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  1. #1
    rchildress Guest

    Post Volunteer officers commanding paid firefighters

    [This message has been edited by rchildress (edited 04-02-2001).]

  2. #2
    GR73 Guest


    If it is your company's call...why would a mutual aid officer be giving orders to your members? If for some reason he was assigned a task by your IC, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Here's another question for do you feel about taking orders from a volunteer officer when you are called for mutual aid??????
    Not putting down career guys...some really know their stuff and are good firefighters, but not all of them.

    Glenn Ralston

    [This message has been edited by GR73 (edited 04-02-2001).]

  3. #3
    NozzleHog Guest


    What? This is just a hunch, but I doubt if any firefighter in my department would take orders from a volunteer officer.

    Not putting down volunteer guys...some really know their stuff and are good firefighters, but not all of them.

  4. #4
    hot DAMN Guest


    You mean all of the paid guys know their stuff?'s just because they are volunteers. I know, I am both a paid and a volunteer officer, and I am both commanded by volunteer officers (paid job) and command paid guys (Volunteer time). A better question is this : how could a firefighter NOT complete a direct order? Isn't that insubordination no matter how you look at it? At the very least it is unsafe....

  5. #5
    dmstreet Guest


    If I get the gist of this topic correctly, some career/paid firefighters have some grief with having a volunteer officer giving them orders on the fireground. Our department is a combined service (paid & volunteer), and we respond mutual aid to a neighboring jurisdiction on a regular basis (second due engine) where volunteer chiefs are in command at incidents 99.9% of the time. Our career personnel are expected to obey the orders of any command officer, volunteer or career, just as all volunteer firefighters are expected to do the same. Doing so while on mutual aid calls is particularly important, since we are representing the department, as well as our company. Any insubordination or disrespect to any officer on our part would be unacceptable, and would probably result in a phone call from the neighoring jurisdiction fire chief to ours, followed shortly by a summons to our chief's office to explain our actions. Whether you believe the officer to be competent or not shouldn't override the fact that some authority appointed or otherwise chose that individual to be an officer, and it is our duty to recognize that they are in charge. If you can't accept that fact, then you display a lack of discipline and respect for rank.

    Donald M. Street
    Emergency Services Specialist, CHEMTREC
    Volunteer Captain Maryland City VFD
    Laurel, MD

  6. #6
    RJE Guest


    And I remember a full paid dept Captain order a master stream from the tower ladder to be placed IN the vent hole in the roof. His order was countermanded by the vollie Captain who was IC (city truck was M/A to the vol. depts. fire). City Captain blew up. Got reprimanded by the vol. Chief who was now on scene and had assumed command. He blew up again.

    Next day, he's called on the carpet by his B/C. There's a "visitor" there. It's the vol. Chief. Only now he's wearing 4 bugles and a nametag that says "Chief Fire Marshall / Arson Investigation". Yep, the "Chief was a chief on both depts, only the Captain didn't know it, because he worked "admin" as an arson investigator, and the Captain had never run into him, since his district was across town.

    And the next day, he runs into the vol. Captain. This time, at an off-duty class at the local college. Yep, that volunteer Captain was the instructor for the I/C class in the Fire Engineering program.

    So be careful who you sneer at.

    Vollies, the "unpaid" professionals.

    BTW, at later incidents, both those vol. officers, and their crews, took orders from the paid Captain when they went M/A to a plane crash in the City. By then, they'd all learned their lessons, made up, and made friends.

  7. #7
    NozzleHog Guest


    We have a very simple, clear line of authority. It's called chain-of-command. A firefighter reports to and takes orders from his company officer, a captain or lieutenant. The company officer, in turn takes his orders from a Battalion Chief who takes orders from a Division get the picture.

    By definition, to be insubordinate is to be disobedient to authority. If, on the rare occasion we were to be in that situation, a volunteer officer would have no authority. He could literally be told to go and "pound sand". Hopefully, the men would be more diplomatic and refer him to their officer.

    Do I mean "all of the paid guys know their stuff?" No, I never said that. But I know a whole lot more who do than don't. Do you mean all volunteers know their stuff?

