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Thread: Just a firefighter who happens to be a volunteer

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    Default Just a firefighter who happens to be a volunteer

    Firefighter first, Volunteer second

    I think we have a naming problem in the Volunteer Fire Service. I am a proud volunteer. I think that it is important to recognize exactly what volunteers are doing, but I think the problem is that for many the volunteer aspect becomes the focus of being a volunteer Firefighter.

    Now I know it's important to recognize that men and women are giving up time with their families for no monetary compensation and that these people are volunteering to serve the community and at times risking their lives. I just don't think that the focus needs to be on being a volunteer.

    I believe we need to shift the focus of the Firefighters in the Volunteer fire service from being a volunteer first and firefighter second to being a firefighter first and a volunteer second.

    Let's face it, when we pull up on scene people don't want to hear "I'm a Montgomery County volunteer and I'm here to help" They want to hear "I'm a firefighter/First Responder and I'm here to help". Later when things have calmed down if it comes up they may be astounded to find out all these guys and gals running around fighting fires or cutting them or their relatives from a vehicle after an accident are volunteers but FIRST they want you to be a firefighter.

    I know as well as any how hard it can be to leave the house for duty night whent he kids really want to hang out with Dad or the wife would like for you to take the family out to a movie. I know how much it can suck to attend 60 to 90 hours of training in a month after working 40 hours per week and still doing your best to see your kids. I also firmly believe that since I volunteered to be a firefighter I owe it to myself, my community and my family to be the best and most proficient firefighter I can be. I know from the other side after a recent accident involving my family how important the volunteer fire service can be. (thanks again to all of you who responded on March 8th)

    My community has invested a lot of money to equip and train me, I owe it to them to do my best to utilize that training and equipment to protect their life, family and property. My family has given me such support, my kids literally at times cheering me on as I leave the house when the tones drop and proudly introducing me to their friends "this is my dad, he's a firefighter" (notice even my own kids don't introduce me as a volunteer, just a firefighter.) I owe it to them to be the best and most knowledgeable firefighter I can be to help keep me and my fellow firefighters as safe as possible as we work an accident or fire scene or provide care to a patient.

    Many times I've heard from other firefighters "I'm just a volunteer" or from members of the community and even my own reliatives I've been asked "Have you ever thought about trying to become a real firefighter?" Both of these attitudes are hurtful and damaging to the volunteer fire service. Firefighters who put being a volunteer first are going to be less motivated to train, to take the job seriously and to be there when needed. This is one of the reasons that some members of our community don't look at us a "Real Firefighters" They believe that what we provide is somehow diminished becuase we are "Just a volunteer".

    This is an attitude and an outlook which I attempt to correct in everyone who expresses them to me. I believe a slight change in wording in how we refer to ourselves can help in some small way in accomplishing this,

    I believe we should reverse the order of the words in our title. Let's move away from being volunteers first and firefighters second to being firefighters first and volunteers second. Instead of Volunteer firefighters, let's be Firefighter Volunteers.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my rant, please feel free to add your own below.
    Eric Gregory
    Proud Firefighter Volunteer

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    I am going to give all of our firefighters this post. As for most of them think that since they are volunteers they do not need to train or be the best we can be. The fires we fight and the rescues we do are of the same danger and as life threatening as for the paid firefighters

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    Well said Brother! It really chaps my butt when firefighters don't take this job as serious as it should be. I have an awesome member of my department that refers to "Volunteers" as "we are not just volunteers... WE ARE UNDERCOMPENSATED PROFESSIONALS". I love that phrase. I have members that have been chiefs, active for 20+ years and still say "we are just volunteers". Get out of that mind set people. Although, I think most (if not all) that are reading this take their role as a firefighter seriously, we need to stand up in our departments. Lead by example and take back the PRIDE that the volunteer service has lost somehow. I am not going to blame this on the younger generation. I am in the "younger generation" and most of our department "attitude issues" come from our vetran guys and it is trickling into our younger guys. STEP UP leaders, and turn this ship in the right direction!

    Stay safe,

    Clint Smith
    3rd Asst. Chief
    Gibbon, NE Fire
    "EVERYONE GOES HOME... ALWAYS"

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

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    Well said.

    Although on the flip side there are still a few who want to act like it's still 1970 and fight fire and train at the same level. It's up to the current FV's to step up their game and rise above those that would hold the foward thinking FV's back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    Well said.

