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    Default County Wide Fire Department

    Does anyone know of an all volunteer county wide fire department that I could contact to obtain information? Our county is funded through a millage on property tax, the county disperses approximately $440,000 to 11 rural volunteer fire departments that seem to be working toward 11 different goals. Each department is allowed to make their own purchases, etc... A few of us have been throwing around the idea that maybe if we could get eveyone to begin working toward a common goal then maybe we could get some things accomplished. There are areas of our county that are outside of 5 miles from a fire station which results in higher insurance premiums. I feel that if we went to this type of system we could build more stations, disperse apparatus and therefore offer better coverage within the county. Any thoughts?, Ideas?, comments, suggestions please post with them. Thanks for your time and help.
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    Escambia County, FL Fire/Rescue might be a plcae to look. While there are several different fire depats, the county (paid) chief oversees the entire organization. The county also funds the departments and is able to make larger purchases; Dispatch is also done by the county. In the last few years they have hired some part-time/day time personnel, but still rely heavily on their volunteers.

    I've heard a lot of good things about ECF/R; give 'em a try.
    Capt. K

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    Thanks Firebeach!
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    Isn't Prince Georges County MD all vollie?

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    ECFD924, I sent you an email regarding this thread.

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    Prince George's is not entirely volunteer, they employ daytime workers at certain stations but most are volunteer
    NYS FF1/AEMT-CC
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    "You stopped being in charge when I showed up"

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    Be carefull what ground you tread on here, there are some dangers involved. The way my county currently sits the county collects the tax money for each district, and then hands over the money collects from each district to that FD. The county has no control over how much we get or how we spend it. When this idea was brought up in our county, it seemed great untill we realized that it would hand control of all that money over to the county commissioners, who would have no obligation to spend it on fire. Given the track record of our county governemnt, most likely they would begin skimming off and cutting back as soon as they had control. they do it now with EMS and 911 money. When the idea was being discussed some commissioners were asked if they would agree to it if the law was written that said 100% of fire taxes woudl always be spent on fire, and most balked at that idea.

    Instead, we have a system of monthly chiefs meetings, where represenatives from each department get together and discuss who is doing what and where, and it has helped greatly. If one station is getting a piece of specialized equipment, its neighbors can rely on it for that equipment and they can buy something else, and run mutaul aid for the others, and so on.

    Take a long hard look at who will be calling the shots on money and other issues when you propose this, and ask yourself if you can trust them to do teh right thing. The chief will not be the final authority.

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    Prince George's county is hardly mostly volunteer. In paper numbers alone perhaps but the reality is that the vast majority of calls are handled by the career staff now a days. With the exception of some the all vollie stations (11,28,33,37) and some others (1,10,12,18) there are very few active volunteers left in the county. What PGFD is actually most of the time is a chronically understaffed VERY busy fire department with engines that run upwards of 3500 runs a year responding driver only sometimes. It's actually sad and very dangerous.

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    Smile Wellll.........

    OFD226 is a friend, and an old PG County hand, and I do not wish to take issue with him on PG matters. I do think he paints a picture that is bleaker than reality though. I chair the Statistical Committe for the PG County Vol Fire/Rescue Assn. as well as serve as a District Commissioner for PG. Yes there are some stations that have few Volunteers, for several reasons that do not need to be debated here. But as a whole, the Volunteer system is alive and well. My suggestion would be to form a solid, committed, organization representing the Volunteers on a county wide basis. There are a lot of things that can be done to improve on the current situation without getting the politicians involved. On a VOLUNTARY basis, things that such an organization can do are: Standardize training, establish minimum requirements for all ranks, institute group purchasing, establish an ADEQUATE dispatch procedure, and much more. Most of this will also help when you go to ISO to improve your rating. Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Thanks everyone for the replies and information shared. radioguy, what you described is pretty much what situation we are in now, all of the fire chiefs meet once a month but unless it is just not brought back to our station, "the important issues" are never discussed. That is what a few of us want to change. We want a unified, common goal fire department providing the highest level of service, while at the same time letting each station hold on to their community feeling. So far this is what we have come up with: One person with NO political affiliation would be chief, he would be over all money dispersed, establish training requirements, etc..., all of the current station chiefs would become station captains. We would take an entire inventory off all equipment and then disperse equipment evenly throughout the county so that two neighboring stations do not have the same equipment such as extrication equipment. This in turn is going to create automatic mutual aid, which I feel will improve morale because the call volumes will be increased, that is my opinion, comments? All of the current stations in the county have two engines, and one or two tankers now, we would take and distribute apparatus so we could build more stations which would take in all areas that are outside of 5 miles, hopefully we would be able to have a station within 3 miles of every residence. We have a few more ideas, but these are the major ones we have pondered so far.
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    A couple questions to go with your plan.

