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    Default Are we all firefighters or not?

    I have been listening to and watching a growing debate, and today I read an old article about a differing category of certifications for volunteers, specifically rural volunteers.

    My stance is a firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter and if you want to be certified then there should be one set of certification standards for Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Driver Operator, Officer, Instructor, Inspector and Investigator.

    In Wisconsin there is no requirement to .be certified, whether volunteer or career. In fact there are 2 tracks for training in Wisconsin, an Entry Level track and a Certification track. The Entry Level track begins with Entry Level Firefighter 1 and 2 a total of 60 hours. This is the minimum required firefighter training required in Wisconsin for someone to act as a firefighter. If you continue in this track there is Entry Level Fire Apparatus Driver Operator which is 30 hours and Entry Level Officer which is also 30 hours. The Certification track begins with the 60 hours of Entry Level Firefighter with an additional 36 hours added to take you to Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2 is an additional 42 hours, then you can add Fire Apparatus Driver Operator, Fire Officer 1 and 2, Instructor, and Inspector.

    The Entry Level track was specifically created for the volunteer fire service to require a state minimum training level that was acceptable to a large number of volunteer agencies. Again this is a MINIMUM state training requirement, it does not in anyway replace certfication and in fact many of the volunteer fire departments I am familiar with are requiring varying levels of certification as their minimum standard and some are requiring certification for promotion.

    Okay, my comments here are purely opinion and I am fully aware that they will be controversial. I have heard the comments for years that volunteers are as good as career firefighters, that we are all equal, that fire doesn't know the pay grade of the firefighters battling it. Well, if that is all true then why is there a need for a seperate track of training and/or certification for volunteers?

    Let's be clear here, I am currently a member of 2 volunteer fire departments, and I have been a volunter for 37 years, so this is NOT an anti-volunteer post. I am also a 22 year career firefighter. I am only trying to understand how we can all be equal if one group expects a seperate and clearly unequal level of certification.
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    Money time are just a couple

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    The fire training academy in Arkansas worked their tail off to become IFSAC qualified. They had many volunteer departments say that parts of FF1/2 weren't relevant. They came up with a "firefighter track" which is a café type training consisting of about 17 modules. You can take the ones you feel are relevant. I didn't agree then , and I don't now. All FF1 means is you can perform very basic tasks under direct supervision, 2 means you can operate on a limited basis without direct supervision. They are the equivalent of kindergarten in my opinion. Why you would not even want to attain those at least is beyond me.
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    Good questions Fyred. If you have any answers I am all ears. I will be starting an assistant training officer position next year and I have a gut ache about it. How am I supposed to get people to train with "im only a volunteer, I don't have enough time, we train enough already" mentality. I honestly think I am screwed.
    I get tired as well of the arrogance of "we are just as good as those guys". And honestly people don't want to be told that they suck even if you think it will motivate them to be better. Its almost like volunteers feel like they exist on a higher plane because they do it for free.
    With higher training standards a lot of people will quit, while some will embrace the changes and become great firefighters.
    Who knows?
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    Quote Originally Posted by fire49 View Post
    Money time are just a couple
    Money may be a legitimate reason for not taking classes, but time is a BS excuse. Many of those same VFDs have time for parades, festivals, PR events, and fundraisers, but no time for actually being a firefighter and training. People that WANT to train will find TIME to train.

