As most anyone who has been in volunteer firefighting for many years knows, there is a dwindling number of volunteer firefighters across the US. Some areas have been hit harder than others, especially those areas that have relied heavily on one type of industry for support and growth.
I recently talked to a Movie/TV director/producer/writer who is very interested in doing a story on the plight of volunteer firefighters and how industry has affected their departments.
In Genesee and Shiawassee counties in Michigan we have been hard up for volunteers since General Motors (GM) began shutting down factories and laying off large amounts of workers, many of whom were volunteer firefighters.
Flint, Michigan in Genesee county was once the world wide headquarters of GM. With massive layoffs starting in the '80s we have seen the number of volunteers drop drastically. Many departments in our two counties have a hard time just getting five firefighters to show during the day for structure fires, mine included, whether they are large or small, one station or 6 stations.
What I want is information from volunteers who have been firefighting since the early eighties and have seen their ranks dwindle in number, mostly caused by industries closing down factories. Anyone who's department has seen this problem, please send info on how this has impacted your department's service to your communities.
Please send as email to: email@example.com
Maybe with your help we can get a documentary or story out where people can see it and help reverse this trend.
Thank you in advance for any help.
This is also posted in the volunteer's forum.
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Thread: Information needed!
12-31-2000, 05:43 PM #1WadersFirehouse.com Guest
01-05-2001, 06:19 PM #2WadersFirehouse.com Guest
I'm so surprised at the lack of responses to this subject here and from other firefighting forums. I guess maybe I should rephrase my request or change it.
Anyone on a volunteer fire department with declining number of members or few members that can respond to calls during the day, please send me what you think may be the cause. Is it internal as in firehouse politics, or external forces as in factories closing, relocating, or just a general lack of help from people in the community.
01-05-2001, 08:39 PM #3CFDENG23Firehouse.com Guest
Well i'll tell you i have been around the fire service my whole life. My dad has 30+ years in the volunteer service and let me tell you it is not just the loss of industry that is causing the volunteer numbers to dwindle. Today the idea of community service is hard a hard thing to come by which in years past was a strong draw to the job. 15-20 years ago the requirements to be a firefighter were were not nearly as demanding as they are today. Add to that the fact that there aren't as many 3 shift jobs out there anymore, by that I mean everyone works during daylight hours for the most part leaving daytime volunteers at almost nill. In case your interested we have changed the way we do business a little to make it more attractive for people to become involved. We have allowed people to be just emt's where as before you had to do both EMS and fire. We have given up on daytime and pay part time personnel from 0600 to 1700 and are pushing for two more night slots. I must say the day of the volunteer is coming to and end for our small community, for better or worse.
01-06-2001, 12:55 AM #4SteamTrainFirehouse.com Guest
In my case, a couple of reasons. FIRST & foremost, rotten, stinkin', Godless, filthy POLITICS. Not many at the commissioner/city council level cared where I had volunteered. I think that may have an impact nationwide also. In most cases, local politics suck. Egomaniacs who have no intrest in mind exept their own greed are usually who get elected. Normal, well meaning folks do not get into politics because they are fed up with the system.
SECOND, as a career Firefighter I became concerned as to what would happen if I was injured as a volunteer. My full time Dept. would not really care how I became unable to do my job, just that I couldn't do it. Thar, ya wanted a reply, ye got one.
GOD is my Fire Chief, JESUS is my Incident Commander!
01-06-2001, 07:13 AM #5comwhiteFirehouse.com Guest
SteamTrain, I left FireHouse for awhile, because it seemed that everytime I read a post, it was geared like yours, blame the local politicians. You tend to forget those politicians have the welfare of a whole city to be concerned with. I fully supported our volunteer dept., until they got to the point where calls weren't being answered. This weekend we are moving into a new $600,000.00 building, that tax dollars are paying for. Only this week our dept. failed to answer two calls, and were late in responding to a few more. Our department has an engine, a brush truck, a tanker, and a rescue vehicle, all paid for with tax dollars. Does that sound like the politicians aren't interested in the department?
Our numbers have gone down, significantly over the past few years. Why? I wish I knew, but I don't think it's lack of support from the local officials. Twenty years ago, businesses were owned and operated by local residents, if emergencies occurred, they knew it could be personal. There was no problem in allowing a person to leave to fight a fire. Today, many businesses are run by people who live out of state, the compassion and concern is not there, and men or women can't leave their jobs to volunteer to run an emergency call. Add to that, that volunteering takes a lot of hours from family and personal enjoyment, and you can fairly say that somethings going lacking.
Before you blame politicians for the dwindling numbers, make sure that your department is doing it's job for the taxpayers. And here's a good peice of advice, if you don't think local politicians are "rotten, stinkin', Godless,", run for election in your city, and make a difference. I'd bet, even with you on the commission, there would still be people who are saying the same thing. Good Luck
01-06-2001, 09:23 AM #6Tom ErwinFirehouse.com Guest
I agree with you that the politicians are not FULLY responsible for declining numbers but PLEASE don't hold theses ruthless self serving individuals blameless either. The fact is that across America it is the politicians that are directly responsible for the decline of the fire service. They see the fire service as a necessary evil that costs a lot of money. The fact that they provided some equipment for the local dept. doesn't indicate in any way that they are interested in the fire dept but rather that they fulfilled their duty to equip the fire dept. Yes the residents pay tax dollars for the fire dept and yes they should receive the fire protection that they are paying for. However if there is no response it is the politicians that need to get off their high horses and try to find the incentives that will reverse this trend. After all they took an oath when they took office and I am sure that the oath included some verbiage that stated they would discharge their duties one of which is protecting the people that they represent. I hope that this will get you thinking.
