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The Question
by FR1 Community

Will there ever be a time when there are no more career fire departments?

The professional fire service is one where all you have to do is pick up a phone and make a call for highly trained people to show up with the right equipment

By FireRescue1 Staff

A question posted recently on Quora asked, “Will there ever be a time when there are no more career fire departments?" Zac Boyd, a firefighter engineer, gave his opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments. 

I believe that it is possible, but unlikely. In the larger population centers it would be unreasonable to rely on a volunteer department or a combination department.

My reasons include:

  1. Call volume: Many small cities have sufficient call volume on a regular enough basis unless an engine company was paid to be there. One of the busiest shifts that I have ever worked was averaging 1.2 calls per hour for 48 hours straight within a five square mile area. This area had zero skyscrapers or high-rise apartments. Volunteers wouldn't be able to make a living at another job due to the amount of time spent rushing out to handle calls. This scenario assumes a full service department that is all risk. All risk means that they respond to medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, swift water rescues, Hazmat, technical rescues, fire prevention, public service, mutual aid, natural disasters, and fire calls.
  2. Expertise: To be proficient in all of those disciplines, it requires plenty of practice. Can members of volunteer department achieve this level of profiency? Yes. Can you maintain an entire force of people trained to this level that are available every time they are needed without paying them?  Doubtful. I don't believe that it is a scalable idea.

To be clear, this is not a knock on volunteer departments or firefighters. I'm just saying that there is a break point where the public has a legitimate need of professional firefighters that is beyond the capability of people responding from their places of business. And that service only serves the public if it is not privately funded. Could you imagine waiting for your credit to clear before anyone came to your assistance? Historically, that is where the fire service came from. To this day, we still refer to units as companies.

The professional fire service is one where all you have to do is pick up a phone and make a call for highly trained people to show up with the right equipment. Anytime, day or night, every single day, every single time, and help you.

About the author

"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on FR1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of FR1.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Dennis Lloyd Dennis Lloyd Friday, February 21, 2014 1:28:31 PM Volunteer or Career.. We are ALL professional.. just because someone is paid, does not make them better or more valued. ..."The professional fire service is one where all you have to do is pick up a phone and make a call for highly trained people to show up with the right equipment. Anytime, day or night, every single day, every single time, and help you."... Us volunteers also are highly trained, respond with the right equipment, show up anytime day or night.. every time...
Mark Richard Mark Richard Monday, February 24, 2014 1:02:06 PM In what aspect are Volunteers not Professional, what just because we do not wear station wear to every alarm, ?? I know alot of volunteers that put career firefighters to shame...
Eric Moore Eric Moore Monday, February 24, 2014 1:05:47 PM You have a valid point, but so does the author. I was a volunteer firefighter in my community for years until I gave it up due to some physical issues so I am not biased toward the full time department. I agree that whether volunteer or full time, firefighters are required by law to be highly trained professionals. I also agree that volunteer departments staffed by people who may or may not be able to leave another job to respond present what some communities feel is an unacceptable risk. That being said, most Cities and towns with full time departments are not ready to give up that coverage, and more communities with volunteer departments are making the move to more full time staffing in order to keep up with increased demand for service.
Aj Wise Aj Wise Monday, February 24, 2014 1:06:09 PM I personally no plenty of "professional firefighters" that are only doing volunteer almost every body on my dept is level one and soon to be prefesional level 2 but we are still a unpaid volunteer dept so u tell me wat the difference is between volunteer and "professional" is not trying to start an argument just making a point
Bob Rowan Bob Rowan Monday, February 24, 2014 1:07:33 PM I have seen many volunteer departments succeed in the non0major cities. All of Long Island NY is volunteer and many smaller communities in Florida too. Most have adjusted to part-time combination units where full-time personnel man the station during the day shift when many volunteers are at their normal job. Dispatchers and Paramedics are now becoming full time positions. Station, like my old station in Florida, created a schedule for volunteers to reside and sleep at station. They did this and gave many free hours knowing the were gaining experience and would be given high recommendations for full-time jobs. Many were new graduates from fire academies that volunteered so as not to loose their certifications. As far as training goes, I would say volunteers are very well trained because they spend most of their time training, learning and picking the brains of those with more experience. Volunteer station like my old one in NY and my station in Florida had response times that rivaled the best. Don't sell volunteers short and use their dedication to build a strong combination department to better serve all. A good indication of a successful volunteer department is exactly the reason neighboring departments make that call because they know qualified, certified, well-trained personnel and top notch equipment is their to help.
