1. #1
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    Default Burnt out FireFighters

    I am a recently graduated from college and began working at an industrial facility as part of their full time emergency responce team. Also I joined a volunteer fire dept. near my home. Still being new i am enthusiastic about training and learning new techniques...i get a lot of this where i work, but on my volunteer dept most of the firefighters seemed burnt out; not from the firefighting but from the political aspects of the job. Few people show up for training and meetings, also there seems little interest in learning new things about firefighting or even becoming more proficiant at what we do. I know these guys have a lot of experiance. I would like to learn from them, but the show little interest. Dose anyone have any ideas on how I can help bring back some enthusiasm to the older members of the dept?

  2. #2
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    a signed paycheck


    i've got 17 yrs in and im currently taking a vacation, i resigned from the Dept. and im not involved with anything but work and my home. I had WAY to many irons in WAY to many fires and it drove me to the brink of insanity, i was a huge ticking time bomb with little holding the pin in....i finally saw it and resigned before i went off. Do i plan on going back, yes..in time
    Some of us are Leaders and some are Followers...get out of the way cause im taking the Knob!

    www.westmead2.com

  3. #3
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    With small volunteer fire departments, the list of things that has to be accomplished is never finished. Whether it be training, fundraising, fixing equipment, cleaning, paperwork....you name it, it's never caught up for long.

    Also with most VFDs that I am familiar with, there is a seemingly constant turnover of personnel with a core of more experienced guys that were probably sitting on the ground where they put the station up and decided to be firemen. The process of bringing in new guys, training them and keeping them is a job in and of itself.

    Other than responding to calls, I'd say about 80% of the other work at my VFD gets done by about 20% of the members, and the Chief handles a good portion of that 80%.

    This gets to you after a while. I'm a professional firefighter and helped organized my VFD 10 years ago. There are good times and bad times, and I've flucuated from giving 110% to doing just what I have to on the VFD. The internal politics and leadership of the officers are probably the number one reason people stay or go on a VFD.

    If people aren't motivated, they aren't going to do anything. Being the new guy, you don't have a lot of pull to motivate the older members. Even though you aren't in a leadership position, leadership qualities come out in true leaders whether they have the title or not.

    In your position as a professional firefighter, people will inevitably look to you for your opinion from time to time. My advice is to stay the course and do the best that you can do and stay positive.

    I've had the same type of problems on my VFD. What I've found to be helpful is to try and show the new guys as much as I can when I can---it's a constant learning process if you're on my truck or working with me at the station. I suspect that there's probably a guy like that on your department (or more).

    Can't really answer your question--there's no magic fix--but when you do start to get overwhelmed, just remember why it is you do what you do. And don't be afraid to take a step back sometimes. Like I said before, the issues are constant and can consume you if you let them.

    Good luck. If you ever want to move to NE Oklahoma and the fine community of Silver City, I'll be happy to keep you hooked up down at the station.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    Koz,

    First off let me say that you are a refreshing change from a lot of the younger generation entering the fire service ... you actually want to look to the older firefighters to learn from their experience, rather than walking in with a suitcase full of training certificates an an attitude of "you are doing it all wrong, let me show you how it's done".

    I too was burned out from the politics of the volunteer fire service after almost 16 years and ended up walking away. I came back several years later because I missed that life and I had matured in my attitude toward those elements of VFD which cuased me to crash and burn in the first place.
    Today when some of the same things occur which would once set me off I just sit back and crack a little smile.
    There are a number of "old timers" in our department who show little interest anymore and have expressed their opinions to me. The largest motivation killer for them is just the type of attitude from the younger members which I mentioned above ... "we know it all". For the most part they feel that their years of service and valuable experience is not appreciated by the younger firefighter and, if they are going to be treated like old farts, then they might as well act like old farts ... show up only for meeting and grumble and gripe about everything.

    Ours is a small city combo department with a paid chief who shows the upmost respect for the experience of his older firefighters and is quick to express his appreciation when they come out for calls and other activities.
    That type of attitude can motivate your older members better than anything else I know. It keeps many of us in our department going.

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    Lightbulb just a thaught

    If you are looking to train more and your dept does not currently get enough manpower to train properly, look into if your nieghboring vfd will allow you and anyone else interested in training with them. Sometimes you can learn a lot by going outside the box.
    Stay Safe and live long

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    Other than responding to calls, I'd say about 80% of the other work at my VFD gets done by about 20% of the members, and the Chief handles a good portion of that 80%.
    That is very true, the department which my dad was chief at over 25 years, when he retired, it went down the tubes.. The younger guys didn't realize how much the older ones in the department put into the department.. Running calls is just the minor responsibility, the majority is actually maintaining the department especially if you dont have a tax base money to operate and rely strickly on donations and fun raisers.. Most older members are tired of the younger one like driver said showing off their training but know nothing.. It reminds me a my children.. they think they know it but in really don't know a thing. Don't take me wrong, I believe in training and training, one is never to old to learn, but can learn a lot of "tricks of the trade" for the older member..