    Although on the flip side there are still a few who want to act like it's still 1970 and fight fire and train at the same level. It's up to the current FV's to step up their game and rise above those that would hold the foward thinking FV's back.
    Further, there are those who want to believe that we're still in the era of fire departments being social organizations that happen to fight fire.

    They took their initial training years ago when they joined and figure that's about all they needed to know. Training? Don't have time.

    Beer call? What time?
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    Further, there are those who want to believe that we're still in the era of fire departments being social organizations that happen to fight fire.

    They took their initial training years ago when they joined and figure that's about all they needed to know. Training? Don't have time.

    Beer call? What time?
    HEY, HEY HEY!!! I agree with the first part about not just being socialization clubs 'n all, but let's not mess with beer time!!! Heck, that's important to fulltimers too!

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    Beer time is great as long as it's not mixed with firefighting. I personally believe it has no place in the fire house and if you've enjoyed "Beer Time" you have no place on the fireground until it's out of your system.

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    I don't think what we are called is a serious topic worthy of discussing.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    HEY, HEY HEY!!! I agree with the first part about not just being socialization clubs 'n all, but let's not mess with beer time!!! Heck, that's important to fulltimers too!
    I've got no problem with "beer time" as such - I like a cold one, too. The issue is when folks can't seem to find the time to take part in what could be considered constructive activities (ie training), but have all the time in the world if the event involves having a few brews...

    Chief - I agree it's not worth discussing, but there seem to be a few on the forum who like to bring it up. And they aren't volunteers.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    I don't think what we are called is a serious topic worthy of discussing.
    What we're called wasn't really the focus of this thread, just a bit of a catch that I hoped would help to make the points I put forth stick in someone's head.

    The real goal was to get people to re-examine the "I'm just a volunteer" mentality and perhaps re-dedicate themself to being a firefighter first and volunteer second.
    19firefighter84 likes this.

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    I half disagree. I joined the department to help my community, make the place I live better, and give back to my neighbors. The way that fits the best with me and my abilities is through the fire department. I did not join to fight fires and rip cars apart, I joined to help people and protect property.

    I would make the case that helping your neighbor and protecting their property without expecting compensation (volunteer) should be the emphasis, and not the manner it is done (firefighting). What is more noble, making entry and fighting a big fire, or giving back to the community and not asking for anything in return?

    I do believe in acting as professionally in the endeavours of the department including training and appearance. That part, I have no disagreement with and support fully. But if people are joining for the adreniline rush as their primary motive, I question their dedication and longevity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuntPA View Post
    I would make the case that helping your neighbor and protecting their property without expecting compensation (volunteer) should be the emphasis, and not the manner it is done (firefighting). What is more noble, making entry and fighting a big fire, or giving back to the community and not asking for anything in return?
    People can volunteer in all sorts of different ways. In many volunteer positions you can half-*** it and it's no big deal.

    Passing out food at a soup kitchen and slack off, sucks for the other workers, but no real tragedy.
    Park clean-up and you don't show up today, oh well park gets cleaned next week.
    Don't feel like going to a training class for your gig as a Volunteer docent at the museum, no body gets hurt.

    Half-*** it on the fireground because you're "Just a volunteer" and next week you could be putting on your finest suit for someone's funeral. LODD's happen. they happen to paid and to volunteer. They happen when everything is done right because sometimes you do the right thing and the result is still different than what you expect. But if you're working a structure fire with guys on the interior with a bunch of poorly trained, unmotivated guys on the outside you've got a hell of a lot higher chance of things going south.

    I put a lot of stock in the fact that people step up and volunteer to do this job, it says something about their desire to help, but if they're going to work the fire ground and be right behind me I'd much rather have a firefighter than "Just a volunteer".

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    That's cool if that's the way it is for you, but I'm inclined to call you the minority here. I don't question anyone's dedication who joins for the adrenaline rush, and I question the longevity of EVERYONE, regardless of their motivations, if anyone has solved the retention problem let me know. I know I'm just a paid guy, but the OP's post spoke to me as well. I was a volly for a year to see if I liked the fire service, and always found myself surrounded by dudes who wouldn't train, and just figured a paid guy would tell them what to do. I remember going home after a call that had me feeling really good about myself, and my baby sister(4yoa) asked me "are you a real fireman yet?". That really hit me. Being a volunteer is all fine and dandy, but being a firefighter is just in some of our blood (the OP is definitely one of us), but not all of us make a day job out of it. The jips really ruin it for the rest of us. I remember I couldn't wait to not be called a volunteer, and even then being sad about that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuntPA View Post
    But if people are joining for the adreniline rush as their primary motive, I question their dedication and longevity.
    Another quick thought. Longevity means little and less in a lot of VFD's. I know several 10 year volunteers that, if they showed up on a legit working scene, I would not allow them to operate. If a 10 month probie, who actually took the time to complete his training and proved himself serious, I would give him an assignment commensurate with his training and not think twice about it.
    ARXYLIS likes this.

