damaging the good name of the department, failure to act, insubordination, misconduct and failure to follow policies, procedures the bylaws or standard operating guidelines. The board of directors have the authority to give members a written warning, suspend the member from emergency operations or place them on the inactive list for a period of time or make a reccomendation to the membership at a general meeting to remove the member from the roster by majority vote. One of the toughest obsticles in dealing with this person as we learned in the past, is when being confronted about something he did or said, he instantly fires back first insulting the people or persons confronting him, he refuses to give any explination for what hes done but instead starts expressing what hes felt everyone else has done wrong and threatens legal action claiming harrasement for even being questioned after everything hes done for the department. The concerns we have are if something isnt done by our board of directors soon we will run the risk of loosing members if the bullying on the calls doesnt stop. We where also warned by an outside source that the things hes saying at calls and out in the community are getting around the general public, other fire depts and through the county offices, the reccomendation was that he needs to be removed from the department because we are running a high risk of ending up in court by a home owner or insurance company after overhearing what hes been saying. I would be interested in any input that anyone would have in how we should deal with this and I would like to make a reccomendation to our board of directors on the direction they need to go. Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Savagehunter View Post
    Every fire department has its own unique situations that come about but I am wondering if anyone out there has had to deal with what we have going on ? And if anyone would be willing to share their opinion on how they would handle it?

    We are a volunteer fire dept in a rural community, we had a fire chief for 15 years who is a 20+ year member of the department. Last year we had some serious issuse with our chief and the consiquences where going to be, that more then half the department was going to resign if something didnt change, to make a long story short our asst chief threw his name in the hat at elections and won by a landslide.

    Our former chief wished to remain on the department and was issued new PPE and everything he needed to be a fire fighter or truck operator. He didnt come around much at first but halfway through the year we got busy with structure fires and he started showing up and running the engine on those calls.

    Of the many issues that is occuring one is that he likes to corner people by the engine (bystanders, firefighters from mutual aid depts and rookie members of our dept) and he carries on telling them that we dont know what we are doing, if was in charge there would be a better outcome, on one call he accused all the officers on our dept of being intoxicated which he openly shared with people from mutual aid departments and any member of our dept he could corner. It even went as far as a chief of a mutual dept came to our engine and requested an ax and he told him no, but a year ago he would have helped him out. He also on several occasions has tried to corner members around the fire house to critisize anything and everything he can with the new management.

    Its once again taking a tole on our new chief, officers and 98% of the rest of the dept, as its obvious that aside from a couple people on the department that are related to him, even after once being a highly respected chief for a long period of time that there is no respect or trust left for him, after the past years incidents. Our board of directors is starting to recieve written complaints from these members that have seen and overheard these incidents.

    In our bylaws it states that the board may take action against damaging the good name of the department, failure to act, insubordination, misconduct and failure to follow policies, procedures the bylaws or standard operating guidelines. The board of directors have the authority to give members a written warning, suspend the member from emergency operations or place them on the inactive list for a period of time or make a reccomendation to the membership at a general meeting to remove the member from the roster by majority vote.

    One of the toughest obsticles in dealing with this person as we learned in the past, is when being confronted about something he did or said, he instantly fires back first insulting the people or persons confronting him, he refuses to give any explination for what hes done but instead starts expressing what hes felt everyone else has done wrong and threatens legal action claiming harrasement for even being questioned after everything hes done for the department.

    The concerns we have are if something isnt done by our board of directors soon we will run the risk of loosing members if the bullying on the calls doesnt stop. We where also warned by an outside source that the things hes saying at calls and out in the community are getting around the general public, other fire depts and through the county offices, the reccomendation was that he needs to be removed from the department because we are running a high risk of ending up in court by a home owner or insurance company after overhearing what hes been saying.

    I would be interested in any input that anyone would have in how we should deal with this and I would like to make a reccomendation to our board of directors on the direction they need to go. Thanks
    Paragraphs added for the sake of making it easier for everyone to read.

    My recommendation is to have a BOD meeting with this guy, and be prepared for him to fire back at the Board members. Give him a written list of the things that have been brought to the Board's attention, and that these matters, if substantiated upon investigation, will be dealt with via progressive discipline. He'll threaten lawsuits, etc, but he needs to know that his attitude alone is going to lead to the fall of the entire fire company. He might even see that as his way back into the chief's position as a manner of "saving" the company, but make it clear to him that won't happen either.