Chance Williams Chance Williams Monday, February 24, 2014 1:14:41 PM I agree with you I was a volunteer for a long time and now I am paid but there is no difference other than a paycheck every 2 weeks. Keep fire in your life
Jon Barlan Jon Barlan Monday, February 24, 2014 1:16:03 PM The word professional used in this article refers to being a paid career fire fighter as opposed to being on-call volunteers. All fire fighters are professionally trained.
Kale Kiely Kale Kiely Monday, February 24, 2014 1:18:51 PM 70% of the volunteers in LI,NY are paid guys from the city! This is a waste of an argument because none of you want to hear the facts, you just want to argue paid vs. Volunteer and the minute anybody states one fact for or against, your all up in arms. Waste of a discussion!
Jeff Hamm Jeff Hamm Monday, February 24, 2014 1:19:05 PM I have never understand why this is so offensive to the men and women that volunteer their time to serve their communities. Professional, by definition, implies that the people providing these services are paid to do so. This doesn't undermine the work that volunteers do, if fact some could say that a volunteer work force is more dedicated to the needs of their citizens because they donate their time and efforts. However I believe that a career/paid department, that is trained and paid to respond to all hazards and from a central location is, in most communities, able to respond more quickly and with a better initial response than a department that is responding from other activities and different locations.
Matthew Brennan Matthew Brennan Monday, February 24, 2014 1:20:25 PM The author isn't bashing volunteers. Termed professional is just another term for carreer. Like, Volly, maybe you're paid-on-call, combination, or true Volley. Regardless, the point being, my ONLY trade skill is firefighting. I think it's safe to say most volunteers are skilled in other fields. So you're a professional carpenter, electrician, etc, the puts bread on the table and firefighting is a passion/2nd job.
Kale Kiely Kale Kiely Monday, February 24, 2014 1:21:25 PM AJ do you WORK or VOLUNTEER? You say your unpaid but your status says you work there. Work means your paid for the job you do.
Jamie Borsellino Jamie Borsellino Monday, February 24, 2014 1:23:20 PM I started my career as a "volunteer" We were paid a part time wage, but its the same response as a none paid volunteer. I carried a pager and responded to any calls I was able to. My training as a volunteer was as good and better then when I became a "full time" paid Firefighter! My skills as a volunteer was better maintained, do to the pride of the people! They took great pride in serving their community and doing it to the best of their abilities and equipment allowed! After 27 years, 25 of them full time, I still get upset when someone calls themselves a "professional" just because they are full time! Professionalism is a mind set, NOT a position! This falls directly into skill sets! We all need good skill sets and this is where true "professionals" show through! I've worked with too many that just show up for work and do the bare minimum to get through the day. If there is no mandatory training scheduled, they watch TV. As a volunteer, if we didn't have anything specific scheduled for training night, we would find something to practice! I try this at work and I get ridiculed and harassed for being a "KEENER" I may be a keener, but I'm proud of it! I've also been called a know-it-all! Maybe so as well, but because I am a know-it-all, I know I don't know everything and I never will! That's why I get to know my crew's strengths and weaknesses! I don't judge people on what other's say and I don't turn my back on someone who asks for help! And I don't sit around watching TV when I could be going over something on the truck! If you truly want to be a "professional" firefighter, do your job! Train when there is no training scheduled, just because its good to refresh! Get to know each other and what each can do! And most of all, HELP each other with what you can't do so well! Together, we all go home!
Douglas Burns Douglas Burns Monday, February 24, 2014 1:26:07 PM This is not a question of who is more qualified or who is better, it has nothing to do with the rivalry between the two factions. The question is with the deteriorating budgets of jurisdictions would these jurisdictions revert back to all volunteer fire services? No, I do not think so. What needs to be addressed with city hall and county council is that safety is not a line item. Do I see career departments downsizing? Yes, cross-training of personnel is already being done. Firefighter/Paramedic's, along with the concepts of public service officers, where a police officers is cross-trained as a fire fighter and EMS provider where he responds and provide the services needed or is detailed to what ever shift or station is in need of manpower. I have been a volunteer since I was 15, that's 30 years. I am self employed and I work from home, and I cannot leave my work for every call to get the equipment out. It is not feasible for the volunteer service in major jurisdictions to take over and efficiently run a fire and ems service. Combination systems like Baltimore County work well together, but it is not perfect. If we as a whole (the fire service) came together and decided upon a working design to work better together for career and volunteer I think there would be a better run system. The major problems with us is the political interference we receive, both on the volunteer side and the career side.
