1. #1

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    Question What kinds of help do volunteer firehouses need?

    Hi..sorry if that's a broad question.

    I'm a 36 year old mom, married, two little ones. I live next door to a volunteer firehouse. I participated in the one fundraiser I saw advertised (in the 3ish years we've lived here) and asked about joining the auxiliary, but was told it's only for the firefighters' wives.

    Now I see ads in the paper that say, if you're interested in volunteering come by during meetings (2x/week) and get information.

    My fear, being a woman, not appearing to be strong (5'4, female, heavyset), that I'll be laughed out of the firehouse the minute I step in the door.

    Now on these forums I see references to different 'jobs' in the firehouse. So my question is, what ARE the different jobs? Do all firefighters go through the same training and then get sorted out into jobs based on ability and experience? And, in NJ - what kind of training DO you need? Time commitment, etc...and can you start while you're still training?

    IF these questions have been answered elsewhere in the forum, feel free to just post the links..I'm still making my way around here! Thanks!

    LA

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    The training level expected at my former department in Kentucky was that you get as much as possible.
    We have the same job requirements as a paid department,only since people are volunteering to do it,they don't have to weed out anyone unless they have too much hinky stuff in their backgrounds.No felony convictions,no requirements to register with the Sheriff's Office when you move,etc.
    There's people that love being on the nozzle so they are engine crew,there's people that enjoy opening a roof or cutting up cars so they are truckies.I've even known a guy who joined as a qualified EMT,only he learned that he didn't like fighting fires,even the little pallets we'd burn for training.He said he'd come in to rescue any one of us no matter how tall the towering inferno was,so we held him to that.
    It helps if you have a skill that can be used on a fireground.For example,I worked on river boats for years so when we'd get a call at a local towboat company,I'd have all sorts of information that would help.There's always papers needing shuffling,and equipment to inventory which is a good way to learn what is kept where.
    It just takes all kinds to make a volunteer department.Don't worry about the training.Most if not all states require that volunteers train up to at least the same number hours you'd get going through a fire academy.It takes a while to get to that point but you also get on the job training.When a state fire school offers training,take it.The information is needed and counts towards your in house qualifications.
    Before joining,I advise checking out as many local departments in your area as you can.You should live within the district that you are joining.It makes sense to live where you'll be protecting so you'll know the area like the back of your hand.
    If a department says they'll hand you turnouts,a pager and expects you to respond to calls that same night before training you,I'd think long and hard about that one.My old department wouldn't issue gear before you had completed 20 hours of in house training to learn what a hose was,how to raise a ladder,how to use the various tools,how to don the turnout gear,and how to get to the station without driving wrecking out yourself before you get to the station.Only then,did you get a set of turnouts,a pager,a blue helmet to demote your rookie status and a key to the station for when you get there first.
    As to being laughed out the door due to your height,one of the best members on my old department fits your description.She is a EMT-Paramedic who works for the local private ambulance company,she's fully qualified on firefighting and still makes time for her two teenagers.I would follow her anywhere if she were in charge on the hose team.
    They'll most likely share a joke or two about you while you are learning but work hard and ask questions to show that you are interested in this.Once you get your foot in the door and become one of the family,it's one of the better feelings I have known.
    You might not have to respond to all the calls but when you can make on,it helps.There's always something to do around a firehouse and on a fireground.People that know what they are doing or can learn what to do are greatly appreciated.

  3. #3
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    My Department, you will have to attend and pass FF1 within the first year of joining. That applies to all members as we don't have "other jobs" like some places have. Everyone is/was an active FF. Some guys have gotten on in years and no longer are active, but help out with other things (fundraisers/fire prevention/etc.) but no one joins (or becomes a member) for just that. NJ FF1 is about 160 hours now and is offered many places in the state. There are still departments around that do have auxiliary's but the auxiliary's are not under any state control so each and everyone can have their own set of rules as to who can/can't join.

    My suggestion, keep going by and meeting people there. If they see a continued honest interest, they may feel differently over time and may change (or even ignore) their rules. At the very least, you will know who your fire department is.
    "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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    The auxiliary only for wives? While it is common for auxiliaries to be made up mainly of firefighter wives, I've never heard of one being exclusionary like that. Maybe that is common and I live a sheltered life. What about firefighter husbands, are they allowed in? Sounds clique-y to me. Danger! Stay away! I can already tell that you might not want any part of that group.

