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    Default Future Fire Officers and no experience?

    What are your thoughs on where the Future Fire Officers will come from, since in many departments there are not enough fires anymore to build up the experience?

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    Default Fire officers in VFDs

    I will assume you are referring to VFDs since the paid departments have much more control over qualifications as well as a higher likelihood of frequent responses.

    With VFDs we can hope the trend toward increased training requirements for fire officers, especially chief officers, continues. Granted that training isn't the same as a long term of varied fireground and emergency incident leadership experience but it is better than a lack of training.

    With VFDs an officer's lack of experience can be even pronounced since promotions are not always based on experience, training, and merit.

    Another problem for VFDs is that members are becoming less likely to stick around for decades to work their way through the system and gain the needed experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AJCalvi
    What are your thoughs on where the Future Fire Officers will come from, since in many departments there are not enough fires anymore to build up the experience?
    Welcome to the modern day fire service where politics are #1. I see so many people promote with no experience and it scares the h*ll out of me. I have seen poeple with little fire experience become Engineers who still do not know how to pump or have a clue what is going on in the structure. This is not only small VFDs, this even hapens in large Departments. I know a Paramedic that has spent 15 years on a squad and ambulances who is about to test for Captain and go on a pumper. Well he has never been in a working structure fire except for training. He is a great guy but i'm sorry, I would not feel comfterble having more experience than my Captain, just does not sound right.
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    Exclamation 13 + year fireman

    I dunno if this is much like the original post, I have 13+ years in the fireservice I moved alot because of my jobs, I just joined a Vol. Department and they state that I must wait a year to become a driver,interior attack, etc.etc. Mind you I have 13+ years in as a fireman, Was lineofficer for couple of them years, now I just joined this department mind you I love the men and woman I work with and this department is probably the most together deparment I know as far as training. But for Morale it kinda kills ya. You have guys with 2 years experience and sometimes 4 years experience telling me I'm not qualified to drive a truck or pak up as interior. I really keep my mouth shut but it's getting hard to keep it shut when I'm getting bumped off the engine with guys who have a year experience as interior, while I go and basiclly become a goufer to these guys. What would be the best way to say hey i have experience I have the training I have the certificates to prove I'm not a dumb bum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godsmack
    I dunno if this is much like the original post, I have 13+ years in the fireservice I moved alot because of my jobs, I just joined a Vol. Department and they state that I must wait a year to become a driver,interior attack, etc.etc. Mind you I have 13+ years in as a fireman, Was lineofficer for couple of them years, now I just joined this department mind you I love the men and woman I work with and this department is probably the most together deparment I know as far as training. But for Morale it kinda kills ya. You have guys with 2 years experience and sometimes 4 years experience telling me I'm not qualified to drive a truck or pak up as interior. I really keep my mouth shut but it's getting hard to keep it shut when I'm getting bumped off the engine with guys who have a year experience as interior, while I go and basiclly become a goufer to these guys. What would be the best way to say hey i have experience I have the training I have the certificates to prove I'm not a dumb bum.
    That sounds a little extreme. I do understand that your new department wants to size you up to see if you can really do what you say you can do. I would do the same thing. But a whole year??? (Your new dept. must have plenty of int. ff.) One question I have is what kind of certs do you have? If they are IFSAC or Pro Board, you would think that they would carry at least a little bit of weight with your recieving dept. If nothing else, keep your chin up and show them what your made of. I am sure that you will be getting down and dirty with the rest of them real soon. Take care and stay safe!!!
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by AJCalvi
    What are your thoughs on where the Future Fire Officers will come from, since in many departments there are not enough fires anymore to build up the experience?
    Now back to the original post......

    I think that the lack of fires is hurting the experience side of becoming an officer, but I think that we have greater problems...Training and the selection process for officers!!!
    There are too many departments that have officers that were elected by popular vote. I think this is very dangerous. Volunteers are getting harder and harder to come by. As training requirements take more of your time, more members seem to want to stay at their present positions. I have heard it several times:"I just want to fight fire". Don't get me wrong, we need those guys!! But we also need some to step up and go the extra mile.

