05-04-2002, 12:39 PM #1
Volunteer or Paid - A firefighter
Here comes the proverbial hornets nest. Since I have been a part of the forums, it has gotten progressively worse with respect to how volunteers and paid firefighters treat each other. However, no solution will pacify all nor will it reduce the fringe elements from both sides of this difficult equation. However, knowing that many from outside the fire service peek in on our conversations, it seems worth the effort to try to offer a solution. This solution may be somewhat simple but it is in simplicity where we often find solutions.
Volunteer firefighters serve communities around the country and do so at some personal expense, whether it is money, time, or both. That is commendable. They provide services where there will never be paid service. They also have the advantage of having the public on their side. Americans love volunteers of all sorts and for many different reasons. In history, let us thank those who volunteered to start a revolution that led to our democracy.
Paid firefighters serve their communities around the country and have chosen firefighting as a full time profession. If they miss a call they are then without a livelihood. It is not easy to “walk away”. They provide services to taxpayers who often expect miracles where none exists. Those of us who have been in budget meetings can attest to the disfavor that many politicos have for public safety. It is often a depressing affair. Being paid does not imply lack of dedication. In history, let us thank those who were paid to fight for our democracy.
So where is the solution? In our own common traits that exist in all firefighters. Paid, volunteer, combo, whatever – Duty, honor, respect…We seem to have it for each other but when a discussion occurs between volunteers and Paid members tempers flare and soon forgotten is the fact that a comrade, a hero, a human is on the other side. For whatever reason we choose to do what we do, let us not think of ourselves as enemies or rivals. Let us think of ourselves as firefighters….
In the end, it is all that matters. Right?
05-04-2002, 02:37 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
JTL...an excellent post, I couldn't agree more. It's sad that nowadays when I meet career firefighters I'm apprehensive about mentioning that I'm a firefighter, because I'm not sure how they feel about volunteers. I feel ostracized among people who I should regard as brothers without question. Sometimes I feel that these guys respect the mutts on the street more than they do their own colleagues, who have been through many of the same hardships and seen the same sights. Hopefully your attitude will be contagious.
05-04-2002, 03:06 PM #3
Well said and to the point. I hope everyone can remeber your point the next time decide to post on the issue.
IACOJ Bureau of EMS
These views are my own and do not represent the views or opinions of anyambulance service that I am affiliated with.
Help our fellow firefighters.
"Firefighters Helping Firefighters"
05-04-2002, 03:31 PM #4
JTL - My hero
JTL, you are on a roll my friend. This gives you 2 of the best posts I have ever read in these forums.
Let me throw this at you. I work full-time as a FF/EMT/HazMat Tech for a large chemical company. My hometown dept. has a bit of a dfferent situation than most. We employ 1 full-time FF who works Mon-Fri, 0730-1630. Those of us who are trained engineers rotate working nights and weekends, for which we are paid by the city as part-time employees and recieve a monthly check. We are also paid for response and trainings by the city biannually.
I'm in firefighter limbo! I'm neither "career/paid" (as it is defined throughout the forums) nor am I a "volunteer" in the traditional sense! Please, help me find a place to fit in!
Seriously, we're all "firefighters." Career or volly, paid or for free, the fires are just as hot and dangerous in my city as they are everywhere else in this world.
To quote the infamous Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"Lt. D. Gordon
Greendale Fire Department
05-04-2002, 03:39 PM #5
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
- Houston, Texas
Hey in my department we have a lot of career/paid guys that come out and vol. with us.
05-04-2002, 04:10 PM #6
JTL... Great post! I completely agree, and have never actually understood the problem between paid and vol FF's. Everyone plays on the same team, so why can't we play nice.
We have some depts up here like the one that you are in. We call it paid on call. It doesn't really matter though... you are a FF regardless of the label you have been given.
05-04-2002, 05:06 PM #7
*rubbing hands together in glee*
Something to make a stir about!!
I have had the honor of being both a volunteer (where I started at) and career firefighter (where I am now).
I have heard the arguments from all sides of the fence (because this fence seems to have more than 2 sides to it).
First I will voice my thoughts of why volunteers feel put down, or trod upon.
When I volunteered we had neighboring career departments. Sometimes we felt like they didn't have much respect for us. We trained hard, nearly 30% of the department members were certified with the State of Texas and worked a career firefighting job nearby, and our department met the qualifications to be a commission approved department(meaning we met the same standards as a paid department in training, records, etc.) We had good equipment and fought fire very aggressively, but it still seemed like we didn't meet up. I wondered why at the time. then I became certified and became a career firefighter...
Now my thoughts on why career firefighters think differently of some volunteers.