    I too am both a paid officer and a volunteer. I'm not knocking either side, just responding to a post that is about more of the same old tired career vs. volunteer garbage.

  8. #8
    Brian Dunlap Guest


    Heres the best way I see It....First Company Officer to Arrive at the Scene has command period ! Whether they are Volunteer or Career should not matter This person remains in command until releaved by a higher ranking officer {Again Career or Volunteer} The Fire really doesn't care who is in charge or who is giving the orders -- all it cares about is beating us up and being destructive.

  9. #9
    hot DAMN Guest


    How could you possibly say that telling an officer to, as you put it "pound sand" is not insubordination? Perhaps where you work there are separate chains of command. Where I work and where I volunteer, the chains of command are integrated. If I was to tell a volunteer officer, in your diplomatic words to go "pound sand", I would be off a few days without pay, as I SHOULD be for not respecting my superior officer. People should be respected for how they command a fireground, not for where their paycheck does or does not come from. As I also stated earlier, it is UNSAFE to disregard an order from an officer. If you are in the heat of battle, you tend to become myopic and have tunnel vision. Thus the reason for an IC.

  10. #10
    Captain Gonzo Guest


    On the fireground, you have to work together.

    enough said!

    Firefighters: rising to accept the challenge!
    Captain Gonzo

  11. #11
    Sirene Guest

    Thumbs down

    I really doubt if any member of our career dept. would take an order from a volunteer member. That is why all of our companies have a captain and he is responsible and he is the one who gives our crew orders.
    If it comes from a volunteer IC then it goes through our Capt. and if he does not think it is safe then it is a no go.

  12. #12
    hot DAMN Guest


    I can't belive what I am reading!! I dont understand the point of even having an IC if you are just going to disregard their orders!! What a holier-than-thou attitude!! Why would you NOT take an order from a volunteer officer or ANY officer is a better question. I would hope (god knows this isn't always true) that you would know the capabilites and shortcomings of every officer you work under, as well as their strengths and use these to your advantage whether they are career or volunteer. It is absolutely IDIOTIC to make blanket statements. OF COURSE there are stupid Volunteer Officers, but I have seen, and/or served under an equal amount of stupid PAID officers. Being a good officer is a choice; you get the experiance, take lots of classes, and TRAIN YOUR BUTT OFF and then do it some more and THEN you MAY be a good officer....
    If we dont work together then nothing ever gets accomplished...

  13. #13
    KeithA8 Guest


    Well Well Well,
    In my screwed up dept. (which is combo.) our chain of comand puts career privates under volunteer officers. But, Our Shift commander has rank over all of them. So, a volunteer officer would never even think about giving a career guy an order. It's just not done - even though the chain of command allows it. The volunteers have some pretty good officers too. In most cases the volunteer officers look to the career guys for guidence and ussualy go with it. I personaly don't get involved with the whole paid/volunteer thing. I just do my job and answer to my shift commander. And if any volunteer officer has a problem with that then my shift commnder takes care of it. It's an unwritten rule in my dept. that the career guys run the call and are backed up by the volunteers. And it's not a paid vs. volunteer war - we all get along pretty well.

    IAFF Local 2033, Love this job! Hate SCABS!

  14. #14
    HallwaySledge Guest


    Some very, uh, interseting I guess, viewpoints on this one. Being a paid member of a combination department with numerous POC officers I have two views. 1) I have a distinct problem with POC "officers" that only show up to "good" calls and the rest of the time you never see them i.e drills, classes etc. How are you supposed to keep current and in practice? We just don't have the call volume to support that. 2) In all of my training the only time that you would disobey a direct order is if it was going to risk your or someone elses safety. If I were involved in a situation like this I think I would find my company officer (if he wasn't the one issuing the order) or a higher ranking sector/command officer and run it by him in the most diplomatic way possible.

    The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not reflect those of my Department or it's Administration.

  15. #15
    FyredUp Guest



    You can't be serious that you and your fellow FF's would not follow the orders of a volly officer on the scene of an emergency. If you follow chain of command, as you say, and the volly officer is in command of the sector or specific ops, if you don't follow his orders you are insubordinate. Anything you say in response to that is so much hogwwash.

