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  1. #1
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    Arrow Introduction of Paid FF's...Help?!?!

    Hey guys

    I have been asked by the Chief of the department where I am from to have an interview with the county manager concerning introducing paid FF's into our strictly volunteer department.

    I have heard the horror stories of combination departments and the growing pains they experience. Please provide me with stories, reasons, situations, and anything to persuade our county from making this terrible decision.

    Our volunteer department is one of the top in the state and is comparible to most any paid department. Response times average around 6 mins. and personnel on structure fires ususally is around 30. We are far from in need of the introduction of paid FF's and with the horror stories I've heard, we dont need this in our county. Please help me. THanks


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    Quote Originally Posted by BCFR125
    Hey guys

    I have been asked by the Chief of the department where I am from to have an interview with the county manager concerning introducing paid FF's into our strictly volunteer department.

    I have heard the horror stories of combination departments and the growing pains they experience. Please provide me with stories, reasons, situations, and anything to persuade our county from making this terrible decision.

    Our volunteer department is one of the top in the state and is comparible to most any paid department. Response times average around 6 mins. and personnel on structure fires ususally is around 30. We are far from in need of the introduction of paid FF's and with the horror stories I've heard, we dont need this in our county. Please help me. THanks
    Is it a community that can afford to have a paid department? Obviously someone thinks you need them and can afford them. And what would be so "terrible" about a guy earning a living and feeding his family doing a job you obviously find enjoyable enough to do as a hobby on your off time?
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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    For every guy that can tell a story about the whoas of going combination, you can probably find another that can tell you a success story. The thing is, everyone has to get along and work toward the common goal/good of the department. If there's tension in the ranks, it'll be hell from here on out.

    The best thing you can do is look at your attitude towards the idea. Apparently, the chief has chosen you to interview with the county manager for a reason. Get good information, not just a bunch of "I've heard this and that" before you go in. If it's not cost effective or beneficial to have full time firefighters, that's one thing. But to try to talk them out of it because some departments have had issues is a bit silly.

    Sit down and look at the pros and cons to the community before you become dead set on your position.

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    Going toward a combination setup isn't necessarily a bad thing...the fire companies in our township went to the board of commissioners and asked them to find a way to hire a daytime paid crew because of our daytime staffing situation.

    In my view, sucess or failure in these endeavors comes down to how well the situation is managed. If there is one reasonable and effective set of procedures developed and enforced uniformly by one unified chain of command, there's rarely a problem (and there are examples of this right here in my area). It's when you see these "parallel department" situations with two chains of command (career and volly), multiple sets of SOPs, and unequal enforcement of rules that you also start to see problems.

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    Our day staffing is a little on the scarce side as well. I work 30 minutes away and unless it is something big I am of little help untill I get off work.

    What is normally the first step toward a full time department? Is it best to start off wth a couple of folks that work 8 - 5 or go big. I know in our little township the budget isn't going to support a 24 hour a day setup. Just wondering what everybodys ideas might be.

    I don't think having a full time paid department is a bad thing. You know who is there and you don't have to worry about if somebody is headed to the firehouse to respond.

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    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    When a department begins to go combo, it does not always mean response personnel either.

    You might just be looking at Administrative staff to drive a desk for the first few years. Commonly, a start might be a Paid Chief, Deputy/Training Officer, and perhaps an admin assistant if you are performing your own billing.

    This role should not cause any concerns because there are no rank and responsibility issues. The Chief is still the boss, and the Training Officer is fully responsible for his program. The department will run operations as a typical volunteer, but the paid Chief has the time to get the documentation done, maybe inspections, and perhaps some more thorough investigations.

    After proving the need, and as call volume grows, you can look at bringing on a couple more guys and forming a daytime duty schedule. It doesn't have to be painful.
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    I think you have misunderstood my intentions. I am a full-time firefighter in another county and agree 100% with you that this is the best job on earth.