    To be honest it has long frosted my a z z that some people WANT to be a member of the fire department and then walk around saying they are a firefighter. But when push comes to shove and training is the topic they hide behind the "I am JUST a volunteer and you can't expect all that of me."
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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    The fire training academy in Arkansas worked their tail off to become IFSAC qualified. They had many volunteer departments say that parts of FF1/2 weren't relevant. They came up with a "firefighter track" which is a café type training consisting of about 17 modules. You can take the ones you feel are relevant. I didn't agree then , and I don't now. All FF1 means is you can perform very basic tasks under direct supervision, 2 means you can operate on a limited basis without direct supervision. They are the equivalent of kindergarten in my opinion. Why you would not even want to attain those at least is beyond me.
    I agree with everything you posted.
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    Good questions Fyred. If you have any answers I am all ears. I will be starting an assistant training officer position next year and I have a gut ache about it. How am I supposed to get people to train with "im only a volunteer, I don't have enough time, we train enough already" mentality. I honestly think I am screwed.
    I get tired as well of the arrogance of "we are just as good as those guys". And honestly people don't want to be told that they suck even if you think it will motivate them to be better. Its almost like volunteers feel like they exist on a higher plane because they do it for free.
    With higher training standards a lot of people will quit, while some will embrace the changes and become great firefighters.
    Who knows?
    Here's what you do. You do a training needs assessment and use that to guide you. That training needs assessment can be a survey of the officers and/or the firefighters on what they believe is needed. Or YOU can do your own evaluation and set up a training program based on what you feel your needs are. I often have firefighters on both of my VFDs waiting for me when I arrive on training nights eager to get going. I hear compliments on training and ideas for more training. One of the other things I have done is pulled firefighters that have skills in to help me do training. That gives them ownership of the training and credit for their knowledge and abilities. (You will be amazed how that draws even the biggest pessimists into training)

    If people quit because you expect them to train I say good riddance. The fire department is no place for poorly trained amateurs and if they won't come into line it is time for them to go. The days of a roster full of worthless warm bodies just to say the roster is full is long gone. Better to have fewer highly skilled members than more unskilled, dangerous to themselves and the community members.

    Some advice...Write up a training outline for each training night. Make them VERY detailed as to the objective of the training, necessary equipment for the training, level of PPE needed, and EXACTLY what is expected of each participant in the training. This makes it easy for someone else to run the training if you can't be there AND it covers your a z z if your training ever comes into question.

    Good Luck.
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    In Kansas, no standard exists. It's sad. A lot of guys in my area go up to the KC area to train on certain topics and such on their own time. I just graduated the IFSAC academy that the Hutch community college offers and it was a condensed two week ordeal. Very fast paced arena. Kansas University did our testing. My dept paid for my academy costs and paid for fuel and food however I had to take vacation days at my full time job to cover being paid. Our Dept is one of the best funded around. We have 7 stations and good equipment with the county chief being the only full time firefighter. The county advises us to have in house training of FF1 with DVD's and such but it never works out.

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    Excellent question Fyred, but I'm afraid I don't have any real answers. What I can add is that we require all new members to get EMT within the first 2 years and FF1 in order to be a firefighter. That gets things started and we have additional training and skills requirements after graduation from FF1 in order to get fully cut loose. The only issues we have had with the training is people unwilling or unable to get their EMT. That's very rare, but we do have some that just don't want to ride the ambulance.

    One of the keys to being able to require that training is the availability of classes close by. We are very fortunate to have classes offered through MFRI. They are able to teach the classes often enough to accomidate most schedules. Most classes are from 19:00 to 22:00 with practical portions on the weekends. There are also daytime classes available, but you will most likely be taking them with the high school vo-tech class. The classes are close enough that people are able to attend. Most are hosted by a local fire department with the live burns at a regional facility.

    From what I've seen here, the actual training hours are not an issue, but the availability of the classes can become a problem. If people have to take off work or travel 5 or 6 hours to the class, it becomes too much of a hassle to get the training.

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    NJ has Firefighter 1 as the minimum to be a firefighter. It is the same course for volunteer, paid, and anywhere between. Many times in a class (mostly held at County training centers) there are paid and volunteer guys in the same class.

    It's value? There are parts of the class that don't apply. There are things I wish were added. It teaches you enough to stay fairly safe at fires and eventually put it out. Not anywhere near the level you need to be taught and/or experience. (NJ has an aversion to live fire....propane props just don't cut it for actual fire training) Too many newer guys enter a fire spraying water waiting for the gas to be turned off.

    BUT....it's a standard. It's 1 standard. At least everyone starts at the same level.

    There is no minimum standard to be driver/operator....other than FF1.

