1. #1
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    Default Why I Volunteer...

    Good afternoon everyone, hope everyone is safe this friday. I was just looking through this forum, reading old posts, and just got an urge to tell the world why I decided to embark on my journey to becoming a volunteer firefighter.

    When I was a kid in Germany I was a member of the Junior Division of the THW. I don't know what the exact equivalent would be in the US. It is not a fire based organization. We would do salvage work after natural disasters, secure water resources, build bridges and damns, search and rescue, HazMat but no firefighting. I think the closest explanation would be a mix between the Corps of Engineers / Fire Department. I really liked doing that and I was planing as doing this as my Civil Service instead of joining the army when I turned 18, but then moved to the States with my parents.

    I work as a Nurse, always liked emergency medicine, and even took an EMT class on the side. In a temporary lapse of judgement I took a one-half cut in pay and started to work for the ambulance. It was one of the best jobs I ever had but I figured out rather quickly that I could not afford to do this for a living. I had to quit this job and get back into my Nursing Career.

    Now don't get me wrong. I love being a nurse, I love to help people. But I also love the fast pace of emergency services. My cities fire and ems are both career services without any volunteer oportunities. I Volunteer for a department in the next county that also provided mutual aid for my city. My old Ambulance service provides service to our district. I volunteer for this department to help people in need, to let them know that people care. To make a difference when someone has the worst day of their life. I might be different from many firefighters I talk to in regards to my attitude towards EMS. I like to run medical calls and don't just see EMS as a side job of the Fire Department. I really like medicine, from both the Nursing side and the EMS side. And I have really enjoyed getting to know the Firefigting side of things.

    The biggest reason I volunteer is Money. I cannot afford to do this for a living. I have a family to provide for, and Nursing has a lot better pay. So I volunteer to do this for free on my off time. I pick up certain shifts at the department, come to the house during the days that I am off, and try to help as much as I can. I can still serve the people in our district without going broke doing it. I love helping people, and volunteering allows me to help people both in my career job and during my off time.

    Just my 2 cents.

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    Marcus..

    I am troubled by the thought of those who bring up the "money" as a reason for not becoming a career firefighter. Ironically, the anti career crowd here have used some derogatory terms for career firefighters, like "whores" and "paid maids", yet take offense when career firefighters counter their arguement. To be fair, some career jakes are virulent anti volunteers and sling their own version of the insults.

    Unless you work in the deep South, where wages are lower than the national average, most career firefighters make a good living, and the work schedule allows you to have a side job or business if you wish to.

    I own my piece of the American Dream, (through hard work, a side venture and working at the state's Fire Academy) have the prerequisite dogs and cats, have put a kid through college (well, almost, he graduates on the dean's list in May!) drive nice cars, take a couple of vacation trips each year and have my mid life crisis hobby (learning to fly).

    That is my 3 cents worth.. as Captains have to pay a little more!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo
    Unless you work in the deep South, where wages are lower than the national average, most career firefighters make a good living, and the work schedule allows you to have a side job or business if you wish to.
    Hey cap, remember our cost of living is much lower down here too. I suspect if you compared disposable income, at the end of the day you would be pleasantly surprised...

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    Thanks Gonzo,

    I hope to make a transition to Career Firefighter within the next couple of years. I wanted to give one quick clarification. The money that our city FD pays is equivalent to what I am making as a nurse right now, it is our one year propationary period that pays less of course. A roughly 33% cut in pay for one year. It is that one year that is keeping me from joining right now. Just have those pesky student loans that paid for me and my wife's school. I like to follow my dreams, but unfortionately dreams don't pay bills right away. However I have not given up on going career, but I took the oportunity to go volunteer, get training, get experience, make a difference right now instead of waiting to get on with the city to start learning.

    But I realize that many people just can't afford to go firefighting full time, and many towns can't afford to hire career firefighters. To me I am doing a job that I cannot afford to do full time right now, for a population that cannot afford to pay me fulltime. Everyone benefits the way I look at it.