    Our volunteer department is made up mostly of guys that are 2nd or 3rd generation FF's, career FF's, and/or Entreperenears. There is over 150 vols for 7 stations that run approx. 1000 calls per year. The majority of the volunteers are in strong opposition of career FF's being introduced to this department. It is sorta a hertiage thing.

    There will be pros and cons no matter what decision is made. I want to hear from you guys what they have been in your department. Its kinda like an old saying "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it".

    The only reason that this issue is of any concern to our county is because of the rapid growth over the past few years (in which the Fire Dept. has handled easily). A few people have asked the county manager about why we dont have a paid department. (not complaining, just curious) This has led him into asking our Chief about implementing a few career firefighters into the line-up.

    Please dont take my concerns the wrong way. I just hate to such a strong organization destroyed because a county manager was questioned by an ignorant citizen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BCFR125
    Our volunteer department is made up mostly of guys that are 2nd or 3rd generation FF's, career FF's, and/or Entreperenears. There is over 150 vols for 7 stations that run approx. 1000 calls per year. The majority of the volunteers are in strong opposition of career FF's being introduced to this department. It is sorta a hertiage thing.
    Well are you having any type of problem?
    example low daytime responses, apparatus not rolling from one of the 7 stations or anything like that?

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    What? Your a paid guy and a volunteer?

    Good luck, I'm sure you will get lots of horror stories both ways.
    "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 BCFR125
    I think you have misunderstood my intentions. I am a full-time firefighter in another county and agree 100% with you that this is the best job on earth.

    Our volunteer department is made up mostly of guys that are 2nd or 3rd generation FF's, career FF's, and/or Entreperenears. There is over 150 vols for 7 stations that run approx. 1000 calls per year. The majority of the volunteers are in strong opposition of career FF's being introduced to this department. It is sorta a hertiage thing.

    There will be pros and cons no matter what decision is made. I want to hear from you guys what they have been in your department. Its kinda like an old saying "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it".

    The only reason that this issue is of any concern to our county is because of the rapid growth over the past few years (in which the Fire Dept. has handled easily). A few people have asked the county manager about why we dont have a paid department. (not complaining, just curious) This has led him into asking our Chief about implementing a few career firefighters into the line-up.

    Please dont take my concerns the wrong way. I just hate to such a strong organization destroyed because a county manager was questioned by an ignorant citizen.
    I love the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and "heritage" things. "200 years of tradition, unimpeded by progress" is a statement I once heard from a wise chief officer.

    I understand your guys' desire to keep things the way they are, but where was this attitude when your department started getting into rescue, EMS, haz-mat, etc? I'm assuming you do all of these functions, at least. Or what about the last time a perfectly good truck just had to be replaced due to it's age/replacement cycle? (another assumption)

    Times change and the fire department has to change with it. Like many have said, you can integrate paid personnel without many conflicts, it's all how it's done. Do you currently have any live-in personnel or anything like that? There's no reason for it to be much different than that. Just because some guys are paid and at the station 8 hrs, 12 hrs, 24 hrs, or whatever they decide to go with, there's no reason they can't be integrated painlessly.

    If your county's growing, you guys really need to keep up with it and the expectations. Now if you're hard up for equipment and need the money for that sort of thing, I can see being against the move (unless the county's going to flip the bill for the extra funding). Otherwise, you're going to have guys in the firehouse that can be out the door in less time than what you've got now, which can't be bad. Remember, it's not always what's best for the membership, it's what's best for the community.

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    Take a look at these documents:

    http://www.vcos.org/PDF-2005/VCOS_Bl...bon_Report.pdf

    http://www.vcos.org/PDF-2005/RedRibbon_Lo-res.pdf

    http://www.vcos.org/PDF%202006/White...ort%20VCOS.pdf


    They may provide some answers and insight

    Our combination system works well, provides adequate coverage during times when volunteers are limited and saves the taxpayers several million dollars a year.
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    Thanks for those reports...interesting reading. I cringe though when among the first topics to be explain is how "cheap" a volunteer system is compared to career. I thought service was supposed to be ahead of finances. Most volunteer members dont do it to save their communites money.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BCFR125
    I think you have misunderstood my intentions. I am a full-time firefighter in another county and agree 100% with you that this is the best job on earth.

