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  1. #1
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    Question Career VS. Volunteer

    I am a volunteer fire fighter in Virginia taking a college english class. We are suppose to write a compare/contrast paper due monday and I was going to write it about the differences and similarities of career and volunteer firefighters. However I am a little one sided since I am not a career firefighter can anyone help me? I was wondering if anyone who has maybe done both career and volunteer could give me some comments on their experience. I would greatly appreciate it.

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    Default

    If you shoot me an e-mail, I will give you a few thoughts.

    dfdept@frontiernet.net

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    Default

    To firegal2024, congrats. You have just opened a can of worms. Here in the forums, the career/vollie debate is a horse that has been beaten to death... resurrected... beaten to death... resurrected... well, you get the picture.

    To everyone else, God help this girl. She's new. She knows not what she does. Take it easy on her.

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    Feel free to drop me a PM and I'll share my perspective on this with you, as I (like many others) have been on both sides of vol/career. Just be warned this issue generates a TON of friction in open forums. Have a great day. -46

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    Unhappy

    Sorry guys I wasn't trying to stir up any friction and I know the severity of this issue. I am just looking to see what relationships are like, commraderie in career stations and things like that not neccasarily who is better or anything just the little things behind the scenes.

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    Volunteer or career departments are neither better nor worse than the other... they are just different. Combination departments are right in the middle.

    Back in the day when volunteers were plenty, even some of our largest towns & cities ran call or volunteer departments. More people worked closer to home, such as in the same town that they lived. Over many years, work took people away from hometowns and away from an ability to volunteer as much as they might have once before. Other situations included a growing number of calls in a given day that made volunteer response harder, even in the best of departments with many people. The transition between volunteer & career is usually a tough one for the municipality to swallow, as you'll have politicians & townsfolk screaming about MAJOR increases in spending. The choice to go career is very often a result of frustration from decreasing volunteer numbers or increased delay in responding to calls.

    Today, you'll still find a great many towns running ALL volunteer fire & EMS (more fire). You will find even more departments that are combination, as towns will probably cover daytime shifts first because of the overwhelming majority of working folk who also volunteer do some variation of 9-5 for regular jobs. Again, it might come down to the consistency of response times or ability to cover trucks that makes town fathers push for paid departments in place of or addition to volunteers.

    The thing about career versus volunteer is that everyone goes to the same fires. A structure fire is a structure fire, whether downtown Boston or the smallest community in northern VT, NH, or ME. Training standards are the same, and the dangers don't change much. As for training, smaller communities might be harder pressed to get the funding for FD members to take academy classes and more formal training, so that can put them at a disadvantage from others.

    I'm not about to say one kind of department is better than another, so don't get me wrong with this. I AM, however, quite glad to have a fully-staffed fire/rescue department 24 hours a day along with a great call department that supplements the career folks. When the time comes that I move out of THIS community and into one that is not career, I am pretty certain to offer my time, knowledge (ok, it will be quick!), and abilities to ensure people get as quick of a response possible.
    ~Kevin
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    Default

    One suggestion might be to visit the Volunteer forum and observe the pros and cons of being a volunteer. Then visit the Career/Paid forum and repeat step 1. This will hopefully prevent the "horse" from being resurrected yet again.

    You can do searches (the search button on the left of your screen) in these forums or you can ask questions. Just be aware that this debate is probably the single most debated issue in these forums. The heading of your post alone (Career vs. Volunteer) will invoke a lot of views if not responses to this thread.

    To everybody else, if this thread goes on, lets not resurrect the horse again. You regular posters and us lurkers have seen this before. Let's just leave it alone this time.

    Anybody else agree? This is, of course, just IMHO.

    P.S. Constructive and unbiased opinions work as proven above by Kevin. Hopefully if you feel the need to respond you can follow Kevin's lead.
    Last edited by scrapper; 03-25-2004 at 10:57 AM.

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    Default

    Thanks kghemtp for your reply!

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    Your right Scrapper, Thanks!

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    Default paid....volunteer

    Well...one gets paid for their service and the other doesnt.
    Rescue Squad 12 to FireAlarm!!.....Squad 12?.....Give Me The 3 Alram!!!!!!