Aj Wise Aj Wise Monday, February 24, 2014 1:36:19 PM I am completely volunteer I have never received one penny for any calls I have made for fire or ems the only thing I have gotten was my classes to further my certification
Chris Thorne Chris Thorne Monday, February 24, 2014 1:39:26 PM I don't think the author was implying that volunteer departments are not professional. That is what you chose to take from the article.
Edward Masiello Sr. Edward Masiello Sr. Monday, February 24, 2014 1:39:48 PM I'm a volunteer for 15 years, we go tree the same training as the pro's or paid guy's.don't understand the department done 800 calls in 6 mts.I made every one as a volley.
Steve Kalvin Steve Kalvin Monday, February 24, 2014 1:54:29 PM Dennis - As a former volunteer who is now paid, I don't believe there is any knock about the professional attitude or training received by a volunteer department. There is however, a difference in what you, and many others, try to claim. Paid fire is a profession. Look up the definition of profession. I played men's league baseball. I played it with a professional attitude. It did not make me a professional baseball player though. Don't take it personally or as a knock against the way you conduct yourself. A profession is what you are paid to do. Professional volunteer is an oxymoron unto itself. Stay safe out there and keep up the good work.
Micky Daniel Jackson Micky Daniel Jackson Monday, February 24, 2014 2:02:21 PM I am a volunteer but I am blessed enough to come from blended department where our training is as important as running call but I also know that volunteers have a life and when the tones drop you never know who's coming to back you up. So it's nice to know that there are paid Firefighters coming as well as volunteers.
Loren Davis Loren Davis Monday, February 24, 2014 2:04:09 PM I'm a Captain at a paid department and the Fire Chief at a volunteer department. I'm going to say no way can we go back to all volunteer, at least not in larger population areas where the call volume is high. The demands of multiple calls every night, or during the day when most are away at work, would lead to a reduction in the volunteer ranks. Yes, everyone loves to run as many calls as they can their first year or so but what I see is after awhile volunteers become, shall we say, more selective, as to which calls they actually get up out of bed for. When I started as a vollie I ran every call I was toned out for regardless of type or time. I'd go by other vollies houses at 0300hrs and see their car still in the driveway. Yet they would attend training and the big calls such as structure or veg fires. As someone mentioned already some vollies do it to gain experience so as to gain employment in this field. Take that incentive away, no paid career departments, and you take away why some volunteer in the first place.
Terrance Keene Terrance Keene Monday, February 24, 2014 2:06:11 PM Paid or volunteer we are all professionals we all get trained to fight fire and save lives . I agree major cities need to ask for help from volunteers to help the cost saving of the major cities . we all have to get trained to the highest level of training. As a volunteer you should have national certs in in fire 1 and fire 2 and tech level or operations levels in everything else that way you can support the tech level guys.
Alan Shinn Alan Shinn Monday, February 24, 2014 2:10:35 PM It won't be long that every department in my county will have to be paid. My department has two full timers and we run an average of a thousand calls a year. There just isn't enough volunteers because of the time it takes for training and what the state requires to be a fireman!
Gary Doxon Gary Doxon Monday, February 24, 2014 2:26:24 PM I don't know if I would bank on there being any volunteers around either. It's getting harder and harder to get and keep volunteers as it is now. If the career personnel are fading out, Why do you think people will do it for free? Volunteers have to make a living as well. A lot of employers are balking at allowing people to miss work for it. I know that my employer, if given the chance would fire me over It. The whole thing will come down to groups of people doing what they can, to save what they got. Pretty harsh, but that's the reality of it.
Gary Doxon Gary Doxon Monday, February 24, 2014 2:29:34 PM As far as the Paid vs Volunteer, I don't believe that is the issue here. It's finding a way to keep both.