    I am finishing up a better college degree to make a higher income in my nursing career. By the time I finish my wife will get her license in her profession and make a little bit more. One of the things I like about the city FD is the schedule. It gives you a chance to make some income on the side when you need it, and spend time with your family when you feel like it. The other positive is the benefits. I take a close look at benefits and believe it makes sense to take a job that pays a little less, but makes up for it in benefits. And most career departments do. Insurance is good here, retirement is good, great posibility for career advancement. And on top of it all a sense of belonging, brotherhood, fraternity.

    I am just preping for a little help throught the rockie year, after that it will be smooth sailing. But I will never look back at my volunteer years as a waste of my time. Nor will I ever look at volunteers as anything less than career guys. They all have their reasons for doing what they do. And I will respect everyone for that. When we are on the fireground there is no volunteer, there is no career guy, there are only brother firefighters, and we all serve together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EFD840
    Hey cap, remember our cost of living is much lower down here too. I suspect if you compared disposable income, at the end of the day you would be pleasantly surprised...
    I had a career firefighter from Mississippi (I wish I could remember the community) stop by the station last week. He was up visting his wife's family (and freezing his butt off! ) and wanted to buy a patch for his collection.

    He asked about salaries in my FD and he stated that a rookie starting out in his FD earned $22,500 a year, top step for firefighter after 3 years was $28,500 working a 56 hour week.

    What is the average base salary for a firefighter in your area, and are these figures comparable? I know it's all relative...
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Rookie makes 25,000, The 7-11 pays 22,000. After your first year you do increase to 35,000. Not sure on the top of my head how much it increases after that.

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    According to the League of Municipalites, the average base starting salary was just under $26,000 a year. Some departments are in the middle teens and some in the mid 30s. Here's my source. While that may not sound like a lot, it is very comparable to what a recent college graduate in a professional field can expect to make.

    There really are very significant cost of living differences. Take property taxes as an example. My tax bill last year was a whopping $180 - that's on a 2000 square foot home with an appraised value of 82,000. In the areas surrounding Montgomery (the largest career department around here), land can be readily found for $5k an acre and new homes at $80 - $100 a square foot are everywhere. Combine that with a 20 or 25 year, no minimum age, defined benefits retirement program and 24/48 schedule and you've got a job that isn't wanting for applicants.

    I've got 19 years in my current job so I've got too much invested to change horses now but as the old saying goes "if I knew then what I know now", I would have been beating the door down to get on a career department. Even though I'll be 44, when I get my 25 in at my current job, I intend to go knocking on those doors.

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    I know many a firefighter who took that initial pay cut to get the job they love. I was the opposite, I got a raise when I started with the FD (small, but it was still a raise!). Base salary for a step 1 probie then was $13,762, or the pricely sum of $264.65 a week. Firefighter top step was $16,500 ($317 a week) after 18 months.


    Today, a probie in my FD starts at about $36K.

    We have 4 probies starting on Monday! One week at the FD, then they go to the Academy for 12 weeks.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-24-2006 at 06:09 PM. Reason: spelling error and more thoughts...
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Capt someday I hope all of the Vollie VS Paid goes away forever. Though I'm sure it never will, possibly due to the fact that some people have this need of feeling superior to others, instead of looking at them as equals.

    Well Iíll toss in my feelings. Why I volunteer? Well because I love the fire service, and I'm afraid my days of getting on a paid dept have come and gone. The fact is, I've wanted to be a Fire Fighter since I was about 6, my older brothers were fire fighters and I can remember staring at them in awe as they did their jobs. But instead of doing what needed to be done to get the job, I acted like a horseís rear and never took it serious enough. When I finally started to get serious about it I got my right arm mangled by a fork lift and spent 3 years in reconstructive surgeries and rehab. My arm ended up healing much better then any doctor ever thought it would but between my partial disability, my age, and having a family to take care of, I donít feel like I am a viable candidate for a paid job. Even if I could qualify for the position I am not sure I would be doing the best thing for the department. Iíd feel a little guilty taking a position from an ambitious youngster just so I do the paid fire fighter thing before I retire. So I volunteer, I feel like part of the brotherhood, I get to help those that need it, in the end that is what it is all about anyway.

