Thread: Who Are You?

  1. #1
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    Default Who Are You?

    As I surf the forum's each day I am constantly amazed by how few Pennsylvania firefighters use this forum to discuss our own local issues. It got me to wondering....how many of the 70,000 plus firefighters in our commonwealth are actually using Firehouse and reading this local forum?

    So I suppose I'll start by asking...who's out there, where you from, and what problems if any do you think are unique to the PA fire service?

    2003 State Grant Program anyone?
    If you can keep your head about you, while those around you are losing theirs, then you will be a man my son.

    Rudyard Kipling.

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    Cool OK - I'll help you start this discussion...

    Let's start with the bio...

    I'm currently with the Cedar Top VFC#1 in Cumru Twp., Berks County (about 5 miles south of Reading). Although our "home territory" is mostly rural residential, we run a little bit of everything (suburban residential, institutional, industrial) as a result of our automatic mutual aid arrangements with our neighbors.

    As for me, I've been in the fire service in PA for about 16 of the past 20 years with three different fire companies, 2 in Berks County and 1 in Cumberland County. Over that span, I've been a junior, a firefighter, an engineer, Lieutenant and Captain, and I've run calls on and operated, engines, squirts, ladders, tankers, brush units, QRS units, and even a did little Haz-Mat work (many moons ago). I guess all I need to do is spend some time at a rescue company and I'll have covered most of the bases. I also make it a point to get to State Convention and other regional functions (mostly for the beer and the BS, I admit) where I get to see and hear a fair amount about what's going on in the PA fire service.


    Now for the big question...

    I think that one of the major features of the PA fire service is the fact that there are such stark differences within its ranks.

    In some parts of the state, we've got some of the most embarrasingly over-capitalized fire companies I've ever seen. I always remember the officer I ran into some years ago at a parade who bragged that the township gave its fire companies so much money that each could afford every type of apparatus it wanted, and every one of them had at least one rig that stayed home for the first few years of its life just so it would be pristine for parades. Years later, I passed through that township...it's the truth.

    At the same time, we've also got some of the most embarrasingly under-capitalized fire companies I've ever seen. I know of companies that, to this day, can't afford to heat their station in the winter and need to fill their engines' tanks on the way to calls in the wintertime. I know of some who still operate not with 80s-era rigs & gear or 70s-era rigs & gear, but with 60s-era and 50s-era rigs (and, if they're lucky, 70s-era gear).

    And then, of course, there's the rest of us, who fall somewhere in between. But, partly because of these huge differences in our situations and priorities, we really seem to have no common agenda. At least, I don't think we see one...and it shows in the haphazard patchwork of dispatch systems, disjoint mutual aid systems, lack of interoperability in everything from radios to hose threads, and many other ways. This lack of cohesiveness can do nothing but hurt us.


    The other striking thing about the fire service in PA is how truly dangerous "tradition" has become to us. The fire service in PA was never planned in any sense...fire companies sprung up wherever they sprung up, sometimes organized along regional lines, but also often among ethnic or other social lines. In many cases, fire companies were formed more for their value as social clubs than as public safety agencies. While this traditional view of the neighborhood fire company has dimished over the years, it is still much more prominent across the Commonwealth than we'd all like to admit. This gives rise, in part, to continued resistance in many areas to things like statewide mandatory training standards, rationalization of run areas and standardization of procedures, among other things...all in the name of preserving "tradition". I never really thought of "tradition" as a dirty word...but it's becoming one, I think, all because of a class of people who seem to fear change of any kind more than a stampede of rabid wolverines. You know who they are...even if they don't seem to.


    Anyway, those are some of my thoughts...I hope this helps to get the discussion going.

  3. #3
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    Default Where am I?