    I can think of Departments in my area that push for no more than FF1. I can think of others that push their members to more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    To be honest it has long frosted my a z z that some people WANT to be a member of the fire department and then walk around saying they are a firefighter.
    Goes back to my long held opinion that there are fire departments and there are social clubs that fight fires (more or less).

    If you look closely at that 100 member social club that fights fires, you might find 20-25 true firefighters. Most of the rest just want to wear the jacket.

    Thing is, a lot of the members who train regularly are the same ones who march, or are on the race team, or whatever. Some of the other 75% might show up at "the big one" and actually man a hose during the "surround and drown" phase, but you won't find them inside.

    A favored catch phrase with me is "enthusiasm is always suspect." And you can usually count on the 75% giving the gung-ho guy or gal a hard time for his or her interest.

    This is one reason our numbers are falling in the volunteer fire service - the social members are either aging out, or getting weeded out by training that is becoming required instead of optional. Truth is, we never had all that many firefighters, we just had fire departments with a lot of members.

    Why can't we change? Well, we are, however gradually. But remember that 75%? One thing they do do is attend the meetings (beer and munchies after!), and odds are that any increased requirements are going to get a thumbs down, at least until the social crowd is no longer in the majority/fails to hold sway.

    Sometimes it takes involvement by the governing body (city, town, village, fire district, or even the county or state) to make it happen. You can count on push-back - but mostly from that very vocal 75%.

    All that said, sometimes it is a matter of time and money. A lot of the folks we want most in this business - the youngsters - can't afford the luxury of a two week trip to a full-time academy. Or even taking two nights off a week for a locally taught FF1 class. They've got bills to pay, maybe a family to support, and precious little vacation (if any all all).

    And somebody has to put the course on. We consider ourselves lucky in this county to get a third FF1 a year - sometimes the funding just isn't there for the 300+ instructor hours needed to run the course (never mind the instructors themselves - who usually have day jobs, too). An enthusiastic firefighter can't take a course if it's not offered. And we occasionally get firefighters from neighboring counties who can't get the course at home - and vice versa.

    Even in-house training is subject to similar constraints. We usually do training on Sundays because so many of our members work on Saturdays. Throw in families and their activities, and evenings get tough, too. Holding training more often is a great idea, but those leading the training have the same limitations as the members who are training.

    Keep in mind, we aren't talking 100 member departments here. We're talking departments in the 20 member range, often less, in rural - and often disadvantaged - areas.

    People can, and do, make arrangements to take training, and to attend drills, but unless your entire life is the fire department there are a lot of other balls to keep in the air at the same time. Sometimes you gotta drop one. Since family and work are a couple that most folks need to keep in the air, all too often the one that gets dropped is the fire department.
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    I'lll stay out of this discussion. My opinions on VFD's are well known. The major points have already been made others.
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    I think the only answer is statewide standardized training and certification to the level of interior firefighting. A small amount of fire police or driver/pump operator positions should be allowed, but the majority should be firefighters, ready to actually fight fires and mitigate common emergencies. We need the public and the politicians on board to make it happen and to make it actually work. I believe most military reservists get time off for training without penalty. It's time for state laws that make it possible for volunteer firefighters to train without it being a hardship. They should not have to pay out of pocket for training expenses. There should be some amount of work excusal without penalty for volunteers. There should be tax breaks at every level for volunteers. It is hard enough getting by in the world today. Both spouses usually work. Some couples have two, three or four jobs between them. Not to mention childcare. The entire department can't be made up of kids barely out of their teens and retirees.
    In my area it gets harder every year for departments to find volunteers. Something is going to have to give. Spend a little now or lose the volunteer service entirely. See what it costs then. God knows we throw tax dollars at a lot of silly causes. We should be able to support the fire service.
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    CJ, the biggest impediment to what you propose will be the VFD's. We see that opposition on these boards.
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    I agree that many of the vollie departments seem to like things the way they are. Voting in officers and chiefs based on popularity or seniority, resisting mandatory training, refusing to re-evaluate their ability to deliver services due to changing population and development. Many other problems I'm sure. They like what they have and public doesn't want to know anything unless and until their house is on fire.

