Thread: Combination FDs

  1. #1

    Post Combination FDs

    Does anyone have any info on how combination FDs are managed, paid over vol., vol over paid, I dont want to get into the paid vs vol debate I have my own opinions, I've been both and it doesn't matter to me. I've outgrown the debate. A proffessional is a proffessional!!!


  2. #2
    Stuart Cobb Guest


    I'll give you a short post on what could be a complicated topic.

    We are a small (6000 pop, 35 sq miles) rural town 25 miles NorthEast of Hartford, CT. We currently run approx. 400 ambulance calls and 115 fire calls per year.

    We started with 1 'paid guy' in 1968 to help staff the ambulance, but after a while that one guy was having to wait to a volunteer to show up. It then evolved into 2 guys for 8 hours per day, then 10 hours day, then 12 and now 17 hours per day, 5 days per week. The schedule is now midnight to 5:00 pm. The payroll budget is now $150,000 with about $50,000 of that coming from ambulance billing.

    The paid guys deal with almost all vehicle and station maintenance and well as all the paperwork. The volunteers are expected to keep their skills up (drills) and go to calls. The paid guys are under control of the volunteer chief for day to day operations. This prevents every single officer from coming in and telling the paid staff what to do. When a call goes out, any paid guys who have an officer rank on the volunteer side (either elected or appointed) revert to that rank. (i.e. I am only a paid guy until the tones go out, then I become an Asst. Chief.) Right now, we are not following the FLSA rules regarding 'you can't volunteer for the same organization you work for (shhh, don't tell anyone)(frankly, nobody has bitched about it yet, but it only takes one bad apple to spoil things). The towns around us have taken two approaches to that: One is to pay any of your paid staff for all calls they respond to (good if you have lots of money and short of volunteers at all times although very hard to budget) or Two: Give your people a choice, they can be a paid guy or a volunteer, not both. Good if you have enough vollies during non-paid guy hours.

    Pros: The townspeople definitely get a better quality of service when the paid guys are on. They are out the door in 1 minute as opposed to 5-20 minutes for the volunteers. The paid guys are usually the 'cream of the crop' so to speak. Not because they are better by nature (although most of them are) but because they simply get much more experience than the average vollie.

    Cons: The vollies will get a load of hose dirty and leave it on the firehouse floor thinking that, "screw it, the paid guys will clean it up tomorrow." One reason we had to keep pushing back the starting time was if we had a call at 6:30 and the paid guys were scheduled to start at 7:00, most everyone said screw it, the paid guys are getting ready for work so let them take the call. On the other side of things, if something goes wrong with the truck, it's always the paid guys fault (sometimes they are right).

    Overall, our community has benefitted from having some paid staff on duty, but at a price. Many of the towns around us also have paid staff running from 1 guy in each station 24 hours per day to 4 guys on 8 hours per day. It all depends what your needs are. We seem to have the same # of people we had on the roster years ago, it's just that they aren't available to go on as many calls as they used to.

    Currently, we are doing everything we can to avoid putting on staff for the weekends, but frankly I think it's inevitable.

  3. #3
    Capez Guest


    Pay the boss. Then make him do all the work that the volunteers don't want to do. I.E. Paperwork, billing (if you bill), writing policies, maintaining OSHA & NFPA compliance, developing training programs, budgeting. There's a lot to be said for a boss that works 40+ hours a week to get all the necisary stuff done.

    Badd boy gotta follow those FLSA laws. But look at the plus you could get a really nice check at the end of the year!

    [This message has been edited by Capez (edited May 28, 2000).]

  4. #4
    pvfr fyrfyter Guest


    The only combination department around me has three paid employees who work 24-48 schedules. Their job is engineer of the apparatus on calls within the city limits. They also get the routine maintenance and general housekeeping duties. They operate at the fire scene under the OIC but only report to the chief for day to day operations. *note* The chief is a elected member of the volunteer dept. and only gets a small amount of money once a year for doing the paperwork. I believe that all three engineers are currently members of the volunteer dept. but have response restrictions based on when their next work day is. IE.. If you work the next day you report to the station when calls go out to staff the station for other calls, second alarms, ect. Hope this helps.