    Ill start with the bio too.
    I live in Westmoreland City in Westmoreland County ( Capt1GVFD) you probally know where that is but for all you that dont its about 30 minutes away from pittsburg and about 15-20 mintues away from the capt. We run 2 engines and a service truck. We get about 200 call per year and most are mutal aid. As for me I am 16 and have been in the fire service for 2 years. My dad has been around the fire service for about 20 years now being Assit. Chief in a department. I have been around the fire Service since I was born with my uncle being an ex Fire Chief, my grandfather being in the Ems and Fire Service, and my dad being in the fire Service. I love the fire Service and will never ever get out of it.

    As for anything eles you asked I honeslty have no clue.

    Capt I am guessing you are from Company 1 but if I am wrong please correct me. I would someday (soon) love to get into the GBG Fire Department. I would also Like to get to know you a little bit more if that would be fine with you. My father knows Chief 79 (Hutch) very well, as for me i have never met Hutch and I take a big blow in the stomach everday I havent met him. Hopefully someday I will get to meet him as from what I heard he did come to alot of my church goings and things like that. My father trained along side Hutch about 20 years ago.

    Thanks for the opperunity to talk here.
    Rob
    FireFighter/EMT/VRT
    Engine Co 3
    Westmoreland City

    These opinions are mine and mine only nobody eles.

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    Another Berks County firefighter here. I have seen a lot of other PA firefighters on this site from time to time, I guess it just depends on if they have something to say.

    As far as the PA state grants go it was a great PR piece for the legislature but I wouldn't count on it. It was not a binding referendum.

    Our local state senator has helped us with the old "WAM" grants for several years and when we got our last check in October he told us that it was highly unlikely that it would be enacted. The deficit is just too great and we have a governor who really doesn't know what a volunteer fireman is.

    It would be nice but I'm not counting on it. We'll be applying for another FEMA grant and hope to go 3 for 3 this year.
    Steve Dragon
    FFII, Fire Instructor II, Fire Officer I, Fire Appartus Driver Operator Certified
    Volunteers are never "off duty".
    http://www.bufd7.org

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    I will start with my bio: Borned and raised in Columbia County. The north Central part of the State, 2 hours due north of Harrisburg on the Susquahanna River. Started in the fire service as a junior member. In fact still pay dues to 3 departments and run with them when I am home on the visit.. My father just retired as fire chief after 27 years as chief.

    Bobsynder I disagree on you about the differents in departments just be unique to Pennsylvania, down in the region of Louisiana were I live now, it varies among departments due to population and tax base.. So are still running 60's and 70's equipment... others are up to date with equipment and gear, and technology..

    As far as your second part about social organization, I will agree with that the past view of the department hurts a majority of small departments... Especially being labeled as nothing bunch a drunks, that just want to get away from their wives once or twice a week...

    What ideas does anybody have to get all departments out from that old past veiw???

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    I should join in I am from Lehigh County. I have been a member of the same department since 1988, I am currently the Captain of the Rescue. We operate 2 single engine houses and a Two company house with the Truck and rescue. We run close to or over 200 runs a year. 4 Years ago a buddy of mine talked me in to working as a paid on call firefighter for a department on the other side of allentown. I am also a Member of the Counties Technical Rescue Team (underfunded but what else is new) I am very unhappy with the fire service in Pa. Too many fire departments, To many Undertrained Officers, Too Many Under trained Firefighters. I Have just finished the Inst I, and II Program and am going to start all the Red Tape for approval from the SFA. I hope that in time I can change some things. If I may ask for the guys from berks to send some fire our way it seems that you guys use it all up before it can make it's way up to us.