Steve Kalvin Steve Kalvin Monday, February 24, 2014 2:39:25 PM As a former volunteer who is now paid, I don't believe there is any knock about the professional attitude or training received by a volunteer department. There is however, a difference in what people try to claim. Paid fire is a profession. Look up the definition of profession. I played men's league baseball. I played it with a professional attitude. It did not make me a professional baseball player though. Don't take it personally or as a knock against the way you conduct yourself. A profession is what you are paid to do. Professional volunteer is an oxymoron unto itself. Stay safe out there and keep up the good work...everyone goes home.
Derick Hughes Derick Hughes Monday, February 24, 2014 2:45:45 PM I normally dont post on these matters and on this subject. However I am making an exception with all the BANTER of Career compared to Volunteer, and on this topic of someone's opinion of if there will ever be a time when there will not be any more Career Fire Depts. 1st off the question itself. The only way there wont be career fire departments and every municipality revert back to all Volunteer will be if the Dooms Day Apocalypse happens. Even in this day of pandemic budget cuts, City Financial Crises, and less funding generated for public service it is impossible to look at an all Volunteer Emergency Service Organization as All Volunteer. Call volume increases each year with numbers-a majority being EMS but also along with, HazMat, Tech Rescue, Service Calls, and look at the integration nation wide of the customer service concepts of putting more line/suppression Firefighters into the community doing Fire Prevention/Education. With those things listed its already evident the Fire Service is non-longer just that we are Emergency Preparedness Services and the majority of Fire Depts both Career and Volunteer nationwide are cross-trained and cross-working in multiple facets of Emergency Response. Even with the financial crunches we as the nation face, the economics still support Paid Professional Firefighters because of ISO ratings and the requirements that come with those ratings to save taxpayers money on businesses. 2nd part of Career and Volunteer differences. First I want to say yes like many of the comments and a large majority of us I began as Volunteer Firefighter 17 years ago, I still Volunteer. I have been a Career Firefighter for the past 12 years in 3 different states, Federal DoD, Private/Industrial, and City/Municipal. Ive seen the baseline comments so many times of Career vs Volunteer and the offended comments over the use of the word Professional. In all the places I have been and worked, up to and including a $ 2 Bugle Station Captain, and Senior Captain Training Officer there is a difference on the word Professional. Foremost in my "opinion" if you dont possess at the minimum NFPA 1001 Ch. 5 and 6, NFPA 472 Ch. 4, 5, and 6 You Are Not A Professional, Personally I will go a step farther in my belief and say at a minimum if you do not possess at least a State/National Level 1st Responder now Emergency Medical Responder Certification I personally view you as an incomplete still work in progress professional. Along with that I truly wish there was National Legislation that required all FFs Career and Volunteer to obtain those certifications as a minimum, now with that said of course in an reasonable allotted time frame of 5yrs for Volunteers. Also this entire article is more based on budget and money. In the 3 states I have been a municipal firefighter, the Federal DoD Fire Locations, and in the Private/Industrial Fire Sector that I have worked and Volunteered there isnt once place that I have seen and been a member of that the Volunteer Force could begin to compare with the career in terms of Training Hours, Equipment, and Reliability. Let me throw a baseline fact, ISO Ratings require 240hrs annually for every person in suppression,for full compliance of maximum points awarded. Thats beyond the initial certification. Im sure there are Volunteer Depts that have members meet that, but does every person on the roster? Very very doubtful, I know the organizations I have been in only required generally the state minimum of training for Insurance Liability. Again the lower the ISO Ratings translates into $ for businesses and in conjunction of the dedicated fire protection water system can save home owners Insurance. Another point will be the response speed and national recommended practices for Turn Out Time and Response Time to emergencies. On a average a Volunteer Force cannot compare with an already fully staffed department. So when I see all these comments from both sides of the lines and the past few years it has been the Volunteer Side complaining and being offended by the Career and Professional Terms, well THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. This is not bashing on Volunteers, again I am on both sides of our service. But it needs to be stated we all have our place and it a great, noble, honorable service regardless of your status.
