I'm at my wits end. I'm a volunteer firefighter for a small department. The chief of this department for the last 5 years or so has been mismanaging the department to the point we have no equipment (not even a haligan tool) and he refuses to buy anything, saying that we don't need it. Recently I've learned that we've been misled regarding our budget, it's more than double what he says. He's endangering the lives of the firefighters by canceling mutual aid stations to working housefires leaving only 2-3 of us to handle the fire, salvage and overhaul. I'm at my wits end and would like some advice on what to do with this.. this... well, I'm not real sure what to call him. Thanks folks, it's greatly appreciated.
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09-08-1999, 08:59 PM #1jedge168Firehouse.com Guest
problems with a volunteer chief... HELP!!
09-09-1999, 06:45 AM #2Phillip GatesFirehouse.com Guest
Hold a vote of the membership and remove this fire cheif imposter. Place some one in the position that will get things done for the department and members.
09-09-1999, 09:01 AM #3Bob SnyderFirehouse.com Guest
Yea, vote him out. If you can't get a majority to vote him out, then join another company. From what you're saying, you don't belong there under those circumstances.
09-09-1999, 09:18 AM #4Chief Sanborn CFRFirehouse.com Guest
Hold on - let's not presume because he is a volunteer chief he can be "voted" out. Some vol. chiefs are appointed not elected. However, everyone is responsible to someone. As he has a budget there must be someone, Town or Commission or whatever, that provides it. Those members who think (know) there is a problem should document the problems and take these findings to the group responsible for overseeing the chief. It is also good to use nationally recognized standards when presenting such information. Such as the 2-in, 2-out standard, recommending staffing for apparatus, recommended tools and equipment and so on. If after presenting this info, they still make no changes, you might have no other option but to leave. Back to the voting thing - even if you can vote the chief out, I think it makes more sense to take this approach, because you are documenting that there are real management problems, not just a personality issue.
09-09-1999, 10:43 AM #5iwood51Firehouse.com Guest
Chief, you beat me to the response, this has to be addressed with the people that he is utimately responsible to. With us, New York State law states that "the chief, under direction of the Board of Fire Commissioners, is responsible ....." The Board of Fire Commssioners consists of 5 people (can be members of the FD, but don't have to be, their only requirement is US citizen, and resident of the Fire District)that are elected by the public for 5 year terms. They are the ones that we would approach if we were under a similar situation. They are the ones that hold the purse strings and the Chief has to get all purchases approved by them.
Another good point made by Chief Sanborn, is to document the lack of equipment and/or personnel, and approach them as a safety issue.
[This message has been edited by iwood51 (edited September 09, 1999).]
09-09-1999, 01:21 PM #6Bob SnyderFirehouse.com Guest
Perfectly good points, both of you. If you are encumbered by this sort of oversight, then you would need to make your case in terms of safety, efficiency, operational effectiveness, or something of the sort. Even if you're accountable only to each other, it should still be clear to the other members of the company that the problems are not driven by personality, but by legitimate safety or operational concerns. However, if it turns out that the vast majority share those concerns and the sitting chief is unresponsive, why wait to boot him (if you can)?
My company did just that to a chief about 19 years ago, for very legitimate operational and safety reasons, only 6 months into his first term. This set a tone of joint accountability (crew to officers, but also officers to crew) that has endured. I think we're a better team, we're more effective, we're more innovative, and we're more flexible because of the fact that accountability is a two-way street in our station. The chief officers are respected as the ultimate authority, but there are few planning, purchasing, or procedural decisions made without discussion amongst the entire crew. Fireground decisions and such, of course, follow chain of command; that's no place for a voting process.
09-09-1999, 05:23 PM #7DDFirehouse.com Guest
Please provide more information about the election or appointment process of your department's Chief. Do your by-laws, charter, ordinance, or whatever authorizes the operation of your department provide for the removal of the Chief for due cause?
Do you have enough votes or influence to bring about the removal of your Chief? Are you prepared to accept the consequences of trying to remove him, if you fail? Providing us with more information will enable a lot of experienced people to be able to assist you with your problem.
09-09-1999, 06:40 PM #8jedge168Firehouse.com Guest
Folks, thanks all of you for the input. I agree that all are good thoughts, and I'm already working on getting the appropriate national codes and standards together for support. The chief for this department is an appointed position with the appointment made by a board of directors. These 5 people, requirments being only residency in the district, are unfortunately, with the exception of maybe one, deep in the chiefs' pocket, all but the one having served on this board for more than 15 years, and all but that same one being over 70 years old (seniors forgive me for that one). Luckily that one is also the father of one of our younger members, thus hears of the problems from someone other than me. I do hate to leave the department since it is the department that protects my home, and I do feel some responsibility to the community having been in the service for almost 12 years in various departments. Unfortunately though, that may be my last option. Thank you all again. Be safe.
09-10-1999, 09:24 AM #9iwood51Firehouse.com Guest
You have a difficult task on your hands, but as you stated, there is a Board of Directors that are, I am assuming, elected by the public. You have two choices, the first being to start replacing the Board of Directors possibly running for the position yourself, this is a long and difficult process, it would take five years in my Dept. The second option is to go public over the safety issues, you see, even the Board of directors is responsible to someone, howvever, be prepared to face the consequences, you will be black-balled for anything when it comes to your advancement, however, if you are considering leaving that shouldn't affect you. Think of it as an exit interview.
What are the qualifications to be considered for the Chief's position appointment?
How many members do you have? Can you get a strong enough following to go into the Board and demand something be done (This works very well with a TV camera with you).
09-10-1999, 07:41 PM #10cacfpdFirehouse.com Guest
Find out how the trustees are appointed. Are they elected, or appointed by another governmential body (ie. County Board). Try to get people on the board of commisioners who are sympathetic to your departments needs. This may take several years if the resistance is as you have wrote.
Be sure that you have a large majority of the firefighters behind you on this one or you will fall flat on your face and possibly lose the department entirely.
09-13-1999, 01:25 PM #111497Firehouse.com Guest
I agree under these circumstances he needs to be removed. Does your department have someone else qualified and willing to become chief? Sadly there are times when these situations continue because there is no one that will take the job (and responsibility).
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