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    Today, a probie in my FD starts at about $36K
    Probies here now start at $25,1.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl
    Probies here now start at $25,1.
    I retired at 20, with 50% and I get more than that. I really, really, hope that the cost of living in your area is cheaper.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl
    Probies here now start at $25,1.
    Its a damn shame that probationary firefighters in the Nations largest fire department, in one of the most expensive areas in the country,make so little money. I know for a fact the hardship it can cause.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    I retired at 20, with 50% and I get more than that. I really, really, hope that the cost of living in your area is cheaper.
    Chief, I wish our cost of living was cheaper, but everywhere in the Tri State area around NYC is ridiculous.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    so one day at this house fire I decided to put down my hose and walk over to the large flames. I had a nice conversation with these flames, they told me they dont care if you are a paid firemen or volly, the flames said they hated all firemen, meanwhile they continued to destroy this ladies property.

    You need only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn't, use the duct tape.

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    I really didn't mean for this threat to be a purely money based threat, nor a Vollie vs. Career thread. I was just hoping to share and seewhat brought each person into the fire service when they started. Why do you work or volunteer in this field.

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    Why I volunteer...

    When I started out, it was the excitement of running to fires and putting them out. After a few years, that excitement started to fade and I found myself getting more envolved in adminisrative tasks and duties rather than the actual fireground end of the business, especially public education.
    I have also come to very much enjoy the brotherhood and social aspects of the business.

    Now, I do it because I enjoy the challenge of devising solutions to complex problems. Quite simply, just the thought process needed to prepare and train for firefighting and deliver an effective public education program is enough to keep me happy. As I get older and I find myself being even less and less excited about the actual firefighting, but in comes as part of the package, so I still respond. I find the management aspects to be the most stimulating and it is what keeps me in the game.

    I never really had the desire to become a full-time firefighter even though Ivery much enjoy it. Really can't say why, but I know the whole union/IAFF garbage had a lot to do with it, plus I felt that if I did it day in and day out, it would eventaully burn me out and become just a "job", which is something I never would have wanted. Though I do work part-time for the fire department now (18-27 hours a week on average), I am there just enough to enjoy it but not so much that it has become a hassle (primarily refering to the EMS side of the job). Strangly enough, I end up spending probably another 10-12 hours (or more) a week there as a volunteer, but it doesn't burn me out because I don't HAVE TO be there, and if I feel like leaving and heading home, I can. I also know that as a partimer and vollie, I can simply walk away for a coupel of weeks if i feel i need to step away for awhile.

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    In my paid job, I run a nonprofit for physically and sexually abused children. I volunteer because...
    a. it is my mental health program
    b. I can be an indian rather than the chief--I like being a grunt and not having to run the show
    c. I have wanted to be a firefighter since I was 6 years old

    When people ask me what I do, I say that I work for an organization that helps kids and I am a volunteer firefighter. They are both a part of who I am.

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    posted by LaFireEducator

    I never really had the desire to become a full-time firefighter even though Ivery much enjoy it. Really can't say why, but I know the whole union/IAFF garbage had a lot to do with it,
    While the IAFF does represent unionized career firefighters, all firefighters have benefitted from the health and safety initiatives that the IAFF have championed.

    I find that those who talk trash about the IAFF really have no clue as to what they are talking about. LAFireEducator... this "blurb" in your post was uncalled for.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Default Eloquent spokesman

    Beat me to it Gonz.
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    Please allow me to clarify...