    I would like to get your opinion on this- You have a department in which no one has the training to be an officer. Would you wait untill someone gets the training (which might be never), or place him or her in that position just because they have been there longer.
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

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    Unhappy experience

    i am ff of ten years on a small vol fd. i teach the intro classes to all the new members that join our dept. and surrounding depts. i had a guy go thru my classes that was a new member of a neighboring dept. 3 months later was voted in as fire chief of that dept. your talking about no experience i didnt even like to go to fires in that depts. fire district. things have changed now and they have a different chief with more experience. anyone have any stories like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by THEFIRENUT
    and harder to come by. As training requirements take more of your time, more members seem to want to stay at their present positions. I have heard it several times:"I just want to fight fire". Don't get me wrong, we need those guys!! But we also need some to step up and go the extra mile.

    I would like to get your opinion on this- You have a department in which no one has the training to be an officer. Would you wait untill someone gets the training (which might be never), or place him or her in that position just because they have been there longer.
    Well, although I hate to say it, that's pretty much the way it is in our department. Chief is the only elected position...all other line officer positions are appointed by the Chief. Unfortunately, officer training is hard to come by...I can't really tell a guy he has to take a week off of work with no pay to attend some training class. If you had to have a certain certification to be an officer in our department, well, we wouldn't have any officers. Hell, I'm the chief and although I have plenty of certifications, Officer 1 isn't one of them. I don't even have Firefighter II. Do I have the knowledge base of those certs? Probably, and then some. Just don't have the paper.

    So we work with what we've got. And it's not always just "time served"....I have some guys who have been here 15 years who just aren't officer material. They'll get on a nozzle and work their butts off at a fire, but they've never really put forth the effort to expand their knowledge beyond what they need to be a nozzleman. Then we have guys who are here 3 or 4 years, but have spent that time studying, taking whatever classes they can, and who exhibit some genuine leadership qualities. Besides, with the turnover in a volunteer department, sometimes the 3-4 year guys ARE the veterans, as EdGlaze stated. I myself made Captain with only about 3 years on the department.

    I understand that in some volunteer departments the officer positions go to the chief's fishing buddies, second cousins, or sometimes they are elected and it's a popularity contest. I'd like to think we're not like that. Since way before I became chief, I think previous chiefs have selected the most qualified folks for the positions, in most cases.

    Let's put it this way....When I make that selection, I always have in the back of my mind that one day when I'm not around, this guy will be in charge of a scene. Is this a guy I can count on to keep a cool head and handle the situation professionally and competently? I have 15-year guys I don't have that confidence in. They do fine as firefighters, but you wouldn't want them in charge. Some of them wouldn't want to be in charge, either. But I have some 3 and 4 year guys who have maturity, poise, and can work well under pressure, who I am confident can do the job. And that's often what it comes down to in the end.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
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    Default

    I will assume you are referring to VFDs since the paid departments have much more control over qualifications as well as a higher likelihood of frequent responses.


    It is not only VFDs that have this problem, some paid depts also suffer from lack of experience due to small call volume. We only get around 6 or 7 real fires in a year, our qualification requirements for promotion are in place and are realisitic, but it does not matter how many paper quals you have if you have little or no experience in the fieldsome guys have the potential and will make out just fine over time, others will probably never be top class officers if they serve for 50 years. Training will help prepare personnel but you cannot determine how a person will react when the real biggie comes along. This is where the skills of the experienced officers is necessary mentoring goes along way. I recall many years ago as a very junior officer I was first on scene at a large fire, and in a bit of a panic as to what actions to take, The divisional commander arrived, he came up to me and took me by the arm and started to talk to me about the last nights football match, the fire didnt get a mention. That calmed me down, it was a valuable lesson that has stayed with me. The book will help keep you safe, but its the street smarts that add the professional touch

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    I don't think there is a simple answer to this very complex question.