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    We run less than 200 calls a year including fires, EMS, trees down, flooding, and MVA. If a person joins for the rush, they are going to be sorely disappointed and will more than likely move on to another department that runs much more often. Also, with the calls that we run, an active responder is more apt to be carrying backboards, sweeping debris off the road, setting up a water supply, or traffic control than going into a burning building. Our department does that around 10 times a year. My experience is that a person looking for action is not satisfied with what we have to offer.

    If that same person were to join because they want to help out their neighbor, they are a lot more likely to stay around because not only do they have the 200 calls a year to help, we also do benefits, work bees, and other things to help out our neighbors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuntPA View Post
    We run less than 200 calls a year including fires, EMS, trees down, flooding, and MVA. If a person joins for the rush, they are going to be sorely disappointed and will more than likely move on to another department that runs much more often. Also, with the calls that we run, an active responder is more apt to be carrying backboards, sweeping debris off the road, setting up a water supply, or traffic control than going into a burning building. Our department does that around 10 times a year. My experience is that a person looking for action is not satisfied with what we have to offer.

    If that same person were to join because they want to help out their neighbor, they are a lot more likely to stay around because not only do they have the 200 calls a year to help, we also do benefits, work bees, and other things to help out our neighbors.
    When I got in the fire service, all those years ago, that was our run volume w/ no EMS stuff. Back then we would see real fires 50-60 times a year. Today we have a 800 call volume, plus another 800 EMS calls, and if we see fire 5 times that is a lot. We went 18 months between working fires recently.

    Besides, John Q Public does not care what our title is when we arrive. All they know is that when they dial those 3 numbers "We Come". When you are on the waiting end, 3 minutes can seem like 3 hours.
    Stephen J Bourassa
    Latham FD (NY)
    member since 1969
    challenge competitor since 1993

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    To me there have always been 3 kinds of volunteer firefigters:

    1) Those that no matter what they are doing they will show up for a call. These same guys will ALWAYS go that extra mile for training, station duties and fund raisers.

    2) Those that if it isn't too dark or too light, too hot or too cold, or they haven't yet seen this episode of the horrible show Chicago Fire might show up if it doesn't inconvenience them.

    3) The T-shirt fireman. Hardly ever shows up for calls, unless it sounds really juicy, always talks a good game for fundraisers but never seems to show up to help, and can't be bothered with station duties or training. You know, a turd.

    To me whether I am called a volunteer firefighter on those days when I am a volunteer, or a paid guy, career firefighter, or full time firefighter on those days when I am at work, are of little consequence. I didn't sign up to be a volunteer to worry about titles, and I certainly didn't choose the career to worry about somebody getting that title right either. Thoseof us that do the job and give it our all are firefighters, some volunteer, some paid, but firefighters the same. Unfortunately there are slugs on both sides of the pay scale but they just seem to be more prevalent on the volunteer side, especially in FDs that worry more about the number of warm bodies they have than actually firefighters.

    I think people spend too much time getting hung up on semantics. The first firefighters in this country were volunteers. That tradition is still strong and there are even volunteer firefighters in New York City. Thr truth is most people don't give a damn what you are as long as when they need you you show promptly, act professionally, skillfully, and efficiently. Worry less about the title and more about your image in the public. That is what is truly important.
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    FyredUp - you missed the fourth kind - the "FINO," or "Firefighter In Name Only." Proudly wears the jacket/t-shirt and loudly proclaims his status, but never shows up for anything. If you ask him for his gear back (especially his pager), he pointedly points out that he'll be there for the "big ones."

    None of which he's made for the past ten years.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    hr truth is most people don't give a damn what you are as long as when they need you you show promptly, act professionally, skillfully, and efficiently
    Amen. Do the right thing, work hard, and don't be a d*** measurer and you're good in my book

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    i think you have the right idea about fire fighting volunteers. Even tho we are volunteers we still get in some of the same situations that careers do. Neither can we use the excuse "were just volunteers" - we have volunteered to help our community. Lets not do a halfway job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    I've got no problem with "beer time" as such - I like a cold one, too. The issue is when folks can't seem to find the time to take part in what could be considered constructive activities (ie training), but have all the time in the world if the event involves having a few brews...