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    by LouisianaMedic
    Bobsynder I disagree on you about the differents in departments just be unique to Pennsylvania, down in the region of Louisiana were I live now, it varies among departments due to population and tax base.. So are still running 60's and 70's equipment... others are up to date with equipment and gear, and technology..
    I don't necessarily think that it's unique to PA, just that the situation is particularly pronounced here.

    by LouisianaMedic
    What ideas does anybody have to get all departments out from that old past veiw???
    For starters, I think that companies that continue to act like it's still 1963 or 1973 need to wake up and start acting like it's 2003. The only way to dispel the negative image is to eliminate the behavior. Let's face it, one company full of screw-ups can taint the public image of 50 or 100 other companies across an entire county.

    by Choad33
    Too many fire departments, To many Undertrained Officers, Too Many Under trained Firefighters.
    You speak the truth. Unfortunately, I hear as many people inside the fire service opposing more structured training and certification as I hear supporting it. As a friend of mine, who is both a department chief and state instructor, said recently, "the more that [people in the PA fire service] fight [state mandated minimum certification standards], the better an idea it becomes."

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    RobbyJr307,

    If you are 16 years old and attend this years fire school at st vincent, you and I will meet. I'm the "16 year old's" instructor. See you then. If you attend Gbg Proby School when you turn 18, you will get to meet our Chief. He always gives a welcoming address to the new students. You and any member of your dept would always be welcome to attend the school. It starts each January and runs through May.

    bobsnyder, Dragonfyre, Louisianamedic, and Choad33

    I think you are all correct in most regards. To change the attitudes of many regarding manditory training, you start at the bottom. We are fortunate in my home town, as our chief has always supported modern training techniques. Our proby class each jan-may incorporates the essentials of firefighting, with a haz mat R&I, a first aid/CPR/AED class, and of course a (16) hour structural burn cert. WE follow that (most/all) years with the FFI test in June, provided we have the numbers to make the test economical to administer.

    As far as captitalization goes, the municipalities need to do more to provide direct financial support for the vfd's. Along with that support however, will inevitably come some strings. How can you expect the muni's to cough up the dough politically without input. A nice string would be demonstrating that new members recieve at least the PA essentials of FF class within a year of their joining the department. I think that is a win win sitution.

    As regional fire schools develop and facilities are built, I think you will begin to see that change take place. I see that changing for the better, I know it is out in western PA, in general and in Westmoreland County in Particular.

    If attitude is the problem, I always suggest that a dept change the how they train the new guys. Then sit back and let what I call the "percolation process" take care of the rest. It took many of these time-warp-locked companies 50 years to get the way they are in terms of their attitudes towards training. You cannot expect that to change over night, but you can take the long view and start a permanent fix now. Think about it this way, today's proby is tomorrows Lt, Capt, Asst Chief, Chief and maybe if you are lucky and truly organized for the long view, twp supervisor, boro board, or city council member. Eventually, those with a training oriented ethos will percolate into the decision positions...over the long haul, the problem resolves itself and you avoid a blow out confrontation that does no one any good.

    Fostering a good working relationship with your muni is essential to achieving your goals. Cooperative public works projects, parks, pavilions, trails, public safety education programs, etc, improve the community while building teamwork and interdependance between the vfd and the muni. Both the muni and the vfd benefit from the public's perception of that relationship and the actual working relationships that develop. It's a lot easier to get things done if the muni elected officials and vfd officials are on a friendly first name basis.

    Lastly, on the Grant issue, we are not likely to see much this year. The new Govenor, has his hands full with the budget deficit, and lets face it, he can only do so much. Lets wait and see and hope he can help the service as best he can.

    I thank you all for responding, I hope more do.
    Last edited by Capt1GVFD; 02-27-2003 at 12:10 PM.
    If you can keep your head about you, while those around you are losing theirs, then you will be a man my son.

    Rudyard Kipling.

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    I'm from Dushore Fire Co. No.1 of Sullivan County, PA... "Where cows out number people!"

    I like the PA fire service just fine... I'm in no place to comment since I don't care to train for the fire service.

    In --my personal-- opinion, any 2003 grants in the state should go to Volunteer departments only. And there should be special terms for just "very-rural", and departments that have apparatus older than 20 years. I'd like to see some surrounding departments be able to purchase new equipment to serve their communities better. Even though our department is fortunate enough to have a great line of board officials and long term planning, our apparatus is modern, and I forsee no problems in the future; I'd like to see grant monies for replacement of our roof that leaks worse than the titanic.