After I started my career job, I heard a lot of negative talk about volunteers. I was a little bothered by that, until I heard some of the reasons for it. The concerns weren't with volunteers in general. In fact, most of the guys felt that it was great for volunteers to be where they were, protecting their communities. The problem was with those few vollies who like to 'act' as if they are a big bad fireman. I have met a few, I have even worked with a few (however that attitude wasn't tolerated in my volunteer dept.) You know the ones I am talking about. They like to run their lights and sirens around town, breaking traffic laws if at all possible when responding to the station or a call. They know everything, yet are hard to find when work needs to be done. They embellish beyond reason any given story. (I had to add the beyond reason, because all firemen tend to embellish a little ) These are those rotten eggs of the fire service. They even manage to make it into career departments too! imagine that. I feel that these bad eggs are the main reason for dislike between paid and vollie. Some departments don't have anyone like this, and unfortunately as I have discovered... some departments have all their members with this attitude. Another reason for some bad feelings is the fight for money. Most career departments that don't like vollies have to contend with them for finances from a county or rural distric... This can create some problems as well.
Well enough rambling....
The point is this.
Career or Volunteer, you need to be properly trained to do your job. Just because you are signed on as a firefighter with either department, doesn't automatically make you a master at your work. Department structure, and a proper learning environment are important to this growth process. The best career and volunteer departments are the ones that bring in recruits and train and teach them the rules, laws, lessons, and tactics of the fire service. They mold their firefighters into a fine tuned, highly skilled machine. It is sad to see the career and volunteer departments that fail to do this. The community gets a lot less than they deserve.
Scott ReasorBe safe brothers
05-04-2002, 05:13 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
Just a quick note....
Reminding everyone to keep this thread civil. The second it becomes career vs. volunteer, as many of these threads often do, it will be closed.
Keep the discussion going the way it is and all will be well
05-04-2002, 05:57 PM #9
First I would like to say nice post JTL ...Now a little of my back round Im a paid Firefighter/LT and I was the president of our union for 10 years which gives me some right to speak about our side of the coin . The problem is not with the Vollys they have a job to do in there communities and some do it quit well(except the one that blew up the house next to us) I might add.... Our problem is with the politians and the way they always threaten us with replacement every time there is a budget short fall or they feel that the price of are department is to high. In my department we go through this about every 10 years or so and are in the middle of this right now with a new twist ...paid call men... while Im confident that we will survive this latest attack by are city fathers... it can become trying on are families and us having to justify are jobs. Most of the departments around us are volly and have been coming to are aid in this politcial fight because they know that there are not enough volunteers to go around and that it would cut in to there membership. Has long as they have the training and will to do the job... both paid and volly can exsist has long has everyone understands there roles within the area they serve
Last edited by Ltmdepas3280; 05-04-2002 at 06:59 PM.IACOJ Membership 2002
The beatings will continue until the morale improves
05-04-2002, 07:02 PM #10
Looking at my paystub, I think I'm a Volly too. LoL
I'm a union guy. I know that's hard to believe being that I'm from S.C., but it's true. I think the main problem here is money. Very few people ever get paid as much as they feel they are worth and firefighters are no exception. To make a career out of this we have to make enough money to care for a family. And as mdepas3280 pointed out, it's hard to get more money when the politicians know that there are so many out there willing to do it for free.
This threatens the career guys because we have worked hard for what we have. And like any hard working person, we get upset when we think someone is trying to take something away from us. Infact, sometimes it gets ugly. Volunteers are the same way.
They have worked hard building their companies and work just as hard at being good/great firefighters. They have meetings, training and many friends. So when career guys start putting them down, it's the same thing from another side. It can get ugly.
I don't think volunteers won't to keep money out of my pocket. I don't think most volunteers even want my job. I just think that career guys have mistakenly targeted volunteers as the enemy. The enemy trying to take our jobs.
I believe that enemy is the Self Serving Politician. This is a person who doesn't really care if it's the right thing to do, they care if it will keep them popular. Popularity = Votes
Why give firefighters more when there are so many who won't ask for anything?
I work for a department that is on the edge of Charleston, S.C. We are a paid department that has vollies in the neighboring jurisdictions. The Sanitation workers, under the same gov., make more than we do.
I really don't think the volunteers would come over and fill our spots for free, but the politicians don't want to believe that. This makes it hard for us and I believe we mistakenly channel our frustrations at the volunteers and not the politicians. For that, I'm sorry.
Be cool. (Be safe is just so 90's)
05-04-2002, 07:47 PM #11
It seems that somewhere it is an agenda to split the fire service. There is no good that ever will come of that. Some people view it from a political stance--they distrust labor or they support labor. It is more than that though. You can not neatly categorize firefighters because backgrounds are widely dispersed. If there is a profession where you can find all manner of people it is the fire service. I know that when it is hitting the fan every firefighter is a friend. True, you don't have to like the person...but they are there.