Larry Girard Larry Girard Monday, February 24, 2014 3:53:58 PM As the author of the original piece said - there is a break point. Unless call volume drops below a certain point (itself a moving target), there is no way that most career staffed departments will ever drop back to completely volunteer. Some will never even approach the break point. Far more likely would be a reversion to a combination department - minimal paid staff to take care of the 90% + of the calls that require only one a one company response (medicals, auto alarms most of the time), supplemented by a paid-on-call force for the workers/major events. Some career staffed departments already operate essentially in this way, relying on recall systems (such as pagers) to summon off-duty personnel for larger incidents. All of this presumes that there is a bona fide reduction in the calls for service, not just a politician's desire to cut the budget. The flip side of this is areas where call volume has increased to a point where volunteers can no longer provide the necessary staffing. Oftimes the volunteers recognize this and support the addition of career personnel. Sometimes it can get acrimonious. Another factor is the rapidly diminishing number of available volunteers in many areas - a factor that a municipality considering downsizing to a combination or all-volunteer (and that includes paid-on-call) department needs to include in their deliberations.
Carl Checklick Carl Checklick Monday, February 24, 2014 3:57:42 PM The district I recently retired from has 5 stations covering 42 sq miles. Fleet is 5 ALS engines, 3 ALS rescues, 1 truck, 1 ladder, boat, etc. The county also has 5 ALS ambulances stationed in the district. Count them, that's 13 ALS units in a 42 sq mile area .It's not unusual for all unit's to be busy this time of year (tourist season in Florida) How many volunteer departments have the membership to be able to have 13 Paramedic staffed units available to respond (even from home) 24/7? Throw in fires, alarms, marine responses, etc. into the mix. This is what the author was alluding to. His company alone ran 57 calls in 48 hours. Now throw in all the training requirements to maintain your fire, medical, etc. certifications. Too much testosterone and easily bruised egos here, A real lack of professionalism. Let's all show we are professionals.
Joe Rubino Joe Rubino Monday, February 24, 2014 4:14:49 PM I was a volly for 7 years. Let's put our pride to the side for a moment. The word professional denotes you get paid. It does not denote your skill level. I am both a semi pro musician (I get paid and do it part time) and a volunteer (I play at church). So that out of the way - how many volunteer firefighters could respond to the volume of calls suggested by the author and not be too tired to get up for work? How long before you would loose your paid job? In the county where I used to live; rigs never left the barn in certIn communities after 3rd and 4th call out. Mutual aid had to be called in some instances. The fact of the matter is that when most working stiffs are on the train commuting and working second jobs to pay the bills - they don't have time to volunteer. Is that good for the community's well being? In certain communities volunteerism works - in others it can't.
John Abert John Abert Monday, February 24, 2014 4:24:35 PM No. If you are a volunteer you are not a professional fire firefighter. Just because I like to golf on the weekends does not make me a professional golfer. You can, however, be a properly trained volunteer that is good at your hobby and there is nothing wrong with that
John Abert John Abert Monday, February 24, 2014 4:30:11 PM Let me be clear. Some of the best firefighters in the entire world are vols. there will always be the need for vols. if you are a vol, be proud. You are doing your community a huge service.
John Abert John Abert Monday, February 24, 2014 4:31:58 PM No one is saying you don't. You are just garunteed that service with pros. Don't feel slighted. Be yourself and be good at what you do.
John Abert John Abert Monday, February 24, 2014 4:32:33 PM There is no reason to get over sensitive about this
Carl Checklick Carl Checklick Monday, February 24, 2014 4:36:58 PM The district I recently retired from has 5 stations covering 42 sq miles. Fleet is 5 ALS engines, 3 ALS rescues, 1 truck, 1 ladder, boat, etc. The county also has 5 ALS ambulances stationed in the district. Count them, that's 13 ALS units in a 42 sq mile area .It's not unusual for all unit's to be busy this time of year (tourist season in Florida) How many volunteer departments have the membership to be able to have 13 Paramedic staffed units available to respond (even from home) 24/7? Throw in fires, alarms, marine responses, etc. into the mix. This is what the author was alluding to. His company alone ran 57 calls in 48 hours. Now throw in all the training requirements to maintain your fire, medical, etc. certifications. I started out as a volunteer. Was a volunteer chief. And now volunteer for Forestry. Too much testosterone and easily bruised egos here, A real lack of professionalism. Let's all show we are professionals
Jonathan Knapp Jonathan Knapp Monday, February 24, 2014 4:48:30 PM Hmm. I know our "career" department relies on us "volunteers" heavily for vehicle extrication, water rescue, haz-mat, and and lets not forget... Yeah we typically respond mutual aid to put their fires out too. Let's discuss call volume... over 90% of what I hear for career department is automatic alarms and chasing ems calls... Lets not knock the volunteers too hard... We are 70% of the fire service nationwide. In this area, there is only a paid city department and airport. Need specialized firefighters trained for specific incidents in this area??? be grateful WE NOBODY volunteers step up to the plate!!! We answer the calls 24/7. Volunteer departments here average 4 structure fires a month. The city??? maybe 4 a year. They don't have extrication tools. No water trained personel. No hazmat. You want experience and training? Better hope you have volunteers responding mutual aid... This article just disgusted me. I think the world of our paid counterparts but they would be screwed if it wasn't for us.
