1. #1
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    Question Public firefighting vs. Private firefighting?? Whats better????!

    I am trying to find out what the pros and cons are of Public and Private firefighting, and which one someone should pick.. I need some help.. I can't decide on whats the best choice... Some knowledge and advice would be very helpful. Thanks.

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    The best choice would be the one you take after you decided what you want from the fire service.

    Private (as in industry) - has more money. BUT - less calls therefore less experience.

    Public - restricted budget. BUT - more calls, bigger variety of calls therefore more experience.
    Stay Safe - Sleep with a Firefighter

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    Question Public vs Private

    Would you clarify what you meant by "private?" Do you mean Privatized-Municipal such as in Scotsdale AZ.? Or do you mean "private" like industrial vs taxpayer funded municipal?
    be safe,
    Truck Company 9...
    Engine chasers and Bone Breakers.
    May be gone, but NEVER forgotten...
    Soar free our Brothers and Sisters.

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    I mean Public (taxpayers..) vs. Private (such as companies or industrial) I am trying to find the pros and cons of both, and get the opinion from other firefighters on what is better. (public vs. private) Thanks.

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    Default justin

    I think lang has said it best in few words, I agree with him/her.

    You'll have to work in a large industrial complex for the fire department to be your sole responsibility. Meaning that the majority of those personnel are "plant employees" that double-duty as the fire department. Benefits are as -lang- stated. You'll get specialized training in say, chemical response (HazMat), specialized rescue (confined space, rope ops and the like) and firefighting skills relating to the specific hazards of that industry. The department will most likely be responsible for all MSDS, safety planning and response and medical response. So, you'll probably be a pre-plan and HazMat expert before you retire, but, mostly be bored to death (unless training and administrative issues are your bag).

    I work near two industrial departments. These people "double-duty," i.e. they work a regular plant job and double as the firefighters when they are needed. In competitions, they fair very well in rope scenarios and such because, that's all they do... train, train and train! They are fair medics, again, because medical is all they do in the field. When asked, each of them will tell you that they do the industry job secondary to, 1) they love the fire service and 2) because the company pays them to train and there are other "perks" involved with being on the brigade. But, ask them which job (public vs. industry) they prefer, and their public, volunteer departments get that vote. Thus, the public really reaps the benefit of the training from their "brigade" affiliation.

    If you're motivated to be a firefighter and taste all this job has to throw at you... to be taught to think on your feet and expect the unexpected... then, in my opinion, you'll have to go public. I take nothing away from private firefighters as we are all Brothers, but I for one, just couldn't exclusively tolerate it.

    Good luck and let us know what your decision is and why you made it.
    be safe,
    Truck Company 9...
    Engine chasers and Bone Breakers.
    May be gone, but NEVER forgotten...
    Soar free our Brothers and Sisters.

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    If I may add.

    After 13 years as a career fire fighter in the public sector I joined an industrial fire brigade. The company is a petrochemical refinery and therefore has a high fire risk. But being a relative young (12 years old from construction) refinery the technology involved with regards to automatic fire detection and suppression is quite good. This relates to relative few fires and other than the odd medical emergency or critical standby duty the firemen (all career fire fighters) does not have much to do other than training and equipment maintenance.

    Other than getting paid far better than would be the case in the public sector the only job satisfaction I get at this stage comes from training. Would I get the same pay or even slightly less I would go back to the public sector anyday.

    If you are still young I would encourage you to join a public fire brigade.
    Stay Safe - Sleep with a Firefighter

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    Smile well said again...

    -lang-

    I knew that refineries would have career firefighters, as do a few other specialized industries. The risks involved require the personnel to concentrate solely on this responsibility.

    Unlike you, I've not worked in both sectors. I'm only familiar with their operations secondary to having friends in that business. Also, I have been involved in training some of them.

    You are obviously the expert here and are certainly the better, of you and me, to advise justin. I yield to your expertise and I hope that I did not speak "out-of-school.
    Last edited by truckiedog; 02-14-2002 at 05:01 AM.
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    Truck Company 9...
    Engine chasers and Bone Breakers.
    May be gone, but NEVER forgotten...
    Soar free our Brothers and Sisters.

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    Thanks Lang and Truckie. So my last question is this (if you guys can answer): If you want to have a more entertaining (fun,exciting, etc) job, with more calls, more involvement with your community, but less money you would pick PUBLIC. But if you want more of a specific fire fighter skill, train more, go on less calls, and make more, you would pick PRIVATE. Am i right about this, or have I missed anything? Thanks.

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    Arrow justin...

    basically, yes you have summed up our statements. Also noteworthy is that -lang- is in S.A. and I am from the states. Although I haven't detected any conflict in our opinions, we do see this issue from different directions.

