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  1. #1
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    Default Volunteer With Questions

    Hello everyone,
    I would first like to take the time to thank each and every one of you who reply to this post, it is by no means supposed to offend anyone, or disrespect anyone. I am orginally from the Atlanta, GA area, where I volunteered at 2 firehouses during my high school years. I graduated from high school, and moved to the DC area to study fire science, and become a live-in member of a firehouse. When I first arrived, I was shocked between the sheer anamosity held between the Career and Volunteer sides of the fire department. Back home, both departments were combination, comprising of career personell and volunteer personell. There were never any problems, never any bickering, etc... We all did the same job, and we all held the same levels of respect for each other, there were no problems. Furthermore, the only thing within the department that was "Volunteer Only" was a monthly meeting, to review volunteering rates. This was done to insure that the department was growing with the city. Any other matters were handled as a department, career, volunteer, it didn't matter. Our standards were the same, and both career and volunteer personell attended the same training. Long story short, if you put on a department shirt, you were expected to uphold the standards of the department. Being career or being a volunteer was never an issue. My question to everyone here is: Why is it so different in this area? Once again, this is not an outlash on any person, either career or volunteer. I am simply looking to gain a better understanding of this anamosity. Thank you guys, and hope to hear from you.
    Perry Power


  2. #2
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    Default

    No one wants to touch this, because these usually turn into flame wars.

    Suffice to say, no one here is going to have an answer that makes you think "oh yeah, that makes sense" and happily accept your lot.

    The simple truth is that the culture of some places works well in a combination department, and at others it doesn't. I've worked in both environments myself.

    Simply complaining about the problem, where it exists, will not solve it. It takes a cultural shift over an extended period of time, which requires leadership at the top interested in making the change and a membership willing to go along. It takes a lot more than the "can't we all get along" speech.

    Keep your head up, do what you know is right, and don't lose sleep over it. I wish you patience and good fortune. No matter who is who, everyone goes home.

  3. #3
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    Default

    The best response I've ever heard was the fire dosent ask me if I'm career or volunteer, and neither do the families in trouble.

    Nuff said

  4. #4
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    Default

    Perry,
    I'm on a combined dept., small town, 500+ calls a year. I was a vol. for 4 years before becoming paid staff. We work extremely hard to not create any tension between paid and vol's. We all train together once a week. There is no "well the paid guys...." or "the vol's. do this...". It is not tolerated at all. I have talked to other combined depart. that are further along in the transition from full vol., to combined. That depart. now has so many paid staff on duty/call at all times that the vol's. can't get to the station in time to make a call. They end up on standby at the station the duration of the call. IMHO this is an unfortunate growing pain for a department that is on it's way to all paid staffing. When this particular event starts happening on a regular basis the vol's. lose out on real world field experience and, again in my opinion, the paid guys MAY begin to lose confidence in said vol's. ability on a scene.
    Our depart. gets the vol's. in the mix. If 2 vol's. and a paid guy are on scene of a medical call the vol's. run the scene, manage the pt. and ride in the back of the ambo while the paid guy/girl drives. When I started as a paid FF/EMT people would say "oh you're a professional FF now!". It was all I could do to not punch 'em in the nose. What the other post said about the fire not caring is too true. We could not serve our customers w/o vol's. A very large majority of FF's in this country are vol's. It's a touchy subject to say the least.
    Good luck.
    M21

  5. #5
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    Default

    It seems to me, and this is only my personal experience, the rift between volunteer and paid is much greater in combination departments with a strong union presence. One of the main purposes of a union is to provide the greatest amount of job security for it's members, and the presence of individuals providing the service free of charge acts as a hinderance to the union's goals. Let me stress the fact that i'm in no way bashing the union or it's ideals...in many departments, the union plays a vital role in providing a safe and stable workplace. I also feel that , in many departments, volunteers also play a vital role (I feel a bit Swiss here). I know of several departments in my area with a very strong union that openly discourage their members from volunteering at any department...one went so far as to "strongly request" that one of their members remove a decal from his vehicle from a department for which he volunteers. Again, I'm not bashing either side here...just hoping to shed some light on the original poster's question.

  6. #6
    Forum Member pletch's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
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    Holton, MI
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    Default

    I live in an area where there is both carrer and volunteer districts realtivly close. And we (the volunteers) are on mutual aid with carrer department. And yes there is a rivrly, but it all in fun, we knock on them and they know on us, but we all know, it dosent matter if i leave my dinner on the table at home, or if a carrer leaves their dinner on the fire house table. We do the same job, just not as much of it. So lets have fun, stop putting each other better than each other, and put the wet stuff on the red stuff

  7. #7
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    Nov 2005
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    Colorado Springs
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    Wink Vols and pros

    I think the animosity is the same as that within the military. Army better than Navy, Marines are the toughest, Air Force the smartest.....whatever. It is simply human nature to say, "Geez, we're better than them!" Everyone needs a little bit of rivalry and hometown pride in their life. Professional sports bank on that very notion!
    But out here in the west, I've noticed a big reason for it is the enormous disparity in the level of training and funding. There can be a paid city dept and a volunteer dept right next door and the gap is staggering! This is simply a sad fact that volunteer organizations cannot raise the funds to compete with professional depts (if they could, many choose to go professional, anyway.) Most of your quality volunteer or combination depts are back east, since they have been around forever, and have solid tax bases so the gap is not so noticeable. My hometown back in NJ was established in 1666, so they picked up firefighting right along with Ben Franklin and the boys. They are an excellently trained and equipped department (Pompton Lakes, by the way. Atta boys!) Also, many of the volunteers back east are generally on the job, or don't leave when they do get on. Finally, there is a more social club atmosphere in the VFDs back east. It is more than just a house for the trucks. There are events and activities centered around the department.
    I have found almost none of these qualities in the depts out here. They are generally newer bedroom communities or rural areas that are constantly short of volunteers. I've also met some vollies on the fringes of the metropolitan areas that are flat out unfriendly people due to not being able to get a professional job.
    I am in no way knocking the volunteers. Sure, there are jerks on both sides of the fence. Being on a paid city department here, I meet alot of knuckleheads who need a good kick in the pants to make room for some better personnel. But for the most part, being a volunteer FF and the relationship to professionals depends on where you're talking about, I think.
    "Life is tough, but it's even tougher when you're stupid."
    John Wayne

  8. #8
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    chattanooga TN U.S.
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    Default

    Well i've been a firefighter now for almost 10 years six of wich was on a volunteer fire dept. In the area that i live there are several vol depts that surround the few paid depts. We are now noticing a more excepting attitude of vols now that most of the paid guys are younger. As early as about six years ago the attitude was not that at all and i just think that that is just an old school of thoughts.

    I'm originally from the north and have noticed that the gap between vols and paid is not that far up there,seems to be a better understanding if you will. Now understand this is only my opinion. It seems like being in the south it is not so understanding up until recently like i said. Any way it doesn't matter and we are all brothers and sisters no matter how you look at it. So with that I say be safe and have fun.

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