    I am both a volly and a paid FF. I am also a volly officer. You say it is more of the same old hogwash, but it isn't. You blanket excuse any volly officer from having the skills to command you at a fire scene. What nonsense, I guarantee you I can find more volly officers in my area that have more education and training than career officers. Some have more actual fire call time too. To say because you are paid makes you automatically more qualified to be an officer is just ridiculoous.

    Take care and stay safe,


    We have met the enemy and he is us.

  16. #16
    NozzleHog Guest


    It's not as simple as making a judgement about who is competent and who isn't. Officers don't get to show their resume before giving an order. It is, plain and simple, about how we exercise authority and accountability. If your members "are expected to obey the orders of ANY command officer, volunteer or career" how do they decide whose orders to obey when the orders are conflicting, flip a coin? How does your "chain-of-command" ensure that all members are aware of their orders, go to each firefighter individually? Your fireground must be like a mob scene. This sounds like a situation with the potential for mass confusion to reign.

    RJE :
    Nice story, but about all I got from it is that the "full paid dept" in question (Tulsa?) has at least one Captain who doesn't know s#!t from shinola. Maybe that dept. should do a better job of choosing who they promote and/or properly training those individuals. It was interesting side note that the heroes in your story were salaried professionals in addition to doing their volunteer thing.

    I use the expression "pound sound" to illustrate a point, that point being that a volunteer officer WOULD NOT BE IN THEIR CHAIN-OF-COMMAND, has no authority and would have no business giving them orders. Again, any fireman in my company takes orders from, and is accountable to only one person, the company officer. That concept is called "Unity of Command". It is the principle by which all military organizations and most para-military organizations operate. It is even taught at the National Fire Academy. I thought more people on this forum might have heard of it.
    You say that "I am both a paid and a volunteer officer, and I am both commanded by volunteer officers (paid job) and command paid guys (Volunteer time)". Just out of curiosity, are both departments affiliated with the IAFF? If the answer is yes, is your career department's union aware that you scab against union brothers in another department? If the answer is yes, are you aware that this action places your union membership, and the standing of your local within the IAFF in jeopardy?

    fyred up:
    Yes, I am serious. It is because my fellow firefighters and I follow our departments chain-of-command that we would not be insubordinate. The firefighters report to their company officer, the company officer reports to a Battalion Chief who is a full time salaried employee of the department. If you find that hard to grasp, I guess it would really blow your mind if I recounted the story about a volunteer company who showed up at a job a few years ago and was ordered off the fireground.
    If the volly officers in, where is it, Wisconsin? have more education, training and "fire call time" than the career officers, shame on the career officers and their departments.
    These opinion are mine and not necessarily anyone elses. If anyone is offended by these opinions please go to

    [This message has been edited by NozzleHog (edited 04-06-2001).]

  17. #17
    RJE Guest



    Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear enough. Situations are not the same across the country.

    No, that (and yes, I agree, he was!) incompetent captain wasn't in Tulsa. That was many years ago, and in another mid-western city. Now for some background on how he got where he was.... The city was Kansas City, Mo. The city department is full paid, and IAFF. The captain in question was "book smart" and had a lot of time. But he was lousy at "command" decisions. He got promoted to Captain, then they found out he was a great LT, but not captain material. But because of the IAFF, they can't demote him until he kills someone (or at least it seems that way). So they move him to the suburbs. KCMO FD had (at that time) 30 some stations, but in one area of town, there were 4 stations that were about 5 miles apart (each). Between them they ran 5 or 6 working fires A YEAR (slowest area of town). They shared a BC, but because of the distances involved, he could take a while to get there.

    They also had an auto M/A agreement with a FULL VOL. dept in a bedroom town. It was that way because one of their stations was closer to the KCMO station in question that all of the other "city" stations, including the BCs. So any time they (rarely) had a structure fire, he'd be IC, but the vollies were 2nd due.

    Now for your statement about the "heroes" being paid guys. Sort of. The vol. Captain is not a "paid" FF. He's a college professor. With at least 3 degrees in FF related fields, and a Ph.D. He's never been a paid FF, but he's been teaching them for 30 years.