    Depending on the needs of the department, as some have stated, requirements can be bent as long as the tasks you are asked to help with are also bent in the same direction. You may not want to wear an airpack or climb ladders, but I guarantee you that unless they have a huge budget and a long membership waiting list, they can find something helpful for you to do to assist them. My department has an entire company made up of volunteers who are not interested in actually fighting fire, they operate the rehab bus and sometimes the cascade (air bottle refilling) rig, among lots of other helpful things.

    Whether or not they acknowledge that they need/want/can use your help is another matter entirely. You may have much to offer and they may not be willing to accept it. Sorry, I don't mean to be so pessimistic. That wives-only thing set the tone for me.

    I like the earlier suggestions. Show interest, meet people, get a feel for the members and see if it feels like it could be your second family or not, and proceed from there.

    Good luck. Don't let my gloom slow you down, I'm not normally like that. It's worth it.
    You only have to be stupid once to be dead permanently
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  5. #5
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    What do you want to do?

    I would take almost any type of help.

    You only want to drive, Great.
    You want to help with fund raising only, Cool.
    You want to just run over turn on the lights and get the trucks started, I will show you what to do.

    Since you live next to the station you could supervise the community service folks while they are washing trucks.

    If you want to do more I would hope they would let you jump in.

    We need all sorts of assistance, and what ever you would be comfortable with would be great.

    Just stop by there the next time it looks like they are meeting or look up the chief and ask.


    Good Luck

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    I would talk to the Chief. Not all volunteer departments are the same, some may be only looking for actual firefighters, maybe they already have all their "other" duties taken care of. I know in my department we would try to find a position for you, even if you're leery about actual firefighting.

    Do they run medical first responders? Maybe they'd be willing to let you do just that. Are you good with a computer? I have a couple of women (who happen to be firefighter's wives, but wouldn't matter) who started doing fire reports for us last year. That's a HUGE burden off my shoulders.

    Auxiliaries are a little different everywhere. Some places they're just a social club. Some places they just do fundraisers and donate the money to the fire department. And some places they provide support on the fire scene, such as providing drinks and food, rehab, and other services.

    I'd go and talk to them. Tell them that you'd like to help, but you're not sure how. Let them know up front what you are able and willing to do, and see if they have something that fits your capabilities and skills.

    Like ElectricHoser said, unless they have a huge membership and a long waiting list to get in (if only we all had that problem ), I can't see that they wouldn't find something useful for you to do.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    LA,

    I commend you for asking your questions. I bet there are countless other people in communities who want to ask the same questions you are but don't have the resolved to ask.

    That being said. Out of our department of 16 people 3 are women. We had a 4th but she resigned. Our department we like to get all shapes and statures. One woman on our department is very small, but she is great for confined space rescue, the other is real good at search and rescue and the last is very good MFR.

    I agree what the other's had said. If you are interested go talk to the department. "See a need, fill a need." I don't know how your state handles training but here in Michigan we have to have our FF1, FF2, Hazmat Operations and MFR done withing 2 years of starting. It will take time away from your family but I started 1.5 years ago and I'm done with everything except the MFR class which I'll be done here in May.

    Good luck in your endeavour!!

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    LynnAnne,

    At the second drill that I attended after joining my voulnteer fire company, a member asked me what "jobs" I wanted to do. I had no answer to this question as I didn't know anything about the fire service.

    And so it is, you will have no idea what jobs that you would like to do or are able to do until you get started and train for a while.

    Our Ladies Aux is made up mostly of ladies that have never been active in fire company operations. The fire company and ladies aux are (2) different organizations. The ladies aux is a support group for the fire company. There are several other support groups associated with our fire company.

    We have a female now who is an active firefighter and have had others in the past. We also have "social members", men and women that are neither active firefighters or ladies aux members. We also have several social members (male and female) that are executive officers of the fire company (recording secretary, treasurer and financial secretary). Neither one of these three persons have ever (except the financial secretary) been an active fire fighter.

    So there should be something for the able body person to contribute to if you are willing. I know it's hard to connect sometimes with people that you don't know but I know if you lived in my town, we would be more than happy to put you to work.

    One thing that I have learned is that volunteer organizations in general and fire compnies in particular are made up of folks with big hearts with big egos. I am one of them so I can say this. The trick LynnAnne, is to find that person who sees the need and appreciates the offer.

    Tom

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    We've had some people join too just help the dept out,not so much call wise but in other ways. Maybe things like working the radio during calls, helping out at our weekly bingos,other fundraisers or various other reasons. Not everyones thing is running calls. If it is and you can perform the tasks at hand have at it
    If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

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    Our department requires ff trainees to aquire FF I within one year.