    The reference to the "Union garbage" refers primarily to the possibility that as a career firefighter, I would possibly have to stop functioning as a volunteer in another community or resign from the union (potentially causing issues with my coworkers) if I made the choice to still volunteer and the issue was pushed by the local or other firefighters. This has always been an issue with me and yes, did enter into my decision to pursue a career as a firefighter when I was younger. In addition, I never wanted to put myself into a situation where I may have to strike at the command of any union and let down the citizens. I started fighting fires for enjoyment, and never wanted to be in a situation where union-city issues would impact my enjoyment of fighting fire. Hence my decision to remain volunteer and pursue my living in other areas.

    I possibly could have worded it better, but it is a sore point with me as IMO nobody should have to be put in that position as it is thier free time.

    Also I am generally not a "union person", and quite simply feel that they have, in most cases, outlived thier usefulness in today's world. possibly this comes from the fact the most of my career I have worked in mid-level management, and had my employees been unionized, it would have been a tremendous hassle and definatly had a an econmic effect on the business.

    I will admit I don't feel any love for the IAFF, for a number of reasons, including the one detailed above. But I generally feel very little love for any unions, and have never been a union member in any of my past jobs. I currently do not expect to join the union if hired as a teacher this fall.

    Note:The department I currently work for part-time and volunteer for in not unionized and doubtful it's 3 full-time firefighters ever will be.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 03-25-2006 at 06:48 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Please allow me to clarify...

    The reference to the "Union garbage" refers primarily to the possibility that as a career firefighter, I would possibly have to stop functioning as a volunteer in another community or resign from the union (potentially causing issues with my coworkers) if I made the choice to still volunteer and the issue was pushed by the local or other firefighters. This has always been an issue with me and yes, did enter into my decision to pursue a career as a firefighter when I was younger. In addition, I never wanted to put myself into a situation where I may have to strike at the command of any union and let down the citizens. I started fighting fires for enjoyment, and never wanted to be in a situation where union-city issues would impact my enjoyment of fighting fire. Hence my decision to remain volunteer and pursue my living in other areas.
    Many communities and many states prohibit job actions and strikes by their public safety employees. There is a clause in our contract that handles that very item. We also have a sunset clause that keeps the existing contract in force.

    The Brothers and Sisters still do the job, get killed and injured on the job despite getting porked by the politicians, yet who shows up at the funerals and mourn and make statements to the media about what a great sacrifice they made? The same mutts porking us.

    I fight fires for a living. Enjoyment? I have other "hobbies" that take care of that need.

    I possibly could have worded it better, but it is a sore point with me as IMO nobody should have to be put in that position as it is thier free time.
    Does your company allow you to go and work for the competition for your "enjoyment"? All companies have limits as to what their employees can or cannot do while in their employ. To think otherwise is foolish at best.

    Also I am generally not a "union person", and quite simply feel that they have, in most cases, outlived thier usefulness in today's world. possibly this comes from the fact the most of my career I have worked in mid-level management, and had my employees been unionized, it would have been a tremendous hassle and definatly had a an econmic effect on the business.
    Many of the rights that employees have, both union and non-union came as a result of union involvement, such as a 40 hour work week, overtime, vacation pay, pensions, etc. etc.

    I will admit I don't feel any love for the IAFF, for a number of reasons, including the one detailed above. But I generally feel very little love for any unions, and have never been a union member in any of my past jobs. I currently do not expect to join the union if hired as a teacher this fall.
    If you are hired as a teacher in the fall, you would still reap the benefits of their hard work in negotiating a fair and equitable contract. Remember, a contract is signed by both sides.

    Note:The department I currently work for part-time and volunteer for in not unionized and doubtful it's 3 full-time firefighters ever will be.
    Don't be so sure. They may choose representation if the screws are put to them.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-25-2006 at 08:09 PM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo
    yet who shows up at the funerals and mourn and make statements to the media about what a great sacrifice they made? The same mutts porking us.
    hmm, not too long ago, there was a thread on here about people being upset because a politician DIDN'T show up to a funeral.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo
    Does your company allow you to go and work for the competition for your "enjoyment"?
    Why do "you" consider volunteers competition?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    hmm, not too long ago, there was a thread on here about people being upset because a politician DIDN'T show up to a funeral.
    The politicians to which I refer are those on the local level.