    Who hires the chief? Will the powers that be in county government do this? If so, he will answer to them and unlimately they will have the last word in how things operate.

    I guess my whole issue with it in this county was that the way things are now each fire department runs itself, and answers only to a board made up equally of department members and taxpayers from the district. In going to a county wide system the unlimate decision making power and financial decsions would be placed in the hands of politicians, who's primary interest is not public safety or firefighting, but getting reelected. And if getting reelected meant taking fire fighting dollars and spending it on a new rec center, parks, social programs, or whatever else, than there it goes. If you can prevent this, my hat is off to you, but so far we have not been able to. If you ask some career brothers, you will find out that once you place the politicians in charge, what you get funded is all too often the bare minimum. Here fire money goes directly to the departments, cannot be spent on aything else, and how it is spent is decided by local boards made up of firefighters and those in thier district, instead of a politician who may have 50 other things he wants funded worse.

    If you can get stations cooperating without involving county government, thats the way to go. I think I would try all possible means to accomplish my goals before going this route, simply to avoid the risks of losing control over the money and operation. We have automatic mutual aid, sharing of resources and tools, and so much more here without letting the county commissioners get thier grubby hands on the money.

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    The way we had decided was to let the current fire chiefs elect the chief as they currently elect the president of the firefighter association. Whether this would work or not, I do not have the answer to that. If it came down to putting the county commission in charge of the money, we would back out of our plan and leave it be. I appreciate your concerns, and it has given me a new idea. Maybe I can present every idea we have had and still keep the money in the same place? That was our biggest concern as an obstacle was getting each department to "give-up" individual control of their money. But if we can sell the fire chiefs on the idea of working toward a common goal then just maybe we can start to improve things. Looks like our little group that is heading this up needs to start attending the fire chiefs meeting and throw them a little bit at a time. Thanks radioguy for the stimulating post!
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    Mergers are a hot topic in KY right now. I am Fire Chief of a merged department (three into one), and can offer some thoughts on the matter.

    First, I think it's important that all of the departments be of approximately the same size. If you have, lets say, one big department and a couple of small departments, then the small departments are going to be "taken over". As much as you may try to be fair, and treat all as equal, I think that it's just nature's way that the big eats the small.

    It's important that all of the departments be organized along the same lines. In KY, and I think it's true in most other states as well, departments can be public (as in a Fire District or a city department), or they can be private (a corporation that is funded by donations or fund raisers, or by contract to a taxing agency). If you have a mix of each, you will be bringing conflict into the merger, because whereas the public departments are run sort of like a republic, with an elected or appointed board making the decisions, the private departments usually run like a democracy, with decisions taken by popular vote of the members. There are also issues with who owns the apparatus and equipment - the public departments stuff is "owned" by the department, while the private department's stuff is owned by the members. I'm not making judgements about which way is better, I'm just pointing out the differences that will generate conflict.

    How "homogenous" is your county. In my county, the Northern 1/4 is urban/suburban, and has mostly full-time paid/combination departments. The Southern 3/4 is suburban/rural with volunteer/combination departments. Do the full-time-three-platoon guys understand the operations and the limitations that the vollies work under?

    Do you get any funding from the State? In KY, each qualifying department gets an annual state-aid check from a surcharge collected on property insurance premiums. This pays for police and fire incentive pay for career departments, for worker's comp for volunteer firefighters, and for state-aid funds. Each department gets the same amount ($8250 for the last few years), no matter how big or small. When we merged, the loss of $16,500 was a big issue for us! We actually got one of our local legislators to push a bill that ammended the legislation to give merged departments the full amount for all of the departments in the merger for so many years, and a sliding scale of reductions after that. Make sure you won't be experiencing a similar loss of funding.

    These are all big issues, and take much thought and consideration. Believe me, when you take this big step, and all is said and done, you'll probably find that a whole lot more was said than was done!

    E-mail me if you want to discuss this any further - I'd be glad to help.
    Last edited by KYChief350; 08-20-2003 at 08:04 PM.

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    KYChief thanks for the insight. Every department in the county is approximately the same size, every department is all volunteer. The fire departments are funded by a mill rate collected on property taxes, so every department receives the same amount of money. The money is taken in and divided by 11, (11 is the number of unincorporated fire departments in the county). As far as fund raisers, some departments do them, my department does not, a fund raiser about 10 years ago made the department look really bad when a partner in a fund raiser did not provide the product they had promised after collecting the money, but we are in the process of attempting to re-gain community support now. The way my dept is set up is we have a "tax account", which recieves all money from the county and is spent on the allowed items. We also have a "department account" to keep up with all of the raised monies. So I thought if this went through the money that would be thrown into the big pot would just be the tax money, and raised funds would stay with that individual department.