- Thanks for the complimentGordo
Oh...and lets keep it civil like the webteam asked us...Lets try and be adults.
05-04-2002, 08:31 PM #12
I want to thank everyone who has replied thus far. It is greatly helping my understanding of the problem. There are only a few vol depts within my immediate vicinity, most that surround the city where I live are paid or paid on call. One district has both vol and career, and there has always been alot of animosity between the two. I have asked people to explain the problem to me, but have never gotten a truly satisfactory response, most of the time they talk around the question to be honest. Thank you.
Incidently... maybe next time the politicians want to fight over budgets, contracts or closing fire house, someone should ask them what they would 'expect' to be paid to run into a burning building... or you could mention the fact that they probably get paid what 3 or 4 fire fighters make together in a year, and then ask them if they'd do their job for FREE.
05-04-2002, 11:47 PM #13
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
I came from the vounteer ranks and have the utmost respect for volunteerism of any type. I find that since I was a volunteer for so long 8 years vollie vs 2 years paid, I work very hard to involve the volunteers in everything. My crew and I go out of our way to invite them to dinner at the firehouse and to ride out in our spots if they are at the firehouse. Most all of my friends are volunteers. I do see the tension in other areas, but where I am from we still have a good relationship.
05-05-2002, 12:51 AM #14
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
- Capon Bridge WV
This is kind of intersesting info for you. I don't know how many other departments that are combo do this. The city near me is a volunteer department, but they are staffed 24 hours by paid to make sure that they have people at all times. The only way to become an officer is to be paid, makes some sense i suppose (don't really know though), but the interesting part is that the chief is a volunteer and can only be held by volunteers. It's a vol. department supplimented by paid members. My current department is 100% volie, but i'm in the hiring process with that paid department. From what i've read on here i'm very apprihensive about joining the union if i have to, but from what i can tell the volies and paids get along pretty well here. Just thought i'd throw this out to ya'll.
05-05-2002, 02:52 AM #15
- Join Date
- Sep 2001
- S.E. Idaho
Prince George's County Fire Department in Maryland is a Volunteer department supplemented by Paid guys. Union is a tool that is like most others. It is there when you need it and depending on your involvement is in the toolbox until you need them. I am a supporter of the Union, but not ALL of its policies.
No one is perfect...
05-05-2002, 09:03 AM #16
- Join Date
- Aug 2001
Just to clarify - PGFD is not a volunteer dept. It is a combination fire dept. This thread is about being a firefighter, let's keep the Union out of this
05-05-2002, 09:21 AM #17
A Note: If this thread skids to uninion-non-union...it is curtains. UNLESS we can discuss it intelligently.
However this thread was started to talk about "How" we are all brothers...
05-05-2002, 10:03 AM #18
- Join Date
- May 2002
- fergus falls,nm
In our department we have 3 full time paid ff.We also have 8 resident "sleepers" who range in experience from 2 years to 15 years of service.We also have 30 paid on call ff's.There has never been any type of conflict, other than the "normal politics" among the ranks.We have a neighboring Full time department that does hire many of our young FF's.It seems here, as with many other departments our battles are not or should not be amongst our departments, but against the State and LOCAL budget wizards. I'll personally take advice from any one who has more experience on the fire ground than I do, but I have a difficult time accepting the fact that we are at such mercy of legislators who have never had the heat on their back because because their turnout coat was worn out, felt the fear of donning a defective scba, or not been able to get a worn out hurst tool started all in the name of "BUDGET CUTS" Lets fight the real fire at its source of origin, Legislators and Finance committies!
05-05-2002, 04:01 PM #19
JTL....Great post...once again...we agree (scary)
I have been on both sides of the fence. I retired as a career captain and even while a career firefighter I was a volunteer in my community. I still volunteer near where I live and I am a Volunteer District Chief.
Fires can not determine if we are career of volunteer. Patients do not know the difference and in some cases are suprised volunteers dont get paid or suprised that the fire department is paid.
As an instructor one of the things I used to tell my classes in organization and operations is..."You do not have to be paid to be professional." Career personnel (me) chose it as a career and volunteers (me) chose to do it to give back something to their communities. Some tax bases do not now or will they ever support paid services...so...Volunteers are here to stay.