  5. #5
    FGFD43 Guest


    My dept. has recently gone combination and so far(knock on wood) things have gone very well. We hired paid personel when we began to run EMS assist calls in our area. We have two 12-hour shifts and one 9-5 shift every day as well as two volunteer members at night and during the day on Sat. and Sun. The paid guys are considered the same rank whether they are on duty or not. I have to credit our vollies in that they have welcomed the new guys and haven't slacked off any of their duties on the paid guys. Actually a couple of the paid guys have joined our dept. on the volunteer roster as well. We also have hired some of the volunteers as paid also. The main difference between our vol. and paid men is the paid men have a duty schedule to get done when they are on duty and have to get this done before they can "hang out and shoot the bull with the other guys". The one thing that I think has been helpful in the hiring process was the chief made a point to try to hire people who were familular with the dept. and members. That way the new paid guys had a idea as to how things were done around the station and on the fireground. Good Luck with your situation.

    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA

  6. #6
    bob1350 Guest


    I am from a large combination dept. in Colorado. We have 37 career members who are managed by a paid fire chief and two paid division chiefs. Our volunteer side,(65 members) is managed by 3 volunteer division chiefs + a secretary and treasurer. These positions make up the board of directors. These positions are also elected, but you must be qualified to run for the chief's positions. These qualifications include: years fire service experience, years on dept, years as Lt. and Cpt., you must take and pass the paid chief's officer developement program. Our dept. has great equipment and we receive very good training.
    The system works well. Volunteers can respond to calls in their POV, or ride on the engines. Volunteers can drive support apparatus, but not front line equipment. On scene, volunteer officers can take command of incidents. It all depends on who shows up first. Yes, sometimes volunteers don't show up to clean hose or equipment, but for the most part, our volunteers do.
    I believe everyone on the dept. gets treated equal and with respect. When we are on scene, the citizens cannot tell a paid person from a volunteer. That is because we are all professional and there for one purpose. To save lives and fight fires. Anyone want more info, E-mail me.

  7. #7
    Brian Dunlap Guest


    Bob1350:....Sounds like you guys have a great system Down there but I do have one question...Why would a Volunteer not be allowed to drive a front line piece of equipment but be allowed to drive a support piece...sounds kind of wierd to me

  8. #8
    bob1350 Guest


    The answer to your question eludes me at times. This came up a few years back when some of the paid staff began to feel a little uncomfortable about their jobs. We(the volunteers)made a "deal" with the paid chief. The volunteers would drive squads, tenders, and brush units, we would supply firefighting manpower on scenes and the volunteer officers would be able to run scenes and command incidents along with the paid staff. We would not split an engine company(paid engineer - volunteer officer) with a paid Lt. on another piece. The paid part of our dept. used to be union. This was part of the issue. Now, they just consider themselves an association.
    Some paid members "feel" we are really one dept., but if a volunteer touched "their" pump panel, I think that there would be lots of complaining.
    It is absolutely a great system. I don't know if you guys back east paid attention to our recent wildfires, but our combination dept.worked great together on structure protection at this incident. We put in tons of time together. One of goverment honchos on scene has conveyed to us that it was the most professional dept. he had ever worked with. Let me know if want more information.

  9. #9
    Brian Dunlap Guest


    bob1350.....Sorry took me awhile to respond back...Had forgotten where I read this post...Anyway did watch the WildFires on CNN and other News Stations and from what I saw You guys down in Tx. did one hell of a job!! As for needing more information on my question not nessessary you explained it very well...I applaud your department for having a close working relationship with the career staff....Not all departments are as lucky....We do not use career firefighters at all at my company in NJ...We are 100% Volunteer 100% of the time but we don't have the call volume to need them either....About 420 runs per year...Right around 1-2 per day on the average....I used to belong to another department in the next town over from where I'm currently at and that was a combination department...About 750-800 Runs per year then...about 1100-1200 now because of Ambulance Calls...We had a great relationship with the career staff there and even were hired as career fill ins when the regular guys were off or on vacation...Had the chance several times to fill in and learned alot from it.....Again a great system

  10. #10
    phyrngn Guest


    Check out Fire Chief magazine (if you have it available to you)...I believe either this month or last month has an article about Mason, OH...It's called "The right combination." A very unique idea, that seems to work well...

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