1. #1
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    Question Combo Depts the Future of the Vollie Service?

    Without getting into a debate about paid vs vollie and all that crap lets try to discuss this issue. I am looking for info on combination paid/ vollie depts be it in the same station or in the same town/county. I really feel that this is what the future holds for us. I would like to pose a few questions about this for those with experience in combo depts as well as opinions from others here.
    1. For those in a county or city level dept who oversees the dept? Is it a paid chief selected by the county?

    2. What authority does this person have both in stations and on the fireground?

    3. Who decides the hiring of this person and what say do the depts under him or her have.

    4. Does the system work in your area?

    I'd also like to hear from others regarding other forms this has taken, so far I am only familar with the system that PG County in MD and Fairfax county in VA that is county controlled.

    Chuck
    Chuck M
    Firefighter

  2. #2
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    Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    (Aretha) R E S P E C T... (/Aretha)

    For many areas, combo departments are the best combination.

    First, a department has to make a decision if it's a volunteer department supplemented by paid staff, or a career department supplemented by vollies. Both work, both work well, just in different situations.

    IMHO, most volunteer departments can stay predominantly volunteer with a core of paid staff to take care of most business administration, EMS runs, and station/equipment/apparatus maintenance.

    That's not saying that I'm trying to give the paid guys the ***** work, it's just that's work that is fairly predictable and steady in it's staffing levels. Free up the volunteers to focus their time on training and providing staffing for MVCs, fires, and other major calls. It also doesn't excuse the volunteers from leaving messes for the paid guys to pick up.

    If your goal is to maintain a primarily volunteer department, the Chief should be volunteer. For leaders in the department, that's the goal. I honestly and deeply believe once you take the Chief or other very high rank out of the equation, you don't retain members who really are interested in advancing -- especially if they don't plan on going paid. It creates a very real cap to their motivation.

    Several locations in Connecticut now use a Fire Administrator system, where there is a paid Fire Administrator who handles the business & regulatory side for the volunteer companies in town, while the vollies retain the Chief as the executive & fire command officer. Not dissimiliar from some of the large cities with a Civilian Fire Commissioner who handles the political work and a Uniform Fire Chief who handles the fire work.

    The F.A. is usually selected by the Board of Selectmen or other "Town Council" body and reports to the town's Chief Executive. Either no or mid-level command authority such as Senior Captain so they can command if no Chief officers are around.

    And just how I said you don't want to lock the vollies out of high rank, neither do you want to lock the paid guys out. Give them a promotion path too -- and I wouldn't be adverse to a system of Volly Chief with a Paid Deputy Chief/Fire Administrator.

    Bottom line though is what I started this reply with -- Respect. What ever form the department takes, the paid guys have to feel important and not fear the volunteers. The volunteers too need to feel needed (else they'll stop volunteering!) and not feel inferior to the paid crew. Keep egos in check (massaged a little maybe, but under control ), make sure you respect each other, and you can have a system that very efficiently and effectively provides fire service to your community.

    Matt
    IACOJ Canine Officer
    20/50

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up

    res23cue:
    I came from a combo dept. And it worked well. The dept. had a paid chief, asst chief, inspection bureau, training capt, 4 shift capts, 20 firefighters. One of the firefighters would dispatch.

    The rest of the town had paid on call firefighters with one capt and two lts per station. Paid on call firefighters were like volunteers with an hourly wage.

    The paid guys and volunteers got along great most of the time. (of course this is the fire service so it wasn't always perfect)

    Our station was shared by the volunteers who had their own engine and we shared the rescue and ladder. (depending on the call) We primarily rode an engine that was just ours - the volunteers were not allowed to touch it. And we had our own day room and bunk room that the volunteers were not able to come into uninvited.

    We all woked together well. We had to, we depended on the volunteers and they depended on us. Some of them on both sides would disagree but it's true.

    I no longer work there. I left to go to another dept with a full carreer staff and better pay and benefits.

    But to answer your question - I do think it's the future of the fire service. At least in my area. It's harder and harder to get and retain volunteers. The call volumne is going up and the response is going down.

    [ 01-22-2002: Message edited by: KeithA8 ]

    IAFF member, Love this job! Remember the oath!

  4. #4
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    res23cue:
    The department I worked for runs a 6 man 24 hr. paid crew in each station (1 Capt. and 5 FF). The duty crew responds to all first alarms and is backed up by the volunteers, when there are enough volunteers on scene the duty crew goes back into service. The bad news for the duty crews is that most times the volunteers are rolling the next 3 trucks before they even make the scene.

    All of the Chiefs (Deputies, Assistant and the Big Chief) must be volunteers. They are elected by the membership and approved by the board of directors. When the board approves them they start drawing a small salary to offset the mandatory 7 meetings a month and 1 required 6 hour shift per week. If they are not already on the payroll as a FF they can apply and their work shifts are based on their seniority. Right now the Chief and 1 deputy chief work Monday thru Friday and the assistant chief and the 2 other deputy chiefs’ work on Saturday and Sunday.

    The Chief appoints the station captains(volunteers) and the shift captains.
    We may get paid. We may volunteer. The most important thing is that we all have a job to do and we all want to come out alive after the call is over!

  5. #5
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    [quote]Originally posted by KeithA8:
    [QB]But to answer your question - I do think it's the future of the fire service. At least in my area. It's harder and harder to get and retain volunteers. The call volumne is going up and the response is going down.[QB]


    That is definately true, unless we see an increase in interest of being volunteers. No one around here wants to do anything for free anymore...
    IACOJ Agitator
    Fightin' Da Man Since '78!

  6. #6
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    We are something even different. Our FD is a Fire Protection District. That makes us a Non-profit Corp. that subcontracts w/ the town for fire protection.

    As w/ most vol. FDs day time M-F is our biggest response problem time. We have a small paid staff that suppiments us during that time making sure that we always have a driver or do not scratch a ems call. They report to the chief or his asst. On calls the OIC may be a vol. officer, senior FF, or even one of them. Most of the 9 line officers are elected by the membership w/ the chief being able to appoint up to 4 LTs. It has had its bumps but we manage.
    Stephen J Bourassa
    Latham FD (NY)
    member since 1969
    challenge competitor since 1993

  7. #7
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    Many, if not most, of the volunteer FD's in this area who are not districts are Non-Profit Corps...We are...our full name is "Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department, Incorporated".
    IACOJ Agitator
    Fightin' Da Man Since '78!

  8. #8
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    That is pretty long Adze. How about this one?

    S.W. Pitts Hose Company of Latham, NY Inc.

    Most in the area know us as the Latham FD.

    Stephen J Bourassa
    Latham FD (NY)
    member since 1969
    challenge competitor since 1993

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