    The only way to deal with issues like this is to be very up front with everyone involved, and lay out what the department's expectations for members are, and that discipline can be handed out as needed.

    Good luck with this, it sounds like you've got quite a situation to deal with.
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer


    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

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    Sorry for the poor layout it got alot longer on me then what I was expecting. Many of our members believe that he is trying to spark a big issue for the dept so he can come in and save it and then everyone will owe him, or just to ruin the dept out of spite in the if I cant have it no one can mentality. Its hard to express the difficultness in dealing with him, in the later years of his stint as chief he had a power through it with my authority and value mentality when he had to deal with issues, frequently overstepping the authority of the president and bod. Thats one of the big reasons he lost his position as chief.

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    BoxAlarm is right (and has the experience to back it up). The actions of that member justify serious consequences, possibly dismissal. To prevent further damage (and to lift most, if not all, of the legal liability) progressive discipline after an investigation must occur soon. Of course this member is going to fight back. Just from what you have told us, he is extremely egotistical and feels that he is never wrong. Do not back down from that and do not argue with him. Present the facts regarding his actions. For example: "On November 23, 2011 you were operating the pump at a structure fire when you told members of a mutual aid company that our officers did not know what they were doing. This action is harmful to our department and will not be tolerated. You are hereby placed on probation for 90 days. If you commit an offense against this department during that time, you will lose your membership. Furthermore, if you commit future offenses such as the one previously discussed, you may be subject to losing your membership." Be swift, non-emotional/personal, and fair with your ruling. Your department will be better for it and if you end up losing this guy, then he wasnt in it for the right reasons.

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    Follow your discipliine process (to the letter).
    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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    You guys are already behind the 8 ball, you should've gotten on this as soon as it started. What is your Chief doing? Does he not have any diciplinary powers? As Barney Fife said: "You gotta nip it in the bud!

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    The chief has the ability to pull someone out or eject them from any emergency operation and he can give a verbal warning.Beyond that the chief has to forward all diciplinary reccomendations to the board of directors. I wont deny that we are behind the 8 ball and that blame is spread equally among the senior members on that one. Even our chief who was the former chiefs asst. for 14 years thought it was just something that would pass, either he would start to act like a normal human or resign but neither has been the case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Savagehunter View Post
    Even our chief who was the former chiefs asst. for 14 years thought it was just something that would pass, either he would start to act like a normal human or resign but neither has been the case.
    Cant work that way. Things like this need to be addressed asap.

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    How about we hear the ex chiefs side ? And isnt this something your CHIEF should be dealing with ?
    ?

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    His side is to either admit it or deny it, whether you where once a chief or not it should not change the fact that if those things are being said on a call its not right, its in violation of the bylaws and it needs to stop. If you have an issue with something thats being done on a call you should be taking it up with the persons you have the issue with and that only goes so far if its with ranking members, beyond that you should be putting it on paper passing it on to the BOD the procedure everyone else has to follow.
    As far as the Chief dealing with it if you scroll up a few posts I stated the chiefs options, which are to give a verbal warning or eject the person from a call and he has more then once exercised the verbal warning with no result. The chiefs last option is to pass it off with his reccomendation to the BOD and thats where we are at right now. The chief is acting within his authority, if he would choose to overstep his 3 options and try to implement discipline by going around and above the BOD he would be on his way to the ex chief category also.
    The incidents are already documented there has been multiple complaints from our personnel and some from mutual aid companies, obviously grievances the ex chief has with personnel from past issues cannot and will not be accepted as a justification for the conduct in these incidents. The whole purpose of this post is to gain input from the experience and knowledge of others in dealing with this issue. How severe they feel theses incidents are ? What there reccomendation would be for dealing with it ? (dissmissal, suspension, continued verbal warnings etc) I will take the input I gather and pass it on to my BOD to help them get moving on dealing with these unusual incidents before further damage or incidents occur.