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    Wisconsin has that minimum training level, the Entry Level track. Also, the entire Entry Level track is paid for by the state, as well as much of the certification level if it is done in the proper order. In my tech college district the VAST majority of classes are held at fire departments not at a centralized location.

    So money isn't an issue and generally neither is travel.
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    Ok, need to move to Wisconsin.

    NJ, local Departments strongly discouraged from holding their own cert classes due to lack of "proper facilities". So classes end up at academies. Of course, then there is the limited room at the limited number of academies to deal with. Oh yeah, the FF1 class I do (or used to do)...the instructors aren't paid. That's a sticking point now as instructors are trying to get (at least) insurance coverage andgear to use for training. Ya, we don't get paid, don't get insurance coverage, and have to use our own gear/equipment/trucks. Some academies charge more for classes so they get more "perks" (as they are called).

    Ya, NJ may have a state standard for paid/vol/etc......but it makes it a screwed up process to get.
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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    There should be tax breaks at every level for volunteers.
    That would be nice. My accountant was able to knock about $50 off my tax burden for a year's worth of volunteering. That doesn't get anywhere close to reimbursing me for the fuel burn to get to the hall, let alone training time and time on scenes.

    I support a standard level of training. There are too many ways to get permanently deleted from Earth to do the fire service however the hell an untrained man might want. I say this as a member of a department that pays me nothing but Brotherhood and pride.

    The volunteer fire service is it's own worst enemy in many cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Ok, need to move to Wisconsin.

    NJ, local Departments strongly discouraged from holding their own cert classes due to lack of "proper facilities". So classes end up at academies. Of course, then there is the limited room at the limited number of academies to deal with. Oh yeah, the FF1 class I do (or used to do)...the instructors aren't paid. That's a sticking point now as instructors are trying to get (at least) insurance coverage andgear to use for training. Ya, we don't get paid, don't get insurance coverage, and have to use our own gear/equipment/trucks. Some academies charge more for classes so they get more "perks" (as they are called).

    Ya, NJ may have a state standard for paid/vol/etc......but it makes it a screwed up process to get.
    As a tech college instructor I am paid, have sick time, and because I reached the threshold of hours I was included in the Wisconsin Retirement System. As an employee of the college I am covered under their liability insurance.
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    I'm all for standardized requirements as well. I believe that most fire departments around here would support it as well, although some of the individuals might fight it.

    The state funds all firefighting training here - but as I mentioned, it's a matter of how much they fund, and the need to balance that with demand. It would be nice to run back-to-back FF1's year-round, and accompanying FF2's. While the FF1's usually fill up within hours of being announced, running too many would eventually run out of a supply of people who needed them in sufficient quantities to run classes. The FF2 classes are not run very often, and even then are not well attended.

    That goes doubly for advanced classes and leadership classes. Sans mandate, not many firefighters avail themselves of even basic officer classes when they're offered.

    Never mind the fire departments - home rule might well kick in as an impediment to mandated levels of training. As it is now, the local jurisdiction sets the bar. If a village doesn't care what training their Village FD has, so be it. And most smaller municipalities have seen fit to let the FD's govern themselves (in no small part a political decision). It's possible that there might be pushback from the municipalities, too, who might see it as another power grab by the state.

    So it comes back to the FD's themselves. Some do fine and have well qualified firefighters. Some are lax and still have people who have only taken the old "Essentials of Firemanship" - all 39 hours of it, and 20-30 years ago at that.

    We require FF1 (or Scene Support Ops) within a year, or "as soon as possible," as well as a command course of some sort for officers, but beyond that, it's anybody's game. The general attitude is starting to support more training, but it can still be a challenge to get people to go.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    I could not agree more with what Tree and Fyred up have stated in this thread.

    I come from long island. Arguably one of the wealthiest volunteer (if not the THE wealthiest) volunteer fire systems in the world. We are talking absolute top of the line equipment in just about every department save a few. Countless millions spent on equipment with all too often bare minimum training to utilize it.