    Chief - I agree it's not worth discussing, but there seem to be a few on the forum who like to bring it up. And they aren't volunteers.
    That was said tounge in cheek, on my POC, our socialization is mostly done after training, if we aren't too tired or it's not too late. As for the OP's statement about 60-90 hours of training a month, I don't know how any dept. could come up with that much training time, unless someone is doing an FF cert or EMT class. And even then that's a stretch.

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    I cant speak for the rest of the nation, but up in the northeast, especially NY or Philly metro area we are still primarily volunteer, excluding those very large municipalities. We have a very high call volume, and fire load. Last year my volunteer company ran 1,103 individual company runs *FIRE ONLY, WE DONT DO EMS* of which 179 were working structural fires. We get a lot of new members who are "only in it for the T shirt" but they seem to disappear within a few months. A rigorous mandatory training regiment will weed out the ones who don't really want to be there and leave you with a really good, highly skilled core group of firefighters. Thanks and stay safe.
    Gary
    Advanced Firefighter -T.R.F.D
    Engine Co. #1 "The House On The Hill"

    "What We Do In Life, Echoes In Eternity"

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    Regarding the 60 - 90 it's definitely not every month, but it does happen for me. At my department we currently have an "Open" training night every friday just about, plus at least one required training every month.

    In addition to that at the time I posted this I believe I had attended the 16 hr intro to firefighting and 64 hr basic firefighting class as well as having taken the 80 plus hour first responder class. In the last year I've taken a 40 hour TARS extrication certification (Over 2 weeks) as well as about an additional 50 or 60 hours over 2 months to complete HAZMat awareness, ICS300, Radiological Monitoring and HazMat operations. In October and the beginning of November I'll be completing HMTO.

    I also intend on completing ICS400 as soon as it's offered plus as soon as the county announces the schedule I'll be attending the first responder refresher.

    While the 60 to 90 hours on top of the 9 to 5 I can definitely say I have experienced it several times and will again in the future.

    Thanks
    Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    That was said tounge in cheek, on my POC, our socialization is mostly done after training, if we aren't too tired or it's not too late. As for the OP's statement about 60-90 hours of training a month, I don't know how any dept. could come up with that much training time, unless someone is doing an FF cert or EMT class. And even then that's a stretch.

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    I dont have any certs but my cpr Ive been in the service for a month as of tomorrow which is the 18th. Ive already made more calls than 65 percent of the other volunteers and I have but one cert. It amazes me that people want to be a part of this services but never show up. I guess some people just dont have passion like me and the other 4 firefighter/emt's that show up. in the last month its been the same 5 guys show up everytime no matter if we have work in a half hour or we have family stuff going on us 5 are always there. I understand that some have career firefighting jobs but come on, if your going to be a part of a volly fire service be there. Hats off to you guys who show up every time regardless of whats going on. Heck this morning the tones went off for a possible stroke ive been beat to the ground between 70 hours of regular work and about 60 hours of volly work but i still get up and out of bed cause i know what my service means to my community. again hats of to all the men and women who show up every possible chance they can get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kwoo222 View Post
    I dont have any certs but my cpr Ive been in the service for a month as of tomorrow which is the 18th. Ive already made more calls than 65 percent of the other volunteers and I have but one cert. It amazes me that people want to be a part of this services but never show up. I guess some people just dont have passion like me and the other 4 firefighter/emt's that show up. in the last month its been the same 5 guys show up everytime no matter if we have work in a half hour or we have family stuff going on us 5 are always there. I understand that some have career firefighting jobs but come on, if your going to be a part of a volly fire service be there. Hats off to you guys who show up every time regardless of whats going on. Heck this morning the tones went off for a possible stroke ive been beat to the ground between 70 hours of regular work and about 60 hours of volly work but i still get up and out of bed cause i know what my service means to my community. again hats of to all the men and women who show up every possible chance they can get.
    Um, yay for you?

    A way to make yourself REALLY popular as a brand new probie is to start telling everyone how much more dedicated than they are you are.

    Frankly, if all you have is cpr you have no business being anywhere near a fire scene in the first place. And other than as a gopher how useful are you at an EMS call? If you do ANYTHING medically beyond cpr you are opening yourself AND your FD up for liability.

    I appreciate yur enthusiasm, but being cocky and spouting off about other's dedication is no way to enter the fire service.
    slackjawedyokel and kwoo222 like this.
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