    So, the point is: You never know who you're working "under". In this case, because the auto-aid was to our district, the "professor" was IC, and the paid captain was the "liason" as the highest ranking person from his dept on scene. No, the vol. wouldn't give orders to the FFs, but he would give them to him, and expect them to be passed on and carried out. And the vollie Capt. would not expect his men to be placed in danger because of the paid guy's incompetence.

    And the Chief isn't a SCAB as you so kindly put it. Yes, he's an IAFF member as Asst. Chief Fire Marshall on the KCMOFD. But the vollie dept is total vollie. Not even paid on call. So by volunteering, he's not taking anyone's job away. He's lending his expertise to another dept.

    Oh, by the way: He was deputy chief. The assistant chief was a machinist - but had 5 more years experience. And the chief of the dept. was a Dentist.

  18. #18
    hot DAMN Guest



    Yes, both departments are IAFF departments. However, I am not an IAFF member, and very proud of that fact. I will not belong to any organization that tells me what or what not to do on my off-duty time. As far as the scab argument, what about all of the firefighters that are painters, roofers etc on their off days, are they "scabs"? By definition scabs are people that cross a picket line in order to break a strike, I would not do that. I just enjoy my time at the firehouse, and I CHOOSE to both be paid for it and volunteer some of it as well. This fact might make me unpopular with some of the more hard-core union people, but I really dont care. The fact that you volunteer at all is by IAFF bylaws just as illegal as volunteering at an IAFF organized department. Maybe you should sit down with your station steward..

  19. #19
    GBordas Guest


    This is an interesting topic. A lot of different, not good or bad, but different views.

    My question for all of you fellow firemen is: "What are the requirements in your department for becoming an officer? I guess this question is more directed to those of you who are members of combination paid/volunteer fire departments and career departments whose mutual aid coverage is by volunteer companies. Are the guys who become officers recognised by, and evaluated by the same standards? Meaning do they take the same test to make Lieutenant? Captain? Chauffer? In my department you have test for these ranks and you are evaluated for a period of months before it is determined that you will achieve any of the forementioned positions/ranks.

    Therefore if a CAPTAIN issues an order, whether he is a Paid or Volunteer, he/she is a CAPTAIN.

    In situtations as some of you have mentioned, if there is a conflicting order between two officers that issued you an order, then let the second officer know that you were already issued an order and from whom. It is the second officers responsibility to notify the first officer who gave the original order and to make the decision as to which order will be carried out.

    Keeping a chain of command structure and respecting leadership is important and should not be overlooked whether the order is coming from a volunteer officer or a paid officer of the department.


    [This message has been edited by GBordas (edited 06-04-2001).]

  20. #20
    NozzleHog Guest


    Hot Damn:
    I'm a loyal IAFF member in good standing, have been for over 20 years, and am very proud of that fact. I do know the IAFF by-laws and it only prohibits membership in "rival organizations" defined as volunteer organizations where there is an IAFF Local organized.
    The population of the rural community where I volunteer is less than 600. We are an hours drive from the closest career, union department. I am not now, nor will I ever be taking food off the table of a brother union member by taking their job, cutting into their bargaining ability or overtime.
    How do you face the guys you work with knowing that they pay the dues and do the work that you benefit from? I would discuss the other aspects you mentioned but since you don't even have loyalty to the men you work with and trust with each others lives, I don't think I have anything further to say to you.

  21. #21
    Smoke286 Guest


    I can be serious about not following voluteer orders, in fact, I know that in our Dept such an occaision would not arrive. Whenever our Dept shows up on the scene control is gladly relinquished to us, In fact,for liability reasons the city would have it no other way. Irregardless our union would not stand for it.

  22. #22
    570eck Guest


    Some people are in it because they like the job, some for the money, some for "glory", some for the thrill, and some for the rush. But no matter what we are in it for we are all in it, and we are all in it together. Now, I'm no better than the rest because I didn't even think this is a topic worth discussing. I run both, there are knuckleheads on both and there are damn good people on both. Don't let an ego or paycheck or " I do it for free" attittude trick you into beleiving that you have all the answers. The truth comes with knowledge, learning and experience. I would hope this would be a dead issue but it never will be. Learn where to put your trust, learn where to put your heart and learn where to put your ***, because when it is all said and done, it is your *** on the line.