    The issues I see in my department are the same as anywhere else. Majority of the members, just want to wear the costume. There are certainly the truly enthusiastic few who love the "job." Unfortunately even those members don't always have the time to attend trainings. Rarely is training or call response a topic for discussion at the monthly gatherings.

    Unfortunately this thread is essentially a volunteer vs paid discussion, which has been beaten to death, resurrected and beaten again.

    But no matter how many times the subject arises, a solution to the issues never rises. Truth be told it is impossible to ever balance out the training standards between a volunteer department and guys who can be paid 48 hours a week to enhance their abilities and knowledge as a firefighter.

    FDNY for example has a 4.5 month academy at this time. Subtract all the physical fitness stuff (which is still very important) and maybe we can cut it down to 3 months. The counterpart to that in the volunteer service is a 2 week course on the basics, which unless your home department greatly expands upon you will never excel past due to field experience being very few and far between.

    The public, rarely knows the difference or even cares until you tell them its going to cost them more money or their own home catches fire. Expecting a public push for a higher standard in the fire service is a pipe dream.

    It has been clear to me for some time that the only way training will legitimately get accomplished is by state or federal requirements. Expecting the department itself to suddenly see the light and find that much free time in their day is unrealistic. So whats the answer here? How do we set a minimum standard? How do we turn a social club into a fire department? I fear we will never find the answers and usually the way we see the light to some degree is through terrible tragedy.
    Last edited by BrooklynBravest; 11-18-2013 at 05:51 PM.

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    My opinions on this topic are well known.

    I oppose statewide minimum training standards for volunteers. I have no issues with departments setting their own reasonable minimum standards which should be based on local conditions.

    Volunteers should never be held to the same standards are career members.

    I have stated my reasons numerous times in the past for all three beliefs.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    In regards to my upcoming promotion???!!!??? to asst. training officer, I have a few more questions. Is it a reasonable idea to train the guys that want train and leave the dead weight behind? A lot of training officers would beat their head into the wall trying to get everyone to train. I have a few new guys and some others that are well motivated, as well as others that could care less and only achieve the 30 hour minimum. I figure the other guys will either see that they are being left behind and participate or fade away and quit. I cant raise the training standard(not enough votes) but I should be able to get the guys some extra training. What do you guys think? Good idea or am I setting myself up for failure?
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    In regards to my upcoming promotion???!!!??? to asst. training officer, I have a few more questions. Is it a reasonable idea to train the guys that want train and leave the dead weight behind? A lot of training officers would beat their head into the wall trying to get everyone to train. I have a few new guys and some others that are well motivated, as well as others that could care less and only achieve the 30 hour minimum. I figure the other guys will either see that they are being left behind and participate or fade away and quit. I cant raise the training standard(not enough votes) but I should be able to get the guys some extra training. What do you guys think? Good idea or am I setting myself up for failure?
    one thing that has helped me is a "tiered " training program for nightly drills. one of the biggest mistakes made is to try and find a happy medium for training. Some nights I do an all hands drill for the camaraderie, but many nights I split into advanced training and basic training. Nothing is more discouraging to a good 10 year man than a class on salvage covers or more overwhelming to a new guy than some advanced techniques that are over his head.
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    Is it a reasonable idea to train the guys that want train and leave the dead weight behind?
    Balance priviledge with duty. Determine what the requirements for any given position/function/etc should be and train accordingly.

    Yard breathers and "banquet firemen" get general safety and operations stuff (OSHA 8 hours, et al). Drivers spend time on driving and equipment operation. The folks who want to actually fight fire need to stay up on their skills.

    The EMS CME model might be a good one to look at. Paramedics need a lot more (and different) CME hours than and EMT-B.

    Probably the most important consideration is to ensure that everyone who wants to train has the opportunity to do so, and in an appropriate manner for their skill level.

    If you're looking for drills, FH has a bunch, as does FirefighterCloseCalls. IFSTA put out a book of company level drills as well. Plenty of resources.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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