    Our volunteer department is made up mostly of guys that are 2nd or 3rd generation FF's, career FF's, and/or Entreperenears. There is over 150 vols for 7 stations that run approx. 1000 calls per year. The majority of the volunteers are in strong opposition of career FF's being introduced to this department. It is sorta a hertiage thing.

    There will be pros and cons no matter what decision is made. I want to hear from you guys what they have been in your department. Its kinda like an old saying "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it".

    The only reason that this issue is of any concern to our county is because of the rapid growth over the past few years (in which the Fire Dept. has handled easily). A few people have asked the county manager about why we dont have a paid department. (not complaining, just curious) This has led him into asking our Chief about implementing a few career firefighters into the line-up.

    Please dont take my concerns the wrong way. I just hate to such a strong organization destroyed because a county manager was questioned by an ignorant citizen.
    With this being said ................why do you need to become combination ? Besides growth are the runs increasing ?> It sounds like you are doing well with what you have ............
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    Quote Originally Posted by ffp8106
    Thanks for those reports...interesting reading. I cringe though when among the first topics to be explain is how "cheap" a volunteer system is compared to career. I thought service was supposed to be ahead of finances. Most volunteer members dont do it to save their communites money.
    Service is ahead of money, in the eyes of volunteer firefighers. Politicians sometimes have a different view. And in many cases the cost savings along with the level of service provided can be your ticket to remaining volunteer or hiring a limited number of paid personnel. And is some cases it allows for additional funding for equipment, becasue it is not used for salaries.

    The new term is "cost avoidance" because in reality we are not saving money by using volunteers, but it is cost avoidance, as the politicians dont have to provide the funding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart46
    What is normally the first step toward a full time department? Is it best to start off wth a couple of folks that work 8 - 5 or go big. I know in our little township the budget isn't going to support a 24 hour a day setup. Just wondering what everybodys ideas might be.
    I don't think there's a single answer to this, and I can only try to give you insight into the thinking around here.

    Township-wide, and including our various multidirectional automatic mutual aid agreements, it's really not a problem to put a couple of engines, a truck, and 15 or 20 people on the scene of a structure fire in 6 to 8 minutes on just about any evening, weekend or holiday. Most of them will be interior qualified, although a few might be driver-only folks. That response will probably have at least that many rigs and people trailing a few minutes behind for the second set of crew rotations. So, we have absolutely no need for 24x7 paid crews. Now, weekdays are an entirely different issue...they're a crap shoot. At any given time on a weekday, that same structure fire assignment could get you a couple engines and a truck with anywhere from 4 to 15 people, and a few of them will almost certainly be driver-only folks. Officers can be even more of a problem...I'm 15 to 20 minutes away from our district here at work, and I've been the closest available daytime officer for our company all this week (it's bear season, you see).

    So, the fire companies got together and requested that the township take the "Township Chief" position from part-time/flex hours/mostly administrative to full-time weekdays with primary command responsibilities, and hire a crew of three or four to fully staff one engine 8AM to 4PM on weekdays as a quick attack crew that runs everything in the township, regardless of district. Whatever volunteer complement is available would still be coming in the daytime to back up the paid guys by filling out the manpower requirements for that incident, but their presence should ensure that manageable room-and-contents fires don't turn into smoking foundations just because they happened at 10AM instead of 10PM...which is what could very well happen right now.

    By all accounts, it looks like the township is going to allocate funds to do the chief and a crew of 3 in 2007, and we should know more about that very soon. A couple of other municipalities in the area are doing something similar for similar reasons (although a few are also adding 24x7 driver coverage, which I think is unnecessary, given their situations, but that's a matter of opinion). Anyway, what you do really depends on your needs, I would think.
    Last edited by bobsnyder; 11-22-2006 at 09:39 AM.