    Every situation, every fire, every town has it's own set of variables that need to be taken into consideration.

    I have been brought up in my department since I was 5-6 years old I went with my Dad. I have been on the department 20 years and Chief for the last 8 years. You could almost say that I was groomed to be the Chief from a very young age.

    Doing the best that you possibly can keeping a few simple rules in place will keep you hopefully going down the right road. #1) Life Safety, #2 Protect Property and #3 what is best for your department (To meet rules #1 and #2) will get you headed in the right direction.

    Some people don't want to be officers, some people are not personnally ready to take the responsibility. Some people are natural leaders and can use common sense to work the situation to a safe conclusion.... others can't.

    I have found that every officer personnally needs to do a lot of self-evaluation as to what they are doing and if they are doing the right thing. If they are honest they will do the right thing for the department and themselves. If they are not they will need to be guided to do the right thing and if they don't convinced they are not meeting rule #3 what is best for the department.

    In reading the previous posts there are some very good points that I agree with 100%. I also believe that you will never have a textbook or SOP/SOG manual that meets every situation you will find. They are starting points to get you going in the right direction but then you have to make decisions and come up with actions to make the situation better. Re-evaluate and adjust if needed and continue on.

    The incident will take on the personality of the Incident Commander. If that person is high strung and wild then the incident will be that way. Like one of the posts examples, the Senior officer talked about something unrelated for a moment and calmed down the Jr. Officer..... they then worked together on the plan.

    This is a perfect example of real world experience making it happen. Not to say that classes are not good, they are extremely important but you need both to be a "good" officer.

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    It looks like some of the volunteer fire departments will do just fine without formal fire officer training.

    Have seen some very good answers from the question that was posted. Sometimes picking your fire officers comes down to your gut feelings. You have worked side by side with this person and see how he/she handles themselves. If I had to choose between classroom only (fire officer) and experience only, I would have to go with experience. But hopefully we can have one or two members that have a little of both.

    I think that if a department has no one to take over at the fire scene, then the chief officers haven't done their job. It is up to you to make sure that your department can carry on without you.

    In my neck of the woods, leadership classes are just beginning to be offered. Hopefully some will take the challenge and get the needed training that goes along with the years of experience that they have.

    After seeing several dysfunctional departments, it is good to see some operating for the common good of the community. Chief LeBlanc, it sounds like you are one hell of a chief. Keep up the good work. And ChiefDog, those are the rules we firefighters should live by. If you follow rules one and two, three should fall right into place.

    I have really enjoyed discussing this topic. Hopefully we can get together again on another topic that comes across our desks. Take care and stay safe!!
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

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    Dwayne, Good Post. You got any openings? I'll be right down. Seriously, there are a lot of problems facing today's Emergency Services Organizations. I use the title of ESOs because one of the biggest things out there is that we're not just Fire Departments anymore, we've become the "Everything" Department. In our County, for instance, the FD operates the Bomb Squad (Too dangerous to let the cops fool with it) along with everything else that doesn't involve Knives or Guns. We do EMS Care and Transport, Both ALS and BLS, as well as Hazmat, Technical Rescue, and only god knows what all else. You name it, somebody is going to call 911 to get us to come handle it. So, as a result, our actual Firefighting operations are off from what they were some years back. Actual Fires are now about 5-10% of what we deal with, compared to 50% or more when I started in 1958. In fact, we had 199 calls total, of all types, in 1958. In 2005, we're on track to have a Year's total of 3,600 calls. Our "Working Fires" get fewer because of our Sprinkler Laws that require sprinklers in anything you build except the doghouse, and as older buildings go, they are replaced by new ones with sprinklers. When I started, HazMat, as a distinct part of the operation, Didn't exist. We ran a call for a diesel spill at a truck stop in 1958, we pulled a booster line and washed it down the drain. Today we spread absorbent material, call a cleanup contractor, assess enviromental damage, write a correction order, etc. And, the apparatus we respond on doesn't have booster reels anymore, we bought our last one in 1959. Times Change. Officers, or those who would become officers, have a whole different world to contend with, compared to years past. My one word of advice to all is: If the training you take is able to be credited to a National Pro Board Certificate, DO IT. Over the years, I have been able to acquire 11 National Pro Board certificates, (Including Fire Officer IV and Instructor III) and these have helped me greatly in getting to where I am today.
    Last edited by hwoods; 12-19-2005 at 10:12 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AJCalvi
    What are your thoughs on where the Future Fire Officers will come from, since in many departments there are not enough fires anymore to build up the experience?
    I agree, this is a problem. Moreso in the volunteer service than the career service, but still a problem for both.