    A neighboring department has a couple of the FF's wives come in during a callout to do dispatch.

    Another department hired someone fulltime for public relations / fire prevention & education.

    And these are volunteer departments.

    There are some options for those who would like to get involved in their communities department without having to be a firefighter. If this is the route you would like to go.

    Alot of volunteer departments dont have public education programs or fire prevention programs. You communities department will benefit greatly from these programs if they are not already in place.

    Our department got heavily into PR programs within the last couple of years, and it has had an overwhelmingly positive response.

    Neil
    "You see things and you ask, 'Why'? I dream of things that never were and I say, 'Why not'?

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    In my dept, there all kinds of jobs to do and only a handful that will do them. Anything from the obvious to changing lightbulbs, paying the bills, cleaning the station, inspections of vehicles, equipment, airpacks, equipment maintenance, meetings for just about everything you can think of, etc. The list goes on and on. Most people dont realize how much there is to do to keep a firehouse running, not even some volunteer firefighters.
    J.J. Bichard, Chief
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublej986 View Post
    In my dept, there all kinds of jobs to do and only a handful that will do them. Anything from the obvious to changing lightbulbs, paying the bills, cleaning the station, inspections of vehicles, equipment, airpacks, equipment maintenance, meetings for just about everything you can think of, etc. The list goes on and on. Most people dont realize how much there is to do to keep a firehouse running, not even some volunteer firefighters.

    Amen to that....story of my life....
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  13. #13
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    Thumbs up Well..............

    Do you do windows?? Seriously, There are a million jobs to do, and not enough people to get them all done. At least it seems that way in the Volunteer departments anyway. If you don't mind me asking, what State are you located in?...... Does that matter? I'm not sure, but I can tell you almost anything about Maryland. Our VFD ( www.GDVFD18.Com ) has about 90 members, about 35 are Women, and they do everything, some are Firefighters, some are administrative folks (my Wife is the President) and some do Fire and Life Safety/Public Ed. things. The only way to find out more about your local VFD is to ask those who know. If I moved to your community and wanted to Volunteer, I'd follow the suggestions of the others here, ask the folks that you see around the Firehouse.
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    As everybody has stated, most VFDs have every imaginable type of job that needs to be done and not enough people to do them. We have an associate membership that allows people to be members and do the fundraising and admin tasks without haveing to get FF1 or EMT. We have also allowed full members who only want to be drivers. My philosophy is that we have room for anybody who is willing to help and follow the rules.

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    THANKS for all the responses!

    I've seen a lot of references to FF1 (though if I could get a job that didn't involve running to the fires that may fit my life better right now!)...can you tell me what's involved? Who runs them, community college type places, or firehouses?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnAnne View Post
    THANKS for all the responses!

    I've seen a lot of references to FF1 (though if I could get a job that didn't involve running to the fires that may fit my life better right now!)...can you tell me what's involved? Who runs them, community college type places, or firehouses?
    FF1 in general is a course taught to national standards. It is meant to teach the basics of firefighting. Who offers them depends on where you are. In Maryland, the class is taught by Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI). They offer several courses a year in each of 6 regions. They are free to members of a volunteer fire department in Maryland.

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    One class of membership in our company is Associate Member. These members can participate in many fire company functions and hold non-firefighting positions. Some that come to mind are: photographer, chaplain, clerk, secretary, treasurer, public relations, grant writing, fund raiser, local government laision, station safety officer (assuring compliance with departmental, OSHA and other safety regulations), public fire prevention & safety educator, a huge amount of maintenance & custodial functions, checking on the station and firefighter vehicles when they are on a run (station doors left open or unlocked, food on stove, private vehicles with lights left on or keys in the ignition, answering the station telephone & radio). If they can't find something that will use your talents, just move close to our station. Your jobs can start immediately.

  18. #18
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    so pretty much any firehouse would love to have you. hey always love a "station mom!" if you can cook I'd love to have you aboard. like said before you don't even have to see a fire to lend a much needed hand to the brothers near you. i wish i could find some more people like you around my neck of the woods.

  19. #19
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    Every place is different.

    Some departments will send you to a local college or fire training academy to aquire FF1, Our department has 8 instructors who teach the entire course at our station, then we go to either the nearest fire training academy for the testing evaluations (4 hours drive) or a nearby central department will host the testing and evaluations.
    "You see things and you ask, 'Why'? I dream of things that never were and I say, 'Why not'?

    "I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place."

    "When you are kind to someone in trouble, you hope they'll remember and be kind to someone else. And it'll become like a wildfire."

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