Marc Johnson Marc Johnson Monday, February 24, 2014 5:51:53 PM I am a volunteer in a combination department where most paid come from Houston Fire Department and the attitude there is that there crap don't stink and they are to good to be a vol. Volunteers may not be the most trained but they are more professional than any fully paid fireman i have ever met. The term should be classified as paid and non-paid. We are all here to do the same job.
Fred Parker Fred Parker Monday, February 24, 2014 6:53:45 PM Very doubtful as recruitment & retention for volunteers can be the basis for the town or city to go with paid professionals. Knowing who you have and when you have them is important to fire operations and also has a bearing with Fire Underwriters with regards to building insurance.
Kyle DeMent Kyle DeMent Monday, February 24, 2014 8:45:13 PM Volunteer departments have held the number 1 spot in most training hours in a year for several years. My department was number 3 or 4 years ago. Only thing you get when you go paid is a check and a rapid decline in brother hood
Erich Von Steingraber Erich Von Steingraber Monday, February 24, 2014 9:02:07 PM Dennis you summed up my thought completely because how can somebody determine a "professional" fire dept as being paid because in truth both career and volunteer firefighters have their fair of for a lack of a better term jackasses who make mistakes or throw due regard out the window
Stephen Pentelei-Molnar Stephen Pentelei-Molnar Monday, February 24, 2014 9:11:04 PM Meh...It is what you make firefighters are all trained to minimum standards...EVERY member has to meet those standards in order to stay employed...volunteer departments? Not so many, not ALL, volley organizations , 25% of the members do 100% of the work. They train and function essentially as well as career members in most scenarios. The other 75 % just show up when the dinner bell rings...amateur hour. The call volume in large cities is too prohibitive for volly agencies to handle because in many cases, they have other professions. Many small communities can't afford career professional departments and are served adequately by volunteer organizations. Some are served very well, many are not. I do think that volunteer firefighters who take the trade seriously and train and demonstrate professional competence on the fireground are on par with their career brothers. Unfortunately, it has been my experience dealing with many volunteer agencies that that is the exception, not the rule...hence the need for the continued reliance on career departments
Bryan W. Waagner Bryan W. Waagner Monday, February 24, 2014 10:25:14 PM The author uses the word professional firefighters to delineate those who glean income from the job and those who volunteer for the job. You can assume anything you want. Professional attitude and service can be delivered by either. But professionals just like pro ball players are being paid to be there and respond. Anyone else arguing this point obviously wants to pick a fight to antagonize others.
Jason Rawlins Jason Rawlins Monday, February 24, 2014 10:28:42 PM Volunteer or Career.. We are ALL professional!!! There is no difference other than a paycheck!! I know where im from we as volunteers fight more fire than the paid guys that are in in the two citys that we surround. I know its not a question of who is more qualified or who is better. but i think the Author could have worded it a little different.
John Cross John Cross Monday, February 24, 2014 10:59:03 PM Dennis Lloyd, I have to disagree with you. I was a paid Firefighter on a part volunteer dept. When I attended the Academy we had over 400hrs of training and to be a basic cert volunteer it took 75 he's of training so there was and is a huge difference. I know there are places that can't help it and need something but when you can even have a partly paid dept. Your ripping off your community if you don't go that direction.
Alfred Heibert Alfred Heibert Monday, February 24, 2014 11:31:44 PM I think the article is about tipping points..There is a point where the call volume is to high for a volunteer or on call fire service..And there may be more Opportunities (in house or class room) for training for a larger career dept.'s BUT that does not mean volunteers are less trained or experience/skill..Now here so things to mull over..Some career depts use VFD on mutal aid on large calls and to cover stations when an unit is out of servicer..Career depts with limited access highway rely on tanker/tenders from the VFD..And some career and volunteer depts train together..Watch the movie "Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232" with Richard Thomas there is a line in the movie about working together (it is online)..Some career depts use volunteer buff groups for supportive services..Also using Industrial Volunteer ERTs..You may see with tight budgets some areas where it has been served by a career only dept may see them start in these cities/communities to use auxiliary f/f not only for supporter service but operating equipment and fire fighting or covering call when there is large incident over and above what CERT does now..NOW CAN WE ALL GET ALONE..WE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS TO WORK ON ..This would includes Career , volunteer, structure, wildland ,industrial,airport, haz mat ,military ,public, and private..Not only from the US but from other countries.....And we need to work better with other publice safety group/services as well..