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    Why is your department moving towards career staffing such a bad thing in your mind? Wouldn't 24/7 full staffing be a good thing? Are you upset because the service would be worse or because it would deny you your passtime? Tell me why you think this is such a "terrible" thing.
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnfireguy
    Service is ahead of money, in the eyes of volunteer firefighers. Politicians sometimes have a different view. And in many cases the cost savings along with the level of service provided can be your ticket to remaining volunteer or hiring a limited number of paid personnel. And is some cases it allows for additional funding for equipment, becasue it is not used for salaries.

    The new term is "cost avoidance" because in reality we are not saving money by using volunteers, but it is cost avoidance, as the politicians dont have to provide the funding.
    How true. in many places money is not being saved, especially in some wealthy suburban areas where you have multiple depts dispatched during the day just to make sure sombody responds. Many of these depts may have budgets of 6 or 7 digits and they have to rely on neighboring depts during the day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell
    You might just be looking at Administrative staff to drive a desk for the first few years. Commonly, a start might be a Paid Chief, Deputy/Training Officer, and perhaps an admin assistant if you are performing your own billing.
    with all due respect, I think this is a horrible idea, especially if it's your first thought.

    when you are thinking of putting on paid personnel, the first thought you should have is "what do I need?" do you need more qualified leadership? do you need a better person to be in charge of training? or more commonly, do you need someone to make sure the trucks always get out the door for an alarm? also, looking at your own stats, if a truck isn't getting out, why not? does it lack a qualified driver, officer, or crew?

    hiring a paid chief really doesn't solve many departments' response issues, even though it's if often an idea that people throw out as who the first paid person should be. maybe if your department is lacking qualified leadership and management, but otherwise I wouldn't make it my first thought

    If you are having problems with daytime response, how about hiring 1 daytime firefighter, who is the designated driver/engineer. This way, there is always a qualified driver, and if needed he can roll whatever piece is needed is any of the FFs that show up. or he can be bumped to the officer side if a driver shows up, and the crew needs a qualified officer. This career FF also does the daily equipment checks, makes sure all the trucks are always ready to go, and maintains all the maintainable equipment (saws, etc).

    As time goes on, you might want to look into hiring additional career FFs during the daytime, maybe a total of three for a full engine company. and if they are working 6-6, hiring per diems as well. maybe even consider hiring/promoting one to the rank of career Lt, to both supervise the men and to be a person who can act as IC during the daytime.

    The question you need to ask (or your higher ups need to ask) is "is our volunteer department failing to provide service in an acceptable manner?" if the answer is no, then that is the answer. if your community manager is asked that question, then he should ask the citizen "Has the department failed to meet any of your expectations?" I'm guessing the answer would be no.

    There is no denying that a fire department staffed 24/7, with all apparatus staffed in house 24/7 is better than a 100% volunteer one where everyone responds from home. the main downside to going 100% paid is that taxes will skyrocket, and the department and response area may be able to be sufficiently covered (in the eyes of the taxpayers) by a well run volunteer department.
    Last edited by DrParasite; 11-25-2006 at 12:37 PM.
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    There are some growing pains as with any sort of change. Having lived through being one of the first full timers many moons ago (not pleasant) to seeing it happen in other places I'd offer some advice.

    1. Figure out the chain of command. If you don't have solid policies, write them first and everyone lives by them. The career firefighters should have a supervisor for in house activities and become part of the fireground chain of command on the street. I have seen some places where the vols figured they now had their own cleaning person and treated the firefighter like that.
    2. Write an employee handbook for the rules and regulations specifically applied to career firefighters. Makes life easier and provides a template if they unionize for a first contract.
    3. Once this stuff is in place, hire the officers first or hire firefighters you would consider promoting.
    4. Go slow. Talk to many others and find out what works and what doesn't

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    How about a "paid on call dept. ? "

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