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    Without stirring the pot here, I'll just offer some of my experiance's as a career firefighter. Yes we get paid, thats the whole point of being career. It's all that I as well as my coworkers do for a living. We work together 24 hours at a time, averaging 49.3 hours per week over the course of a year. We answer alarms each day, the entire house I work at recieve's about 5,000 per year. These are all types including ems and fire as well as anything that could be imagined. These are probably all similar stories that any one can give whether they be a career member or volunteer. As a career member we worry about our pay, we worry about our pension's as well as health care coverage ..... just like every one else .... only differance being that this is included as part of our life being a career firefighter. Volunteers have the same concerns, except that their concerns over these issue's is seperate from the fire service, these issues generally are dealt with by their employer's since they donate their time to the fire service. We as career member's worry about union issue's etc. These in my opinion are probably the biggest differance between a career member and a volunteer. We worry about how to earn a living while a part of the fire service, we have to because it is our living. Just a few idea's, hope this helps a bit.

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    Default shaun191

    Hey Goffa, I figured that was you with the smart-as*ed comment. I guess some people never change, they just walk through life being irrelevant and never even know it.

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    Wow, my brothers I am truly impressed. I read the header on the thread and thought I was hearing the round 2890547 bell ringing "ding, ding, ding," but no y'all were professionals and came together and gave her what she needed.


    I tip my helmet to y'all
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    There wasn't just 343, the other 73 rescue workers deserve to be remembered too!!!!

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    Generally, the priorities of each group are slightly different.

    Like Jasper said, The career guys are concerned about pay, pension, etc. We volunteers generally don't have to worry about that but look for different "rewards" (for lack of a better word) that they want to recieve from their department. Maybe it's a department jacket, a Firefighter of the Year plaque at the annual banquet, etc.

    Each group's overall priority is the same though: taking care of our citizens when the have a fire, medical emergency, whatever.

    Let's face it, none of us, paid or volunteer, are getting rich off the fire service. We all do this for more than just money or t-shirts.

    It's the camaraderie and great feeling of helping our fellow man when they need it most.

    This is always the same no matter where you go or what type of department it is.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    Smile

    Thank you all so much, I think I have enough to write my essay. I wasn't sure where I was going to go with it before but now I know. You are all right, it has nothing to do with being career or volunteer it is the comraderie and looking out for fellow mankind. THANK YOU!!!!!!!

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    Firegal, now don't ya be copying these dozen or so messages as your paper! However, I do think we covered most of it from various angles. Feel free to post your final draft here for us to see! Take care, and good luck. Now get writing!!!
    ~Kevin
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    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
    Dennis Miller

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    Default Both

    A lot of career guys in my area do both, work with one and volunteer their time when they're not working. Getting paid to do something that you would do for free is way cool

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    looks good so far ............wonder who is gonna mess it up ?
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    Talking And Now.................................

    Originally posted by Weruj1
    looks good so far ............wonder who is gonna mess it up ?
    Certainly not me, but how many pages can this one go? You might need a LIGHTBULB before it's over.
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  20. #20
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    Default 2 cents...

    I think it is pretty safe to say almost all professionals
    had to get their start somewhere. From explorer scouts, to
    being a reserve, Paid Call, volunteer or military- someone had to start somewhere.

    Here are two good sites you might find more information-

    www.firecareers.com
    www.eatstress.com

    Good luck!

  21. #21
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    Hopefully not to start anything bad. I have not yet seen this topic gone bad in the past but only can imagine that it could quick. Some stats for both vollie and career.
    this come from NFPA.

    26,354 fire depts in the usa
    19,244 all vollie
    5252 combination
    1878 all paid

    Also it is estimated that the vollie depts save the usa about 36.8 billion in labor costs. Here is something also worth reading for the folks of vollie depts.I found this over in the vollie forum.

    http://www.vcos.org/resources/VCOS_whitepaper.pdf

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    Default

    I have to admit, based on the title of the post I was hesitant to even open it up, but boy am I impressed with the civility of this thread.