Ben Palm Ben Palm Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:04:07 AM The fire dept in our area have been volunteer but are now combo and will stay that way
Justin Lepine Justin Lepine Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:40:26 AM I think big city need paid smell town don't need paid
Justin Lepine Justin Lepine Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:43:53 AM And I don't think ems belongs in the fire stations they should have there own stations
John Vilanj John Vilanj Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:36:48 PM I'm on a volunteer fire dept. The way times are changing manpower is increasingly become less and less. Ten to twenty years ago a family would be able to work in a rural community and still make a good living. But now more family members that are fire fighters have to go out of the community to get better jobs to help support their families which is why we are faced with less manpower during day and nights. I see in the future more paid depts. than volunteer. only fact is survival. I'm proud to be a volunteer and my work does allow me to make the majority of calls day and night and that is because i'm self employed. but there are more people that don't have that option unless they are on a paid dept to supplement there income and still be able to support their community.
Heather Ferguson Heather Ferguson Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:38:42 PM Well said John!!
Orland Smith Orland Smith Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:13:09 PM Career "Full time firefighter" is highly trained. Usually specializing in certain disciplines. On their days off, they do whatever they do. A volunteer must be trained to handle whatever comes everyday. Cross trained and ready 24/7. Why? because they "want" to be there for their community, not because of a paycheck.
Bob Jones Bob Jones Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:14:49 PM Professional....... I have been a volunteer fo 40 years. I am a professional , your labeling of volunteers as not professional is disturbing. Perhaps you need an education as to what volunteers do.
Ron Tubbs Ron Tubbs Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:28:26 PM I would tend to disagree on the brotherhood 3 years ago I had to have a valve repaired in my heart I was the Fire Chief of a Volunteer department and also a Paid Firefighter EMT at a differant department that does both fire and EMS 911 transport. During my laid up time I recieved one card from a member of the Volunteer dept, while the paid dept guys got into my home and finished my kitchen that was basicly bare brick walls and non existant and used money from thier pockets to do it I am forever indebted to that brotherhood
Kim Morton Kim Morton Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:31:30 PM There will always be career dept. in cities due to sheer size. However they are going to have to come to grips with the high payroll costs. A city of 50000 cannot afford fire depts. where there are six officers making in excess of $100000 plus union bennies.
Ryan Dennett Ryan Dennett Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:37:41 PM Mike Lery it's the problem of how you choose to look at definition. The first definition of professional in the dictionary is "following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain". By definition a volunteer is not a professional firefighter. A volunteer can however be "a person who is expert at his or her work". You have to look at the context. The article clearly separates individuals as volunteers and professionals (those who make it their livelihood). It says nothing about the quality of the work of either. I'm on both sides of this debate so don't think I'm biased.
Todd Evans Todd Evans Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:38:28 PM Paid or volly... who gives a shit? Stop crying like a bunch of babies. Just stop. Be a FIREFIGHTER and end it at that. So sick of hearing the same crying BS.
Sandy Zelmer Sandy Zelmer Saturday, March 01, 2014 1:07:21 PM My family has both full time and volunteer firefighters. Both are well trained professionals. What I took from the article is that at a certain point and volume you need full time ready to roll trucks staffed by on site people with no other obligations at that time. That the volume of calls becomes more than professional volunteers can respond to and still fill their other obligations. Volunteers have jobs/careers, and other obligations and are not always in the area or available when the page goes out, their numbers are variable at any given time. Example Christmas Day this year our volunteer dept. was pretty thin. Full time firefighters are paid to wait in the hall for the dispatch and have consistent staffing levels. At a certain volume that becomes desirable. I read that you are all professionals - just that volume of calls becomes the determining factor.