    Fan-tabulous.
    Chris K.
    Dushore Fire Co.
    Sullivan Co. PA
    AOL IM: OUSHORE



    --------------------------------These are my opinions only. None are the concern of the DVFC1.

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    WOW!!!!!!! You guys bring back some great memories. I started in the Volunteer Fire Service in PA in 1967 (Lawrence County). Much of what you describe was valid then.

    Our department was so poor (How poor was it?) It was so poor we bought a used dump truck from the township for $1.00, overhauled the engine and chassis, built a rectangular tank, and created the ugliest looking tanker in the history of the fire service - but it worked (1,850 gallons with a 250 gpm pump).

    It was so poor all turnout gear was stored on the engine - first come, first served. The hurry to the fire was not necessarily because there was a fire as much as it was to get the good gear (the boots without holes, the helmet that actually fit, etc. I had to wear 2 left boots at a fire once.)

    It was so poor that when I started (1967) we had 2 filter masks and 4 SCBA’s (2 were the twin tank type). A few years later we bought 4 new MSA’s.

    It seems times haven’t changed much with respect to the people of the fire service. This is to be expected as human nature does not change much over time. I’ll bet 20% of your membership does 80% of the work (or more).

    Bear in mind those with whom you exchange messages on this forum are likely in the 20% group. Your effort should be directed in getting the 80% to subscribe to this forum. That may cause some to join the 20% group. I still can’t believe that there is anybody who is not interested in the fire service with the same passion I have for it. But, I accept it. I don’t know how I got the “bug”, but it has stayed with me although I am no longer a fire fighter.

    I started as a junior volunteer at 17. As I discovered the various fire schools in the area, I attended every one I could. When I discovered that there was a State Fire School in Lewistown, I had to go. My Chief (one who was respected a great deal - he built the tanker mentioned above) could not understand why I and my buddy wanted to go “all that way” to learn something. We attended an SCBA maintenance class. When we returned, we serviced those 4 new SCBA’s to the horror of everyone. They were used to returning the SCBA to the case immediately after use (refilling was done at the department in the next town). They were never cleaned.

    Don’t think the problems are indigenous only to PA. I have been a volunteer in Maryland and Tennessee also. In one department the concept of an interior attack was completely foreign. A Captain said in an incredulous tone “You mean you actually go inside the house!!! But that’s were the fire is!!!”. I said “Precisely”. You are not going to change attitudes. They must evolve the proper attitude themselves from within or they get out. Get them involved doing something constructive and important. They need to develop pride. Some merely want to help in the background. I remember one guy whose only interest was in maintaining the trucks. He tuned the engines, changed the oil, etc. but seldom went to a fire. When he did, he stayed in the background only to help clean up after. He just wasn’t interested in “fire”. He was looking for friendship and respect. Believe me he got it!

    Keep up the good work and don’t let the negative side get to you or frustrate you.

    Sorry for the rambling, but I couldn’t help resurrecting old memories. Have things changed?

    By the way, Greensburg FD was well respected 30 years ago. It sounds as though they haven’t lost the edge.

    Good Luck.

    Jim Feld
    Fairfield, CA

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    I am a member of the PA specialized fire crew. We go for two weeks at a time. When and where we are needed. Are there any other wildland firefighters here?