    I spent time as a vol in a career dept and now an all vol dept so I have sort of seen it from both sides. As with anything, they each have their goods and bads.

    For the career ff there is no running out on your family at any given time... your working your shift you're supposed to go on the run. On the other hand your sitting in a station (depending on your shift schedule) for 24 hours straight, in other words you leave for work and tell your kids "See you when I get home tomorrow!"

    Then there are things like training, I put in vacation days and call in 'sick' to get in some of my mandatory CEU classes to keep some of my certifications current. For a career ff, you are supposed to take these classes so you get some of the training while on duty.

    Depending on where you work, I think career guys get the shaft from their city/town powers and residents where I think sometimes volunteer depts get more gratitude from residents. I think a lot of career depts are taken for granted because they are just another dept and just another budget account within the structure of the city. Not sure if that makes any sense or not... hopefully it does.

    Hope this helps!

    PS... Sir hwoods... please don't mention LIGHTBULB... we are treading on thin ice keeping a career/vol discussion civil don't give someone ammunition

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    Originally posted by FFTrainer
    Depending on where you work, I think career guys get the shaft from their city/town powers and residents where I think sometimes volunteer depts get more gratitude from residents. I think a lot of career depts are taken for granted because they are just another dept and just another budget account within the structure of the city. Not sure if that makes any sense or not... hopefully it does.
    Excellent point. You often hear people comment about the career firefighters "sitting around in the firehouse."

    People don't realize that career guys usually have more fire prevention and inspection duties than volunteer departments do.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

  24. #24
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    Here is a humours little tidbit from another thread a while back. My VFD, supremly rural, vs. the biggest US metro FD, FDNY, supremely metro.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    LETS GET IT ON!!!

    PVFD (My Voly) Vs. FDNY

    Tale of the tape (From FDNY website and My PVFD info cheat sheet)

    NYC Population - 8,008,278
    PVFD Fire District Population- 1,000

    FDNY Coverage Area- 321.8 Sq. Miles
    PVFD coverage area- 740 Sq. Miles

    FDNY Personel- 12,000(?) Nice round number anyway
    PVFD personel- 27

    FDNY Units: ? Lots of pumpers and Tucks?
    PVFD units: 9 Brush, 3 tenders (water tankers that dont fly), 2 pumpers, 1 CAFS, 1 Command, 1 Support

    FDNY Terrain: Urban Jugle
    PVFD Terrain: Western US mix of prairie, badlands, pine forest, small town

    FDNY mission: Firefighting, Hazmat, EMS (more?)
    PVFD mission: Firefighting, EMS support calls, no actualy ambulance EMS mission, there is a seperate Voly ambulance crew

    While we (PVFD) cover nearly twice as many square miles as the FDNY, they have 8000 times our population, and about 445 times our manpower.



    Looking at the square miles covered, one could concieve that we are under staffed.

    PVFD firefighters per square mile: .036 firefighters per square mile
    FDNY firefighters per square mile: 37.4 firefighters per square mile

    The FDNY has 1039 times more firefighters per square mile then the PVFD does.

    But, when comparing the proportions of manpower per population, the FDNY seems very under staffed.

    PVFD firefighters per citizen: 0.027
    FNCY firefighters per citizen: 0.0015

    The PVFD has 18 times more firefighters per citzen then the FDNY does.

    A look at the fire stats, 2002 (FDNY stats link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/st..._cwsum_cy02.pdf):

    FDNY total fires for 2002: 51563 fires of all types.
    PVFD total fires for 2002: 62 fires of all types (mostly wildfire)

    Fires per firefighter FDNY 2002: 4.29 fires
    Fires per firefighter PVFD 2002: 2.29

    The FDNY firefighter on average fought 2 more fires in 2002 then did a PVFD fire fighter. Of course there are FDNY firefighers that made many more fires then that, as there are PVFD firefighters that never miss a call, but that is the average from the stats I have on hand from FDNY website and my PVFD records I keep handy for grants.