01-06-2001, 05:02 PM #7comwhiteFirehouse.com Guest
>>After all they took an oath when they took office and I am sure that the oath included some verbiage that stated they would discharge their duties one of which is protecting the people that they represent. I hope that this will get you thinking. <<
You're absolutely right, Tom, we do take an oath, and for me that's the problem. When a muncipality uses tax dollars to fund a fire department, the citizens expect protection at all times, not just when it's convenient. An interesting example happened just this morning.
Two firefighter slept at the new fire station last night, for some reason they never felt the need at the old station, however at approximately 10:30 a brush fire call comes in. Guess what? There was no one at the station to answer the page. Twenty minutes later they responded. Now, you tell me if the taxpayers are being treated fairly?
This city has done everything in our power to accommodate the department, because the Fire Department holds a long and committed history. We have supported our firefighters, and have gone in debt to see that they had everything they needed and much of what they wanted. It has come down now to thinking about the taxpayers protection, and the city's liability.
I have no doubt there are politicians who could care less, but probably not as many as you think. Afterall, they answer to those same taxpaying voters. We're very much aware of the committment we have to the citizens, and if the department isn't supplying, then we aren't, and someone has to answer for it. And, it's usually going to be the ones that makes the decisions.
01-06-2001, 05:54 PM #8fc80chiefFirehouse.com Guest
I have been reading commwhite's replies in this thread, and if the situation is like he says it is then there is a real problem here. I cannot say what it is because I don't know the whole story. When it takes 20 min. for an alarm to be answered - no matter how trivial, then the community is not being served.
I am from a very small community, and serve as chief of a very small fire company. With the exception of carrying our workman's compensation (they are required to do that in PA) our insurance, and firefighter relief money (PA depts. know what I am talking about in the form of relief money) we get no money whatsoever from the community in the way of tax levies, etc. The only money that we bring in is in the way of donations, raffles, dinners, etc.
which lends its way to a lot of long days. Long days at work, then home, then the station to do whatever needs done, that is just to make money for the fire company, add into that all of the required training time just to meet the so called standards. There are some weeks when there is not a lot of family time. This brings into the domestic situation some deal of stress to be put on top of the stress of having a job, paying the bills, etc. The demands of today's modern society require that both partner's in the family be employed just to make ends meet (Now there can be some debate here on what actually is the cause of this which I do not want to get into. I was just stating that the demand exists). You add all of that together into one person and come up with one very tired, stressed out, overworked, underpaid, UNDERAPPRECIATED, individual that just wants to make the community that he lives in a little safer, and in time a little better. Then the day comes when you go to city council and ask them for a hand to replace that 30 year old pumper that has been nickling and diming you to death (keeping in mind they did a bunch of kicking and screaming the month before because a couple of constituents did not like the fact the fire company was having a "casino night" to raise funds) and when you tell them how much it is going to cost they tell you "well your just going to have to have more spaghetti dinners because you are not going to get the money from us". It is definitely an uphill battle to be a Volunteer Firefighter in America these days.
Now to be fair here the example I just listed was a composite of past experiences of myself and people of other departments.
But I am sure that what I have just spelled out is happening somewhere in America, and it is my opinion it is happening a lot more than the politicians and citizens of this great land want to admit. I am not placing blame on anybody's doorstep here, not the local politicians, and not the disenfranchised firefighters who leave the service for whatever reason. I am just trying to put into words what I see as a really nasty situation about to get a whole lot worse.
If we want to make the situation better for ourselves in the future we have to act. Sitting around the station and complaining is not going to get the job done. We have to be proactive to the changes coming down the road at us (this means we have to identify the coming challenges and address how we shall deal with them) not reactive (this means dealing with the situation after it has occurs). We need to get our representatives in the congress and senate (in both the state and US houses) and let them know what kind of trouble we are in. Don't sit back and think that someone is going to do the work for you. You have to do it yourself. Remember, its the squeaky wheel that gets greased.
[This message has been edited by fc80chief (edited 01-06-2001).]
01-06-2001, 08:37 PM #9SRVFD2Firehouse.com Guest
I answered this topic elsewhere - and I still feel the same - there are just too many demands on a young person's time in this day and age -- but a documentary on the subject would be wonderful so that more people would wake up to how much we need them. We are not tax supported - but our state, and our local govt. have made great strides at increasing our funding. fc80 makes a great point - things aren't going to improve if you don't let the "powers that be" know how you feel. And I'm in complete agreement with Comwhite - our area sure can't blame our politicians for anything they lack!
01-14-2001, 12:38 AM #10WadersFirehouse.com Guest
Thanks to those of you who have posted replies here, and the three of you who sent me e-mails detailing their fire department's problems with shrinking numbers of firefighters.
comwhite, sounds to me like maybe your deparment is getting too much of what it wants and not enough of what it needs. It's kind of like raising children, if you are too accomodating and too willing to give, they become lazy and expect more of the same without earning anything.
Our politicans (local gov) make us jump through hoops to get what we need, which makes us work harder to prove that we really need what we are asking for. If we can't even respond to fires, how can we justify spending taxpayer money to buy new equipment, new stations, new trucks? I am a taxpayer too and I too want to make sure my money is well spent as well as get put to use.
[This message has been edited by Waders (edited 01-14-2001).]
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