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    Default Hello

    Hello,
    My name is Eric Fritzinger and i am the fire chief of Kettle Creek Hose Company in Cross Fork, Pa. This is located in north-central Pa, in Potter County. We are in a very rural part of the state and our calls are very unique from many areas of the state. I am also a very young fire chief. I am only 22 years old and am still actually attending college at Penn State University and let me tell you being a fire chief and attending college is a tough thing to do. My fire department has a run area of over 150 square miles, over 1,100 camps, and around 250 residences. The number of full time residences in the area is really small. During hunting season, fishing season, and our very popular Snake Hunt Weekend, the numbers in our area can swell to thousands of people. We recieve no funding from the townships that we protect except for workmans comp. This makes it very hard to succesfully run a rural fire department. I think the fema and other grants should start to take into consideration variables such as tourism instead of basing everything on permanent residents. During our fast times of the year, we can have as many people in our run area as many cities in the state. They are also spread out in very large areas and sometimes we have land rescues for people miles in the woods. This is my gripe with the grants and such rewarded to fire departments and i hope i am making a good point. Do not penalize a fire department for low number of full time residents or number of calls, there are many other factors that affect a fire department. No matter what we are still protecting people and deserve to have equipment that we can do the job with.

    Eric Fritzinger

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    Cool Same problems different location

    As a former PA bravest now living in the frozen arctic aka Alaska, North Pole to be exact.

    My history; started in 1985 as a junior firefighter in York Co, with sta. 47 near Spring Grove and Hanover, left in 1991 (still a member) and joined the AF and was an active duty Air Force FF for 8.5 yrs and now a civilian DOD firefighter at an army base here interior Alaska.

    Well I dont really want to start a war or anything but at least in PA pretty much everyone has fire protection even though it may be limited in some areas particularly in the small mountain communities. Here in Alaska many people do not have fire protection because they chose to live out in the boondox or do not want it because they refuse to pay the little bit it costs to provide them the safety their families deserve. Unless they live in a service ara then the get assessed a mil rate based on the value of their house. As far as grants go Alaska still has alot of fd's regardless if the are public, private or govt. We dont even hold a candle to the numbers of depts in Pa nor did we even come close to getting our fair share of fire grants either. It seemed to me that the total of Alaska depts to recieve assistance from FEMA was not even near what PA recieved. It looked like that for all the dept's in AK that got grants in the 11 or 12 rounds the entire 2002 year was about what Pa got in like one or two rounds. So it seems that even though we are thousands of miles away and our problems seem similiar the big picture is that the GOVT still dosent have a clue and that they seem to sway towards your so called average dept's and forget about the smaller friendlier communities dept's that our young Chief has mentioned. The Govt needs to remember that terrorism can strike anywhere and any time regardless of the size of the city or the local emergency teams and we need to recieve the money so that everyone can get trained and have the equipment to do the job when it happens, BEFORE AND NOT AFTER THE INCIDENT.

    So write your representatives in DC and tell them how you feel and about your dept's pfinancial problems and maybe they'll listen and your dept will be on the list to recieve money this year and we can keep the two time recipients at bay for a change so everyone else can have a chance.

    Yeah we have our fair share of some of the afore mentioned problems and then some like only a few hours of daylight and negative temps sometimes to -60 during the winter
    Take care and keep safe

    http://www.northstarfire.org[
    Last edited by Frozenhosehead; 03-08-2003 at 03:51 AM.
    Brad Hoff, North Pole Alaska
    "Protecting the Defenders of Freedom"
    FT. Wainwright Fire & Emergency Svcs
    North Star VFD, www.northstarfire.org

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    "Keepin it REAL in the LAST FRONTIER"

    "Firefighter Extraordinaire"

    "If a firefighter was buck naked and given three ball bearings, then placed in a round room with no windows and only one entrance, he or she would emerge with two missing and one broken".

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    ok i'll make mine short and sweet, ok im a 16 yr old FireFighter/EMT for Jamestown,PA ( Station 89) ive been with the Dept. for about 1 1/2 yrs now just got done taking my EMT Class. Im in Mercer Co. Who ever is up and around this area, stop down by the Station and take a look around with our unique Equipment, such as: hovercraft, Speed Boat, 2 Engines/Tankers, Scuba Van, Brush Truck, Rescue Truck, and our lovely Ambulance . i just like how every Dept. is different.
    Last edited by JohnJVFD; 03-12-2003 at 12:16 PM.

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