1. #1
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    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
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    Default City laying off FF.

    I am with a volunteer department outside a small - medium sized city. The city for what ever reason has decided they need to lay off some of their career personnel. Before I get flamed for posting on the career forum, I thought I would get a better response on this forum.

    Here is the dilemma in the past during layoffs the city has begun calling volunteers mutual aid. My department has officially sent a letter to the chief and mayor stating that we will not respond to cover stations in the city. I also feel that we have some responsibility if we refuse to respond and someone gets hurt or killed.
    In the past tensions have been high due to the fact that some volunteer departments do cover city stations. I should clarrify that we do not want career firefighters jobs.
    My question is how do we show our support for the career guys and still make sure they have backup when they need it? One thought I have is to bill for man/equipment hours on scene. Any suggestions? Please this is an honest request, lets not turn this into a volunteer vs. career thing. I thank you in advance for your advice.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

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    First off - I'd like to know if your Mutual Aid agreement is a written document or simply a "Good neighbor understanding".

    If you have a written agreement (contract) that you should review that first. Hopefully it will outline when you can/should be called and what you will and won't do.

    If there is no document or it does not directly address the issues of what you will & won't respond for - then I suggest that it may be time to write (re-write) your M/A agreement.

    You should also remind this city that your staffing their stations is now leaving your own area unprotected (or under protected).

    In order to maintain good relations for the future - make sure it is 100% clear that you will continue to respond as needed for assistance, but that you will not simply come fill empty stations for them because the choose not to pay their own staff.

    Hope things work out for you - I can understand what an awkward position this places you in.

    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
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    Unfortunately, this happens all of the time. A community lays off personnel, then expects their neighbors to help them out...in effect, having fire protection and not having to pay for it. It doesn't matter if the it's career or volunteer..it's still abusing the system that mutual aid was set up for. This happened in Lawrence, Massachusetts in the mid 1980's. They had a major layoff of firefighters while having 3 or 4 working fires and multiple alarms a night. The Mayor of Lawrence made an idiotic statement to the media "they (the surrounding mutual aid communities) should be thankful..look at all the training and experience they are getting!" This person was trounced in the following election!

    Let's face it: the city father's have played "russian roulette" with their fire protection in the name of saving a buck. Any type of incident that they call you for coverage for other than mutual aid for fires should be billed to that community, including fuel expenses, personnel costs, etc. It's not up to the taxpayers of your community to finance the fire protection of others.

    [ 11-08-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Captain Gonzo, don't forget the real kicker about the Lawrence, MA situation ... the mayor was married to a firefighter.

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    Greetings,

    I have a suggestion, why doesn't someone from your volunteer F.D. meet with a rep of the union in the city that is planning layoffs? See what they think should be done to show support for them.

    Before you met with the union, just read over your "Mutual Aid" document so you have a complete understanding of it. Maybe vevn have a lawyer check it out.

    Also another option is, just don't respond mutual aid........you are volunteer, you don't have to respond. You just didn't have the staffing needed to respond effectivly and safely.

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    Thank you all for your advice.
    Bishop10, people have suggested the same thing you have, "just dont go, you are only volunteer", my issue is, if we dont respond, and our help is truely needed, and someone gets hurt or worse, killed, I would feel partially responsible. I would rather find a way to support the paid guys in their cause and still help them to go home after their shift.
    As far as formal mutual aid agreements go, I have not seen one yet. Up until now mutual aid has been handled on a if requested we will make every effort to respond. It could very well be that our mutual aid plan is a county wide plan that is in the county fire coordinators office.
    Again thank you all for your suggestions, and please keep them comming.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

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    1) Get a copy of the formal mutual aid agreement, if any. My guess is it will also include effective dates (i.e. your Chief signs it every year).

    2) Meet with the Union for those FFs getting laid off.

    3) Striking, whether a Blue Flu or, oh gee, the vollies just didn't have a crew, is not appropriate.

    4) Put pressure on your municipal officials and taxpayers. You, as a Fire Chief going to the Mayor of the neighboring city doesn't mean squat. Your Mayor or equivelant talking to their Mayor means more.

    5) Raise holy hell with your municipal council and public -- Because City X isn't funding their fire protection adequately, OUR tax dollars are having to help them way too much. Having specifics like "These fires, before xxxx date, that City could've handled on their own. Since then, even routine fires like those require mutual aid."
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Sounds like you have a small problem there. Like Captain Gonzo said, take a look at the M/A and see what it says. I know that some areas are hard pressed for volunteers during the day, let alone an unknown amount of time around the clock. The Local there should be able to offer some help as to how to approach the issue of coverage. I would not send an engine to the area for coverage just to sit in an empty station for an entire shift for free. The people that man that engine need some type of compensation. The citizens who donated the money to purchase the engine will now be without the protection that they need and have donated toward. What is your community to do if your apparatus is spending all its time in someone elses area? Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Mutual aid theft of service?
    If the city needs mutual aid let them call for it when they need it. Why should you get stuck spending your departments money and putting your people at risk if there is no M/A and no compensation for the services rendered. Offer the mutual aid only if they don't have the ability fill the required box assignment. If all of there units are out then call for M/A. I know some people believe in the closest unit dispatch but can you really afford that? Do they really need the closest unit for a BLS call when all they need is an ambulance and not the engine company. Talk it over with the carrer staff and see what they say. They may be able to offer some insite to the situation since they are the poor guys loosing their jobs.

    Sticky subject there Captain. Good luck.

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    This is happenning right now in Flint, MI. They laid off 61 of 180 FF and closed a station. Some of the local suburbs have told Flint they will only respond to "major fires", after being called to house fires 3-4 times a DAY.
    I don't know the answer, but thanks for seeing the problem.

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    As far as how you would feel if something happened and someone got hurt or killed, you must remember that you did not create this problem, the city did. If your department is like any other, you have enough trouble getting enough manpower to handle your own emergencies, much less filling in for a city that has decided it can't afford to properly protect its citizens. They are trying to make this into your problem and they are counting on the guilt of firemen to save the day.
    Politicians learned 80 years ago, when the unions first started forming, that firemen will still show up to fight the fires even when they are on strike. They know we are naturally GOOD people, and they WILL take advantage of it. There are NO honest politicians.
    If you are already worrying about them, then they have already won the first battle. Don't stand up to this just to support the career guys, do it to to support your own citizens.
    P.S. What is this city prepared to do if one of you are hurt or killed doing the job they don't want to pay their own to do? Do you really think they are going support your family if you are the one who happens to die?
    See You At The Big One

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