  23. #23
    FyredUp Guest



    First, I did not say all volly officers are better trained than all paid officers. What I said was I can show you examples of higher trained volly officers.

    Secondly, if you are in the town of a volly FD on a mutual aid call you better listen to the volly officers. No matter what you think of them...It is still their town and their fire and their responsibility.

    Of course the exception would be not to follow an order that is either stupid or more dangerous than it has to be. But hopefully your loyalty to your paid officers would allow you to question them in those circumstances too.

    I guarantee you that if you came into the town of my volly FD and assumed you didn't have to listen to our IC you wouldn't be there long.

    I understand your comment of being under the control of your company officer. Rarely does a FF get orders directly from the IC on the fireground. So then is your point that your company officer would refuse to obey the order of a higher ranking volly officer?

    By the way if volly officers are not qualified to command you free lance exclusively at the volly FD you are a member at? Or does your hypocrisy only hold up when you have on the Union uniform? Guys like you just seem to propogate the paid vs volly debate by your illogical comments.

    Just to stay clear on the IAFF issue I am a union meber at my career FD, my volly FD is 4 counties away from my career job. It is totally volly, with no nearby full time FD. So there is no issue with taking jobs from another FF.


  24. #24
    macsen Guest


    Originally posted by hot DAMN:

    The fact that you volunteer at all is by IAFF bylaws just as illegal as volunteering at an IAFF organized department
    FWIW, that's not quite accurate. The IAFF by-laws only prohibit membership in competing organizations -- paid, volunteer, or otherwise. Not an unreasonable clause, IMHO.


    8 years fire captain
    20 years fire service
    BS Fire Science
    Past Volunteer

  25. #25
    NozzleHog Guest


    Fyred Up:
    Maybe you need to be a little less fyred up and a little more observant:

    FU: "First, I did not say all volly officers are better trained than all paid officers. What I said was I can show you examples of higher trained volly officers"...

    Wrong, check said, QUOTE: "I guarantee you I can find more volly officers in my area that have more education and training than career officers. Some have more actual fire call time too." Nice try.
    Again, if the full-time "professional" fire officers in Wisconsin whose JOB it is to get "fire call time" and train not only themselves but their firefighters lag behind volunteers who do it as a sideline in addition to working their full time jobs, shame on the career officers. That does not sound very professional to me. They should be held to a higher standard, and for that I blame their departments.

    FU: "Secondly, if you are in the town of a volly FD on a mutual aid call you better listen to the volly officers. No matter what you think of them...It is still their town and their fire and their responsibility. I guarantee you that if you came into the town of my volly FD and assumed you didn't have to listen to our IC you wouldn't be there long"...

    You assume that all career departments run mutual aid and/or receive mutual aid. Many do not for precisely that reason. They do not wish to put the people they give a paycheck to in a position where they would be subordinate to a volunteer. On my last shift at work we had eighteen runs, three of which were working fires. You really think I care about coming to put out fires in your town?
    I happen to think very highly of the members of my volunteer department. Their hearts are 100% in what they do, they do it for the right reasons and it's beautiful to see the way the community is behind us. However, the way we operate is a world apart from my career department. Because of having few actual fires and relatively long response times that often preclude making an aggressive interior attack, the experience just isn't there. Like it or not, many volunteer companies have officers with only a minimum of formal training and even less experience.

    FU: you free lance exclusively at the volly FD you are a member at?

    No, I don't freelance at all at my volly FD. I can follow as well as lead. If asked, I offer suggestions. I also avoid coming across as a know it all, and decline to be an officer there. I get plenty of this stuff at work and the other members gain more from being officers than I ever could.

    FU: ...Or does your hypocrisy only hold up when you have on the Union uniform?

    Hypocrisy? Why, because I volunteer? I do that for only one reason, because I can not morally or ethically stand by and watch my neighbor's house burn to the ground. I'd otherwise be quite content to roll back over and go to sleep when the siren blows in the middle of the night, but I live in this town and don't think I could hold my head up walking down the street if I did that. Oh, and I don't wear a "Union" uniform. I wear the uniform of my department, proudly. It would no doubt help your argument to portray me as a union fanatic're wrong again.

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