    Stay focus don't give up, ask questions to the olders members when they are around. Get input..

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    Can you give us a percentage of members that show up and the number of members you have active. I have some thaughts but need these numbers. Do you have another vol. dept. as a nieghbor?
    Stay Safe and live long

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    Quote Originally Posted by SilverCity4

    Good luck. If you ever want to move to NE Oklahoma and the fine community of Silver City, I'll be happy to keep you hooked up down at the station.
    Where is Silver City? I am from NW Arkansas and I have never heard of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RES81CUE
    Where is Silver City? I am from NW Arkansas and I have never heard of it.
    Doesn't surprise me. There are people that live within 10 miles of us that haven't heard of it!

    We are almost exactly halfway between Stillwater and Tulsa on State Highway 51 (to be more precise, 1 mile south of highway 51). Or, about 35 miles straight west of Tulsa.

    There isn't much here. Used to be an actual town until a tornado blew it away in the '50's. Now it's just an intersection with a name. Couple of churches, the fire station, and lots and lots of cows and grass.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    the best thing we ever have done is required you to have drills or you dont get the little bonuses around christmas time each year. every one even the old men get involved. and its a good learning experience because your involving the experience with the most up to date stuff. because i work for a paid department and am a training officer/captain in the volunteer arena and this works good

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    Our chief has been on tear for a year. We have gotten rid of all the dead wood, and now got 10 to 15 who will show up for calls.
    But if you are making all the calls, that can get old fast. But for me, having a couple of guys that will show up at 5 in the mourning for a first responder call does help. But since I have been made the president of the fire board, I am now in the political BS that every dept has. I'm am now to the point of " If you don't like it, fire me". My chief is in the same place. I don't think either of us would care if we were fired. There is way to much BS and drama for our little dept.

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    SilverCity and Driver76 made some excellent points. Having been a volunteer for more than 20 years, I moved and joined a local department, and pushed hard for training so that I could learn how the department operates. Training was, and four years later, still is, largely nonexistent--3 drills per year would be a stretch. I grew tired of beating my head against the wall, and I ****ed a few people off. I got tired of showing up at the actual fires we had, standing on the end of a hoseline waiting nearly 10 minutes for water or watching officers doing things up on the roof that left me shaking my head in disbelief and wondering if my next call would be my last. I joined a neighboring department, and things are better there, but they have their own issues. All volunteer departments have their issues--the 80/20 issue, fiefdoms, politics, and lost among it all is the failure to recognize that we joined to serve our community. Kind of sad.

    Maybe there is something in my post above you can take away--mostly, don't push too hard. I did, and it did not work out in at least one place. It rarely does for people who do, unless you have Chief like they do in Silver City, Oklahoma. If you hang around long enough (10 years or so) and you have not have your energy sapped, somebody may start to listen to you, or maybe you will be an old timer asking the other guys who is this, new aggressive young buck and who the f-- does he think he is. Good luck.

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    That is the one thing i like around here. Training is usually made available for everyone. Neighboring departments usually extend their invitation to anyone willing to show up. As a new firefighter i have been attending training at a few different departments including my own. I think that its good other places are willing to accommodate more than just their own members in the interest of having better trained more experienced members regardless of who they are working for.

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    I thought this was a volunteer forum. Being on a volunteer department is something that the people on there are supposed to enjoy doing. Granted this is much easier when participation levels are high no matter what your department is doing. I know recruitment and retention are a tough task but we need to keep moving forward and keep the volunteer status rolling along.

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    Cool I wanna ride backwards again!

    I am hitting the 8 year mark (I was actually taking my first department physical exam on 9/11/01 - not a great omen) and I've gone through a couple of burn out cycles.

    I agree 100% that if you don't step back, and take a break every now and again, you might just snap.
    It is so easy to get so deeply invested in the department, that you take everything personally, and you loose site of those early, amazing days of jumping on the engine and just running calls.

    Like so many other contributors here, I wish I could step back, and just be one of the guys riding backwards and humping hose... but there just isn't anyone else willing to step up and do all the financial cr_p, and the planning, and the background checks, and the meetings with donors/politicians/idiots... and the paperwork, and answer the complaints, and listen to the gripes, and ... and .. and..

    I hope I can find and train my replacement before I go postal... strange.. you don't here about firefighters going postal... I guess there aren't that many volunteer cheifs that live long enough..

  16. #16
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    andy if you think the politics are bad come down to louisiana with me where its as much of a pastime as baseball, lsu football and beer.

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