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    We have a cheif also that belives that he is always right. Some of the group wants me the captain to be the new cheif. We had a vote on it , and he used the bylaws to his advantage which got alot of people mad. Over the last few years he said that the bylaws were just guide lines now we change it around to save his job. Please help me to save our dept.
    jherring511 likes this.

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    What is your process for appointing or electing a new chief ? Are you a private dept, municipal owned or a district ? Do you have an annual election ? Or is the chief appointed by a fire board ? This is where you need to start, even though our dept has its current issues the first step in fixing our even more severe prior issues was making a change at the top and we did that through a process that we and every department should have in place. Our current issue is trying to put an end to the fallout from the decision we made even though its a challenge on the upside we are way more constructive and have way way way higher spirits then we did prior to making that decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cap603 View Post
    We have a cheif also that belives that he is always right. Some of the group wants me the captain to be the new cheif. We had a vote on it , and he used the bylaws to his advantage which got alot of people mad. Over the last few years he said that the bylaws were just guide lines now we change it around to save his job. Please help me to save our dept.

    Chiefs, are always right! When you become one, you will find that out!
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    Without trying to sound disrespectful to anyone here, this entire topic smacks a lot of insubordination on the part Savage Hunter. This whole deal needs to be documented and presented to the Board for action. It should not be tried in the "Forum" forum and what is decided here means nothing anyway.

    If it is really that bad, maybe it is time to move on. Sometimes, you just can't fix it.
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    Not sure what you mean by "insubordination"? Is Savage Hunter disobeying an order or something similar from his leadership? I agree that it needs to be documented and action taken, but I dont see where asking advice to a group of people who might have experience with this same issue is wrong. Its not like he gave the name of the person in question.

    You are right that "what is decided here means nothing anyway" because nothing is decided here. Opinion are given on the issue like he asked and he is the one that decides what to do. Either he takes it to the board or he doesnt. As far as "you just cant fix it", based on situation given, it is a very simple fix.

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    First off I would like to thank BoxAlarm187, Spencer534, ChiefKN and johnsb for the positive replies on this issue it is greatly appreciated and the type of input I was looking for to to pass on to our BOD to help light a fire under there you know what. ALL of the complaints along with information gathered here have been passed on to our BOD and action is being taken. As I spelled out before when we where asked for the other side of the story the whole purpose of this post was to gather information or opinions. (which everyone is entitled to). Based on the unique circumstances from there own experiences. In no way, shape or form was this a trial to decide a outcome, the forum is not a place where that is going happen, that is why the information given was vague and there is no "other side of the story" I even had to go as far as changing my information on here so that no one could link it with my real department, name or position.

    Spencer534 I read the post by bcjack several times to try to comprehend it, at first glance it looked as if it was being said that it was insubordination on my part for making this post, which based on the definition of insubordination and the unknowing of my actual position in all this, it wouldnt even be a valid accusation. After a couple glances its appears that what is being said, is the entire topic that I posted is accused insubordination and that the claims should be documented and presented to the Board of Directors. As far as the "maybe its time to move on. Sometimes, you just can't fix it" I have a beef with that one too. The party whos actions are in question is the one with the individual issue, the larger majority of the department that is being affected cant just chalk it up as a no fix and move on and either continue to allow it or individually quit, that would be a possible department end all right there.

    Unfortunetly in the process of trying to gather positive input, I have had some borderline posts but more then that some personal messages where I had to defend myself, of why I would even ask for answers based on the situation here ? Or why consiquences would even be considered for someone who was once a chief since by one wearing that title they now should have earned exemption from all criticism and rules meant for "others" = (all arent yet or non chiefs im guessing?) But I guess the ex chief factor is what makes this a unique situation to deal with not so much even the chief factor as just plain a seinor member who once left his stamp on a department. One even said this was an inappropriate subject for this forum, last time I checked this was a politics forum and matters like this is what I always been told is fire department politics, I appologize if some are looking for a discussion on the whether a dalmation or a lab is the better dog to have in a fire house, even though I would have preffered to be dealing with an issue of that magnitude....

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    Good luck and keep us posted.

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    With any disciplinary process, documentation is the key. Get written statements for every complaint against him and get the BOD involved. It's late into the game, but better late than never. As our chief says...if you didn't document it, it didn't happen. Of course here at an industrial site, paperwork is king.

    Best of luck!

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