    Why do "you" consider volunteers competition?
    Bones... the volunteer firefighters are not my competition. We have a paid call and a few combo FD's (unionized FD's with a paid call division) in my area and we get along rather well.

    I was merely addressing LaFireEducators point about his statement about the union being able tell you what you can or can't do on you own time. If he worked for XYZ corporation, would he be allowed to TUV Inc., their competitor in the market?

    I don't think so.

    and that, my brother, is the gist of my reply.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Hey cap, remember our cost of living is much lower down here too. I suspect if you compared disposable income, at the end of the day you would be pleasantly surprised...

    1) In CT, I'm figuring we now need to use $40k as the "base" figure for a first year FF. I know there's some starting at less, but that seems to be the new consensus figure for "rule of thumb" budgeting numbers.

    2) One thing many people forget comparing "high cost" to "low cost" and salaries...is the effect at retirement.

    Most benefits like Social Security & 401(k) and traditional retirement plans (and their municipal equivelants) are based on your actual salary.

    So the person earning a higher income, and spending more for rent and taxes, etc...is also (generally) earning higher retirement benefits.

    Because of interest compounding...it can have a very dramatic affect on retirement savings of all types.

    At which point you cash out from up north, sell the expensive house you've finally paid the mortgage* on, and move south to live high-on-the-hog with a pension that was based on the cost of living up north, and annoy the ***** out of y'all

    =========
    My town has a local sort of that going on -- we have a lot of older but not yet retired professionals whose kids are in college or graduated, who are selling $600k houses nearer Hartford & Boston, buying $300k houses in my town, and using the other $300k for the RV / Vacation Condo / etc. And annoying the ***** out of us old townies

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    Thumbs up Why I Volunteer

    MARCUSKSPAN

    getting back to your original thread !

    when i was 3 yrs old my dad left my mom and she had to take on two jobs to make ends meet. she had to drop me and my brother off at the nanny,(shows my age) and to do so we walked by the fire house in journal square in jersey city nj that housed an eng. and a tiller and we would stop in whenever the doors were open. this was the begining of my desire to be a FF. the apt. bldg we lived in had fires in it at least once a week from the drunks in the bar downstairs mostly garbage. by the time i was 6 my mom remarried and we had a fire in the apt bldg that was real bad and we had to move. we moved to a small town at the jersey shore and as in the city my mom would walk me to the fire house in town but the doors were not open .we evevtually found out it was volunteer not paid and the men there did it for free. as I got older i found myself riding my bike to calls when the horns went off in town which ment there was a fire. I would go back to the fire house and clime on the trucks after the calls and help clean them. my family never had much to begin with and seeing so many people lose so much my desire to be a FF grew even stronger. when i turned 18, I joined the eng co down the road from my house and it was the best decision I have made in my life!!!!!! I did the civil service thing and was offered a federal job at $10,000 but helping my mom and dad i couldn't afford a $7,000 drop in pay at the time so i turned it down(FORT MONMOUTH) if i had only known better! I tried others but the "times" were not right. then I did FDNY and a woman filed a sex discrimination suit and they droped the test and kept the list they had in place and i went over age and was out of the running in the carrier dept. but 32 years latter I've been through all the ranks to the top ,have a great job in the town i now live, $50,000's ,became an EMT and help out the squad and love what being a VOLUNTEER "Firefighter" / EMT is all about! I also Escourt the famlies of our fallen brothers at the NFFF services each year. It is a brotherhood, "none like it anywere" vol. or paid and PROUD to be a part of it!!! AND FOR THE TITLES, THATS ALL THEY ARE,TITLES. WHEN THE ALARM SOUNDS, FIRE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE OR ASK HOW MUCH YOU GET PAID, IT BURNS THE SAME NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE!

    MARCUSKSPN, THANKS BROTHER FOR "YOUR" THOUGHTS!


    "there is no greater family outside our own than the brotherhood of firefighters"

    LT. DENNIS

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