    Please allow me to clarify a couple of your assumptions. Your statements concerning private, "more of a specific firefighter skill." You will receive specialized suppression (etc.) training concerning that industry's specific hazards. For example, if the complex has mostly a manufacturing and storage facility, you'll be trained to handle fires involving their construction and contents. However, the industry will not concentrate on teaching you to handle a residential fire, or any other, for instance. Now, the "training" issue. Again, you will be trained in a narrow scope specific to that industry. Really, you will not train much more than progressive public departments do. Public firefighters do as much training as industrial departments. Albeit a more wide based training as the "street" can and does throw much more your way. Also, there is less time to train in public venues, because they are much more active on incidents (and other duties), which gives the firefighter valuable OJT and a format as to apply this training and skill. When I said, "training, training and training," what I meant to imply is that there are usually many fewer emergency incidents to respond to in the private sector. Thus, the industry bosses will expend much time training you to handle specific situations when or if one erupts. Training is great and develops skills and concepts that are vital. But, on-the-job experience and the honing of your skills under real-life conditions, this is priceless.

    When I think of "skill," I view this as having a wide based knowledge of how to manage all of the ills and circumstances involved with this job. Private firefighters are skilled, but their experiences and knowledge are narrow based, I would tend to think. Industry knows of that limitation and this is why they usually seek to employ experienced firefighters from the public forum sector. Yes, upon retiring from a "public" career, you will leave the service a little poorer in terms of money. However, I feel when it's all said and done, you'll leave much richer in terms of all other things considered concerning this job. If you are making this decision based on the money, I just don't think that I'd choose this career path in any way.

    When you say that the public sector is more "entertaining, fun, exciting," well, that statement is relative to your line of thinking. In my mindset, yes it is. But, along with this, the public sector is also tough, heart-wrenching (both in a good and bad way), enlightening, fulfilling and will either build you as a person, or in some situations, tear you down. I still contend that lang and I agree, public fire service is the way to go when you want the full benefit of "this job."

    -lang-, I said that I'd yield to your expertise. But, I got back to the forum before you and just had to put in my "three cents" {lol}. Sorry, the floor is again, yours.
    Last edited by truckiedog; 02-16-2002 at 04:04 AM.
    be safe,
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    Engine chasers and Bone Breakers.
    May be gone, but NEVER forgotten...
    Soar free our Brothers and Sisters.

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    If you want to see the "benefits" of private fire departments read the article on Rural/Metro in AZ. which is featured on the firehouse.com front page.

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    Rural/Metro isn't a "private" department in the sense that these guys are talking about. They're contract fire protection, whereas the private fire departments these guys have been talking about are connected to a certain industrial site.

    I'm a political conservative, and I love the idea of privatizing some government services, but I've always disagreed with contracting out public safety services to private companies.
    "Let's roll." - Todd Beamer, one of a group of American soldiers who handed the terrorists their first defeat.

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    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone (but you can borrow them )and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated (but then again, they just may not be thinking clearly).

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    Bucks..I shoulda paid more attention...Thanks for keeping me on my toes..

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    No problem, Mike.

    I'm not sure what I think about the Rural Metro situation yet. I feel bad that these guys don't have a retirement to speak of now, but I'm not entirely sure that this is not another one of those "you knew the risks before you signed" kind of thing.

    Not that that makes me feel good.

    As I said, I'm solidly conservative in my political, social, and economic outlook. But there are just some necessary public services that are not amenable to privatization. There are expenses associated with fire and police protection that are absolutely necessary, but which do very little to nothing to improve the bottom line.

    There are tons of other government services which COULD do with some privatization, don't get me wrong. But public safety ain't one of them. And you know what the one beautiful thing about this wretched situation is? That the free market is "adjusting" Rural Metro as it should - it is putting them out of the firefighting business, because they shouldn't economically BE there. Gotta love capitalism.
    "Let's roll." - Todd Beamer, one of a group of American soldiers who handed the terrorists their first defeat.

    Joe Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone (but you can borrow them )and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated (but then again, they just may not be thinking clearly).

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    Default Truckie

    Sorry for not replying earlier. Torn the cartilage in my right knee and had to go for an operation.

    Anyway, well said. If I may add to give Justin some more perspective. As a "private" firefighter during the past 12 years I responded to couple of gas release, pressure fed fires, hazmat and medical calls and was involved in a couple of confined space and high angle rescues. (All industry specific). But, during the same time I DID NOT respond to any structural fires, MVA's, trench rescues, bush/brush fires, and all the other numerous call outs received by the "public" firefighters. In total the amount of emergency calls received by our industrial fire department during the past 10 years is less than the amount of emergency calls received by any public fire department from a reasonable size town. Therefore to keep up to standard we do have to train a little bit more as we lack the OJT most public firefighters experience. Once again, the training that we do is specialized and job specific.

    My opinion: If you consider a career as a fire fighter, start in the public sector and gain all the experience/knowledge you can before going industrial. Just remember that when you go industrial you opt to specialize and some of what you used to love in the public sector will be lost.
    Stay Safe - Sleep with a Firefighter

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    Unhappy lang...

    well put and I whole heartedly concur. You've offered solid advice once again.

    Sorry about that knee, hope all goes well. Job related injury? Or simply too much fun!?