    My FD has had one small structure fire this year (single room and a half going pretty good) and one big one (3 alarmer). On the first fire, I was on the roof making a vent hole. On the second, I was on the first nozzle in to fight the fire. That's all we have had all year in our district. We have had several other fires in other districts and in our mutual aid area, but just two in our first due (to the best of my recolection).

    now, assuming we average two fires a year, what happens when a person isn't available during that time? even for a career department, what if the fires happen when the probies aren't on shift? It happens.

    you can take all the training courses in the world. even live fire training is not the same as in the real world. anyone who has been in a real fire knows that it is totally different then being in a straw training fire or a propane training fire. being in an uncontrolled enviorment is a different being than in a controlled burn.

    it's a double edged sword. increased fire prevention and education have leave to a decrease in real fires. but according to some "experts", todays fires burn hotter and are more dangerous than those that were in the past. we do more EMS and MVA/extrication calls than real fires. and yet, we still call ourselves firefighters, even though most of our job isn't spent fighting fires.

    who knows, we can train all we want, but there is nothing more valuable than real world experience.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

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    Sounds like there are many VFD's experiencing the same situation. I live in a town of 10,000 and have had nuberous conversations with my chief regarding the qualifications of our officers, both present and future. I have picked up some good ideas from all of you and appreciate it. I would like to add a thought of my own. A common problem I see when there is a need to promote a new officer is that we tend to put a great deal of weight to number of calls they respond to. This is certainally a means of defining ones activity or committment, however, it really does not tells us anything about how they will perform on a fire scene. As mentioned earlier, I also know 15yr veterns that can knock the heck out of a room and contents fire, but they wouldn't be worth a dime as an incident commander. Another response discussed the decrease in actual fires that they are experiencing. This is probably true for most of us. We must fall back on training, both hands-on and classroom to develop our future officers. We must also understand that in todays VFD's, acting as a fireground officer is typically less than 20% of our job. Whether it be reports, make-up trainings, recruiting, fire inspections, fire prevention, ect. administrative or non-fire duties make-up a much larger portion of our day to day responsibilities. This is why the certification classes are so important. It is not like we expect these volunteers to go to college. Fire Officer I, will expose an individual to many different areas of management that one would not likely learn from the fireground. I have been a volunteer for 13yrs, to me its not about the time, its about the desire to be the best I can for those that I am responsible for.

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    In my call dept. the Chief is elected, and he appoints officers.

    Most fire dept's that operate in this manner know what the "good 'ol boys" are.

    The last few officers appointed at this fd had 2 years experience with little to no fireground experience, very few certifications, and no officer specific training.

    There were others who applied for the same positions who had 10+ years experience, some who have officer cert's, some who have much more fireground experience that those who are appointed.....but they are not in the "good 'ol boys" club.

    On a side note: Anyone else have this problem? Every officer wants to be command, and none of them want to be a line officer. Also, to see an officer actually participate in a drill is a rare thing around here.

    We need line officers. Officers who can take ONE crew, get orders from the IC (the ONE IC), and get a job done.....thats what we need.

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    Make requirements for each position and follow them. Real simple. You're not qualified, you don't hold the position.


    and he appoints officers
    Personally, I think that is the worst system that I hear of.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    Personally, I think that is the worst system that I hear of.
    I am in 100% agreement Bones!