    My department is sort of a republic and a democracy, (is that possible??), anyway, we have a board that recommends items to the department and then a popular vote is taken. It works pretty well except for the fact that there are a couple of board members who are not that active in the department any longer and in my opinion they do not know what is going on, just my opinion. The question of who owns the apparatus has been brought up in our discussions. In my opinion it belongs to the citizens, they pay taxes, departments use that money to buy equipment. If a department used raised monies to buy something then I guess we would have to figure out a way to keep that piece of equipment in that community, and if everyone started screaming "we paid for that with fundraisers", then they would have to prove it and if not then we would treat it as if it had been paid for with tax money, unless we can come up with something else.

    We realize this is a big step, it would be something that our county has never talked about. We are going to hit several brick walls and we will probably hit them hard really hard! With a little stubbornesss, having all of our facts straight, and being able to answer questions, and take criticism from our fellow firefighters who are against change I think we can do this. How long will it take? That is a long shot in the dark! Thanks again Kychief!
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    Lightbulb Here's a Thought........

    Matt, In looking at apparatus, you might consider leaving all CURRENT apparatus where it is, and leave "ownership" as it now stands. Implement a plan with "All apparatus purchased after (date) shall be property of,(the county?) and assigned to a duty station by(the chief?)......" Consider the same idea for any Real Estate, Buildings, Etc. Also think about the fact that, down the road, you'll want a training facility, maybe an apparatus shop, a building for whatever system you will use for storage/distribution of supplies to the stations. And the list grows as does your department. One pitfall to avoid is arguing over where the money came from, do what is appropriate to encourage fund raising by individual stations, but insure that funds raised locally stay there. Allow for a little leeway for ownership of anything, including apparatus, that is purchased SOLELY by local donations. The biggest thing of all is: NEVER do anything to diminish the identity of each local Volunteer organization. Regardless of who buys the truck, paint it and letter it for the station that it will run out of, not some county wide, "everything looks the same" paint job. Here in the Mid-Atlantic area, we have some County departments that insist on a standard county paint job for everything that the county purchases. That has proved to be a big morale killer when a VFD is unable to afford to purchase something on their own, and have to accept a county truck. Hope this information helps, Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

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    Thanks hwoods, the thought of leaving everything the same and starting "from now on" did not cross my mind. Wow, that makes it seem like there would be less arguing over what goes where becasue "we bought it". We have discussed a training facility and actually thought that would be a good way to start, by building a county-wide training facility and encouraging inter-department training. Not sure if that will fly though, we are going to attempt to obtain some land from the county and ask all departments to kick in a little cash.

    We discussed the departments keeping their "individuality" and decided it would be the best thing to let the departments keep that.

    Thanks hwoods!
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

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    This may not completely fit in with what you have in mind, but there are some aspects of what you are trying to do in my area. We have a combination department consisting of 33 volunteer stations (owned, staffed, and maintained by the Volunteer Corporations) and 23 career stations that are manned by paid staff. Some of the volunteer stations pay daytime staff, especially to man ambulances, but these people are hired and paid by the volunteer corporations and are not county employees like the career service firefighters and paramedics are.

    The 33 volunteer companies are members of a County Volunteer Fireman's Association which sets standards for training, equipment, etc. They also have established a loan fund for the use of member companies. The career fire service operates and maintains the training academy and the county government supplies funding for gear and monetary incentives for volunteer medic unit staffing. The county government also supplies a repair shop (though most of the volunteer companies perform their own maintenance or arrange for their own maintenance work). The volunteers own their rigs. The career service supplies the command staff at the battalion chief level and above and provides most of the administrative functions such as workers compensation insurance for the volunteers as well as career staff.

    You guys are attempting to take a big step. I wish you luck. It isn't easy.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
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    In each of the three stations (formerly seperate departments) that make up our department, there remains a non-profit corporation - sort of a booster club kind of thing, but they also serve as social organizations, as well as a kind of labor local. These organizations run fund-raisers of one sort or another, and the money goes towards buying needed equipment for that station. There is an agreement with the Fire District board that anything bought with that "private" money remains at that station.

    This is a very successful arrangement, as it allows the volunteers to work towards a common goal, and buy something that they have "ownership" of. In the last few years we've had the volunteer organizations pony up the money for Thermal Imaging Cameras, furniture for the stations, TV's for the ready room, etc.

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    Default Calif . county FDs...

    I dont know if this helps, but some of the major County
    FDs here are paid, but are very well managed. Here are
    their names and sites-

    Ventura County- www.ventura.org/fire
    Orange County- www.ocfa.org
    LA County- www.lacofd.org
    Alameda County- www.acgov.org/fire/index.htm
    Kern County- www.co.kern.ca.us

    Hope this helps...Bou

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