    Seems that Justin isn't going to update us on his progress and/or decisions, nor give us any feedback on our advice.

    Be careful over there and take care.
    be safe,
    Truck Company 9...
    Engine chasers and Bone Breakers.
    May be gone, but NEVER forgotten...
    Soar free our Brothers and Sisters.

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    I read earlier that Rural/Metro was not a private fire company? I realize they ar'nt covering one specific site but they are still a for profit company, which I would call private. But yes they would get the more interesting calls like the public depts.
    Lang, I have alot of respect for you f.f.'s in the industrial brigades! I was lucky enough to witness a refinery fire(from a distance!!!) in Texas, it was an awesome display. I watched what I could through a zoom camera lens, and those guys worked their butts off! And not for an hour or two, I think this fire strong almost all day!!! And the heat! I was well away from this fire, but when the wind blew right you feel the temperature climb in hurry!! All the respect to you guys, from a public sector f.f.!!Shed

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    Default Hi there

    Nope no IOD, doctors reckon it's due to age (lol). Or maybe an old rugby injury that managed to get the better of me. Luckily nothing too serious and it won't keep me from doing what I love best.

    Shed to comment on your reply, in the petrochemical industry you do get quite a lot of fires. Most of these are relatively small, localized due to leaking flanges or the odd pump seal failure and are mostly extinguished by the operators using one or two 9kg DCP's before the firefighters are on the scene. Then you get those odd ones that cannot be extinguished in an early stage and they can keep you busy for some time. The approach would normally be to get in as soon as possible and try to do an isolation on the feed side. If this fails then that section of the refinery has to be depressurized. You normally will also have to deal with a large liquid pool fire.

    One of the most interesting and at the same time most scaring phenomena I was witness to is something they call an UVCE (unconfined vapour cloud explosion). This happened when a large cloud of escaping flammable gas was ignited when the cloud reached an ignition source. Really awesome.

    In the end I don't think it matters whether you are a firefighter in the public sector or a firefighter in the private sector. What matters is that you are a firefighter. And you do it because you love it.
    Stay Safe - Sleep with a Firefighter

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    Originally posted by SHED376
    I read earlier that Rural/Metro was not a private fire company? I realize they ar'nt covering one specific site but they are still a for profit company, which I would call private. But yes they would get the more interesting calls like the public depts.
    Lang, I have alot of respect for you f.f.'s in the industrial brigades! I was lucky enough to witness a refinery fire(from a distance!!!) in Texas, it was an awesome display. I watched what I could through a zoom camera lens, and those guys worked their butts off! And not for an hour or two, I think this fire strong almost all day!!! And the heat! I was well away from this fire, but when the wind blew right you feel the temperature climb in hurry!! All the respect to you guys, from a public sector f.f.!!Shed
    That was me that said that, Shed. Maybe I should have made myself clearer. The dichotomy that the posters were exploring here was not really "public vs. private" companies per se, but municipal vs. industrial.

    Maybe I didn't make that point clearly enough. Rural/Metro is certainly a private company. However, it's not private in the sense that it has as its primary mission the protection of one privately-owned facility, like the Chevron Fire Department for example.

    Didn't mean to cause confusion.

    Take care!
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    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone (but you can borrow them )and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated (but then again, they just may not be thinking clearly).

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    Bucks, You're killin me with these big words! Dichotomy? I had to look that one up! Thanks for the reply! I kind of figured out what you had said, after I pushed the POST REPLY button! Shed

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    I would also like to offer a suggestion to this private / public debate.

    I was a firefighter for @10 years and decided to join an industrial F.D. (Major car manufacturer) The money wasn't bad and they talked a great talk about all they did. After getting the job, I found that it was NOTHING like a public FD. The ultimate decision makers were in the Headquarters in Detroit. The powers to be didn't travel very often, so when we asked for anything, it was hard to get. But they would send equipment to us with out asking us. There was a point where we had 3 mechanical hose washers, We BARELY used one!
    There was a ton of inspections and fighting a fire was an exercise in chaos! The bottom line to everything was the almighty dollar. It was nothing to find a fall victim that had been carried out of the way of the production line so they could continue production.
    I know this is not inidcative of all industrial jobs, but if you do decide to industrial, make sure you do a lot of research!

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    Default me again

    Hi there,

    bfpd36 - I cannot agree with you more. We have about 500 breathing apparatus sets that have to be inspected monthly together with almost 1200 fire extinguishers that needs to be inspected every three months. This together with the inspection of fixed installations and the monthly plant fire prevention inspection makes for quite a large amount of time spend on inspections.

    As you said, not all industries can be compared with one another. We for instance get all the equipment we ask for and more. On the other hand, a friend of mine is working as a firefighter for a company that manufactures fertilizers and pesticides and they really has a hard time getting any new equipment.

    In conclusion I think you put it together nicely when you say that before joining an industrial fire service you need to do your home work.

    Be good
    Stay Safe - Sleep with a Firefighter

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