    That is why I....and some others on my department, are so frustrated.

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    Experience, street smarts and a level head are traits that you cannot buy. Leadership is not taught, it's earned, refined and passed on. Line officers today need all of this. Volunteer or career...solid line officers are a must.

    Voting an officer into position is a dangerous thing. The liability alone in today's world demands technical expertise, training and experience. You can run 20 calls or 2,000 calls it does not matter. It is that ONE call that something will happen.

    So how do WE fix this? There is no right or wrong answer here. However, I firmly believe in the following....
    1. Verifiable Training
    2. Broad Experience (Fire/EMS/Tech Rescue/Haz-Mat)
    3. Creative & Positive Attitude
    4. Close Supervision
    5. Strong Mentoring

    If I had an open position and I had a handful of candidates with no experience....leave the position open. Closely evaluate these candidates and test them hard. Your firefighters will be depending on them!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    Personally, I think that is the worst system that I hear of.
    That's how its done in our neck of the woods, and I tell you I prefer it to the alternate method of voting EVERY officer position.

    Our dept is a unique one. When I started here, we were an "industrial" structural dept, in the sense that we were privately operated by the local employer. Under that structure, the top two positions (Chief and Deputy), were evaluated and hired by the employer as paid part-time positions, and the job was always filled with educated and experienced personnel (at least by small volley standards). The junior officers were then selected by the Chief for development based on seniority, training, experience, and interest. This was taken very seriously, and although funds were tight in that incarnation, there was some good training and certification being done.

    In January of last year, our department became another member of the regional district, and I became the first membership-elected Chief of the department as per the RD's guidelines. I now appoint all my officers, including the Deputy.

    The impact on us was minimal, as I was long trained and prepared under the previous management to be the next Chief anyway, and we chose to promote by succession (i.e. I moved from Deputy to Chief, and my Captain became my Deputy, etc.). This most certainly put two of the three most experienced and longest serving members in the top positions, but under RD by-laws, it could have gone much different.

    I have watched for years as other local departments have essentially overturned the apple cart every couple of years and replaced 100% of their officers based on a popular vote alone. I have seen 20 year qualified veterans replaced by 20 year old 2yr "FF's", and inexperienced Chief's selected because "No one else wanted the job". I have also seen good projects tossed halfway through development, because the new leadership just wanted to "start over" (read: didn't know what to do). Sometimes this works out OK, sometimes it flops miserably.

    I would love to see all positions tested and chosen after a thorough qualification process (and that is how we are reforming our own dept), but both systems of voting or appointment are flawed. At least a "good" Chief can retain some control and quality with appointments, and not get railroaded because Bubba bought more beer for everyone that month.

    Rural life is a tough nut. When one day you are fighting to recruit just about anyone, and then next you are struggling to help your guys get a measly half day off to train FF1 skills, officer training and testing is waaaay down the priority list.
    Last edited by mcaldwell; 07-27-2006 at 03:25 AM.
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    At least a "good" Chief can retain some control and quality with appointments, and not get railroaded because Bubba bought more beer for everyone that month.
    But then again, "Bubba" can be elected and pick who he wants over the wishes of the entire rest of his department. And yes, it does happen.

    I'll agree, both methods have flaws. I'm just more comfortable having a majority of people get the choice over 1 single person. Biggest thing to me, regardless of methods, is having minimum standards for each position and following them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    But then again, "Bubba" can be elected and pick who he wants over the wishes of the entire rest of his department. And yes, it does happen.
    Bones, I am not trying to be insulting, but are you a stupid man? would you elect bubba to be your leader? would you vote for the person who bought the most beer? I didn't think so. Some places are like this, but the majority of departments aren't, and while "our department doesn't, we all know that other departments are like that." especially career departments and career firefighters, they know that all volunteer departments officers are decided by who buys the most beer