Bottom line is....we are all here to do the same thing.09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
05-05-2002, 05:41 PM #20
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
- traverse city, mi
I was privledged to be a volunteer firefighter for close to ten years. When I started the paid department in the small town that was in the center of our county had several guys who made it known they really looked down at us. While doing a fundraiser at the county fair one time a member of their dept even flipped me off because of the I had the gall to say "hi". Needless to say that relations were not very good. At the time, approximately 40% of the county vols had the same training requirements met as the paid department. Then they had a few big fires and they had to call us in (total manpower 23 members in the paid dept). Things warmed up a bit. All of a sudden they came out with the fire officer 1,2,3 program and we got to know more of the guys that were in our class. I talked to a couple of them and they were great guys. One of them said to me, "hey did you guys really tell the city that they could lay us off, and you would pick up the slack." I was dumbfounded. This city is small and a lot of similar towns would be serviced by vol depts, but this town wouldnt be served very well. The traffic situation(daytime pop is 3 times res. pop) is bad because it is an old city. Besides, while I freely gave my time to my small community, I wouldnt give them my time in order to save them a few bucks. My community didnt have the revenue to pay fulltimers. But I was going to provide charity to this town so they could put new swingsets at the parks and hire more cops and street workers. I told this guy this and he said that is what the city manager had told them. I told him about his coworker who gave me the bird, and he said, "Yeah, he has something wrong with him, everybody hates him, even is own brother." So communication really helped. Now a days they treat the vols with a lot of respect, even though now a days, few of the vols are equally trained as them. They went ALS, Hazmat, USAR, etc. They really do stand apart training wise. The big thing is no matter what side of the fence you are on, dont judge a whole group by one persons actions, comments, etc.
05-05-2002, 08:47 PM #21
05-05-2002, 08:57 PM #22
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
Very good points guys.Someone stole my favorite"Fire dont care if you are a card carrier or a vollie"Nor does Hep or any communicable disease.Lets all remain civil and remember to know thine enemy!Vollies are not the enemy of paid and paid is not the enemy of volly.
I cant imagine (I mean lets sit back and think about this)a major city or even a smaller city going all volly to get rid of its paid members.I have heard stories that the city is going to dump us but hey lets take a medium size city like Rockford Illinois.Sorry no way thats going to work.The volume of calls for one would tax a volunteer group plus how are you going to find enough to want to do the job????For free even???
We have heard from some union members that their department was going to come in and take over.Cant happen their budget is maxed for one and two they make them give a reason for having a piece of equipment now! The rescue does house checks for the love of Pete!!House checks are where you go by while the owner is on vacation and you see if his house is still there Now George Wendt will agree with me here that if the house is in the process of being broke into,what is a 2 man rescue going to do?
City fathers need a wake up call but to get it we must not be quiet.We have to do the footwork.Volly Paid both need to get out and educate the public.If we dont it will be the same old same old.
BTW JTL great post topic and may I say Brotherhood does mean something to us in the core of the firefighting world.Like you said its the fringe that gets the notice cause they scream louder.Stay safe and pat a brother on the back.
05-05-2002, 09:21 PM #23
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Cape St. Claire (Annapolis), MD
Here in Anne Arundel Co. MD, we have a combination dept. The Career firefighters go through recruit school and take all the required classes all at once. Volunteers, must have the same classes, but do not take them all at once. For example, we are only required to have Firefighter I, hazmat, and,terrorism to ride the engine as a probationary firefighter. Once we take EMT-B, we are a Firefighter I. This gives us more time to take classes because most of the volunteers have other jobs, or go to school. But the point is that we have the same training, from the same place. In my station, we have separate day rooms and bunk rooms for career and vollies, we don't eat together either, and there is some competition between both, but there aren't any problems between us. everyone gets along, because we're all there for the same reason. If your paid, your paid, if you volunteer, you volunteer. It shouldn't matter whether you get paid for doing a job or not, its still the same job.Megan Barnum
05-06-2002, 01:47 AM #24
Just to clarify - PGFD is not a volunteer dept. It is a combination fire dept.You Waste your time, YOUR LINE IS MINE!
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Maryland, D.C Metro
05-06-2002, 09:18 AM #25
Personally I've always been a volunteer. I come from a part of the country that had no paid services. There was no money or interest because the system worked.
Currently my volunteer Fire Department covers an area of the counties (we run in two) that is not covered by a career service. It works.
My Rescue Squad (and our sister squad) provide the technical rescue services for the county - both of us are volunteer. This might seem unusual to some of you - I understand that this is not the norm across the country - but in this part the FD's are not the provider of these services. It works.
I don't understand the competition between career and volunteer. We are all here for the same purpose. I'm happy for those who choose to make it a career.
Why look down on someone for volunteering? I've heard that volunteers are not as well trained - well the only career firefighters that are trained to our level in rescue are the ones that volunteer to do it - the training (above the very basics) is seperate and a different certification. Our volly fire fighters are certified through the same standards as the career fire fighters.
Are there bad apples? Sure, on both (or should I say all) sides of this fence. That's reality. Don't let the bad apples in your department infect the rest of the barrel - and don't blame someone else's whole barrel for one bad apple.
I say we should all realize we are here for the same purpose, and work that way. We should not fight each other, but work together. The public would get better service that way all around - and isn't that supposed to be the goal?Susan Lounsbury
Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
Griffith Volunteer FD
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