    But, lets now examine what the FDNY terms as "Serious Incidents" ("those fires that imply severity, from "all hands", which is a fire or incident where an minimum of four fire units are fully engauged, to 5th alarm or higher."

    Everyone of the PVFD call ran in 2002 meet the FDNY definition of a "serious incident" due to the fact that each page out brings the majority of the 27 PVFD firefighters. Given that the PVFD vehicle staffing requirment is 2 firefighters (1 under special circumstances), the 4 unit reponse is a given at every incident.

    Serious incidents for 2002:

    FDNY serious incidents: 2946 for .25 serious incidents per firefighter
    PVFD serious incidents: 62 for 2.29 serious incidetns per firefighter

    When one compares the budgets of the FDNY to the PVFD, it is very shocking... and very amusing. But, since that is so very lop sidded, lets compare the budget the FDNY spends on one firefighter to the entire PVFD fire budget. I will take the salary listed on the FDNY website for a 5 year veteran firefigher. I will use this number bacause the average experience for the PVFD is 5 or greater years.

    FDNY 5 year veterain compensation: $61,511 (70,000)
    PVFD anual yearly budget 3 year average:$55,000

    After you take into acount the money spent on one 5 year FDNY veterain for training and equiping, I would approximate that the FDNY 5 year veterain budget would reach about 70,000$.

    The FDNY spends 22% more on one firefighter then the PFVD spends on its year firefighting budget.

    While statistics are fun, lets examine actualy fireground senarios.

    Senario 1, Fighting fire in NYC:

    Hell, we dont even have a ladder truck. We would be screwed fighting fire in NY!!! Our 2 tired old pumpers and our CAFS wildland heavy, the units that put out our structure and vehicle fires are wholy and completely unsuited for the fire enviroment in NYC. Let alone the staffing requirment. Our 27 guys, even if they didnt have to worry about working their day job, would be streatched so thin that we would soon be overwhealmed by the fire situation. The ensuing firestorm would in short order comsume the entirety of NYC. We would be shamed beyond belief, we would be the laughing stock of the world, and then the criminal negligence trials would begin.

    The FDNY has over the years perfected fighting fire in their coverage area. Every piece of equipment, from the pumpers/ladders to the PPE is idealy suited to fighting fire in NYC.

    The FDNY record for fighting fire in this environment is legendary.

    Senario 2, Fighting fire in Rural Montana:

    But, if they come out here to the great plains/badlands of Montana, I do belive my Voly department would have the upper hand. I dont know how many brush trucks the FDNY has, but I am reasonalby sure we are better prepared for the western wildland fire season then the FDNY is. I would like to see them take tower truck up a logging trail! Not gonna happen. Their black PPE and leather helmets, while cool, are NOT COOL! I shudder to imagine the touture of trying to chink in hotline on a running forest fire while whearing black PBI turnouts and 5 pounds of dead cow on your head. Pass the gatoraid! So, not only are their vehicles completely unsiuted to our fire evnvironment, their PPE is also very wrong. It may be possible for them to take their huge amount of manpower and hose, hook their pumper up to the nearest lake, and surround/drowned a large running MT wildfire, but that is an unproven tactic.

    The PVFD has over the years perfected fighting fire in their district. Every piece of equipment, from vehicles to PPE, is completly focused and ideal for fighting fire in the PVFD fire district.

    The PVFD record for fighting fire in this environement is legendary.

    Conclusion

    While one could argue either way in this PVFD Vs. FDNY discussion, I am going out on a limb and calling this one...

    A DRAW!!!

    I can not in good consious proclaim that my VFD is better then the FDNY. But, I can not in good concious concede that the FDNY is better then my VFD.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Kind of an itersting looking into the numbers of this issue. A HUGE career department contrasted to a rural Montana Voly department.

    You cant get two fire worlds that are farther apart.

    But as was mentioned earlier in the thread. Fire burns the same way in NYC as it does in Montana.
    Last edited by SamsonFCDES; 03-27-2004 at 01:37 AM.
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    A fascinating statistical comparison SamsonFCDES, I must do one like this between my very large career dept and my smaller vollie rural dept. The results could be interesting.

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