    I like the system, because I trust that my fellow FFs wouldn't select an idiot to lead their department. maybe your department would, but not mine. Now the chief can select the appropirate officers to go along with his administratorion. no fighting within the line. and the Chief is held accountable for the actions of his officers (he can't just complain that they got elected because they were well liked,l mand he got stuck with them). if the chief doesn't like how an officer is acting, he can replace him. further, if membership thinks that and officer is grossly unqualified, then it is up to them to select a different chief, one that will pick qualified officer for the position.

    crazy huh?
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    if membership thinks that and officer is grossly unqualified, then it is up to them to select a different chief
    and you don't think it would be easier to just replace that 1 officer? Why replace the "good" Chief just because 1 of the guys he picks is not what the membership thinks is the right choice? After all, you (the membership) don't have any say in your officers other than the Chief, so why worry about their qualifications...it's out of your hands.

    I'd rather the MAJORITY of the members that will have to work with and follow that officers decisions have a say in who that officer is.

    Question for those that pick the Chief and then let them choose the rest of the officers....what your administrative side? Do you elect a President and let them pick all the rest of your administrative officers?

    PS - by the way, we hold ALL the officers accountable for THEIR decisions, not just the Chief. If my 2nd Lt screws up, he knows without fail he will be hearing about it.
    Last edited by Bones42; 08-14-2006 at 09:38 AM.
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DrParasite
    Bones, I am not trying to be insulting, but are you a stupid man?
    I don't know, but that sounded pretty insulting to me

    Quote Originally Posted by DrParasite
    would you elect bubba to be your leader? would you vote for the person who bought the most beer? I didn't think so. Some places are like this, but the majority of departments aren't, and while "our department doesn't, we all know that other departments are like that." especially career departments and career firefighters, they know that all volunteer departments officers are decided by who buys the most beer
    Are you trying to be sarcastic?? If you are...that's great, but if you aren't...that's another story and we can get into it at a later time. Unless you think that it won't help, but maybe it will. In other words, I'm not sure what I am talking about. How about it?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrParasite
    further, if membership thinks that and officer is grossly unqualified, then it is up to them to select a different chief, one that will pick qualified officer for the position.

    crazy huh?
    I kind of like the idea that by selecting another chief, you can change the whole dynamics of the fire department. The only problem is that you won't know if that change is for the better or worse. The best changes that I have seen in departments are ones that are done slowly with a little give and take. That way you know what direction they are headed. It is never a good idea to wait until it gets so bad that you think you need to change chiefs'.

    By the way....this is just my personal opinion and if I stepped on anyones toes, I humbly apologize.
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

    Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.

    ** "The comments made here are this person's views and possibly that of the organizations to which I am affiliated" **

  24. #24
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3

    Default Young but Experienced

    I was a JR firefighter for 5 years and I was hanging around the fire department for a few years before that... I am 20 now and a Captain with a VFD. Many people look at me and blow me off because of my age even though I have experience (not 30 years worth but still) and more qualifications that most people no matter what their age. I am Firefighter II, EMT-P, Rescue Tech, Haz-Mat Ops, etc. but am still put down on because of my age. Is that right or should respect be given regardless of age?

  25. #25
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Chicago suburbs
    Posts
    21

    Default 20 Y/O Captain?

    God bless you for your dedication to the fire service as a Jr. Firefighter. I started out 22 years ago. I know at 20 I was no where near ready for an officers position, I didnt even want to drive. I WANTED TO LEARN THE JOB!!! Certifications are great and you are commended for obtaining them, but I'll bring my experience, you bring those pieces of paper and we'll see what goes down. No disrespect to you, but I was 20 once. Take into consideration the responsibility involved. You are responsible for the members on your rig. Have you ever thought about what might happen to you if someone gets hurt under your command and decides to find some lawyer that is just waiting to take what you have. Be careful, I know that it can be hard all over, but do the right thing. Also, the minute you put those bugles on, THEY DO NOT COMMAND RESPECT!!! That has to be earned. I wish you the best, if I sounded rude or mean I am sorry. That is another problem we have today, you have to be warm and fuzzy. Good luck captray

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