Kevin Lambright Kevin Lambright Saturday, March 01, 2014 2:10:55 PM As a volunteer in my city and a volunteer at my "real job" as some people put it I would have to argue that paid are any better. I am an advanced certified firefighter and also an EMT intermediate and have spent many nights on a fire truck or an ambulance and then went to my real job working my ass off on both. The only real difference in paid and volunteer is that paid or just that, paid. I have a saying that I am paid by the few thank yous I get and the good feeling that I had helped someone and that feeling just like the fire I go into doesn't diiferentiate whether you are paid or volunteer. It is a calling that all of us have made and we all train to the highest degree.
Nicholas Jones Nicholas Jones Saturday, March 01, 2014 2:29:42 PM In my opinion The need for Volunteer vs Paid/Career Fire Service does not necessarily come from the qualifications or availability of it's responders. That type of generalization is just neither accurate or fair. As someone who proudly serves two communities as a Volunteer and as a Career Firefighter. I would say that the argument is too multi-faceted. Factors such as Population Density that will effect not only your Call Volume, but also the number of Volunteers available to your community. Money is another, It takes a ton of money to operate a career department just with firefighter salaries alone. In some communities there is no tax basis funding the fire department, and no way to pay firefighters salaries. In others there is a plentiful tax basis for hundreds of career firefighters. I know of smaller cities that have an on duty staff of 4-5 total personnel because of funding and they are forced to rely on surrounding volunteer departments to supplement their on duty staff. If these departments are on other incidents they are on their own. With proper training and leadership these departments could operate as combination and supplement their on duty staff with minimal financial impact. Volunteers are often looked at as incompetent or not as good as career firefighters. But I have seen career firefighters that make me wonder how they remember to breathe on their own. While there are volunteers that would meet the same criteria, It makes me wonder if the reason that volunteers are viewed this way with more prevalence because of the fact that 70% or more of all firefighters are volunteer. I agree with others here that we should all conduct ourselves as professionals regardless. Are career firefighters better than volunteer? Yes. Are Volunteer Firefighters better than Career? Yes. Saying that one group of people is inferior or superior to another says more about you than it does about them. Can Volunteer Departments function at a large scale? Yes. Can Paid Fire Departments function at a smaller scale? Yes. Either way the success of these departments is situational, it is dependent solely on the leadership, and the individual members, and not where they draw a pay check. where can I put this soapbox now that I am done with it.
Russ Ludens Russ Ludens Saturday, March 01, 2014 3:20:50 PM Visit South Dakota then see if your statement has any validity.
Stephen Pentelei-Molnar Stephen Pentelei-Molnar Saturday, March 01, 2014 3:56:16 PM As stated above, most rural areas are served adequately by volunteer fire departments due to low populations and call volumes. I run 18 -20 calls PER DAY you really think a department that is volunteer could handle that properly ? I am glad that your fire protection model works well for your demographics. I hope that you and your department are the exception that take their responsibilities seriously and train accordingly.
Joe Rolleri Joe Rolleri Saturday, March 01, 2014 4:08:25 PM That is all good but when there is a need for many firefighter to respond an you only have 8 men with two trucks covering an area that has 80,000 people I think a volunteer department will have at least double respond and if there was a MCI you will have hundreds will respond.... And what about the firemen who respond on EMS calls and then there is a fire across town and that fire has to wait for another crew who is over 20 minutes away.... LOGISTICS...... If we only had paid firefighters on the 1996 Sunrise Wildfire on Long Island they would have lost all the homes in Westhampton. It took over 500 firefighter and over 75 department to control it.... So if anything we need more volunteer departments........ Not knocking the Paided Firefighters......
Brandon Greeno Brandon Greeno Saturday, March 01, 2014 4:16:32 PM i am a volunteer and i be leave it is the opposite of what the author be leaves it is the volunteers that are the dieing breed i be leave that we will see the day where volunteer departments will turn into full time it has happened in our state where 3 departments have joined together to make 1 full time department because there was not enough people that were able to respond during the day
Wesley Jamie Smith Wesley Jamie Smith Saturday, March 01, 2014 4:38:21 PM Mike Lery , I think the author is referring to all of us as professional firefighters. His statement, "I'm just saying that there is a break point where the public has a legitimate need of professional firefighters that is beyond the capability of people responding from their places of business." refers to the ability of volunteer professionals being able to adequately provide fire protection while working other jobs in areas with high call volumes.
Michael Sampson Michael Sampson Saturday, March 01, 2014 4:45:29 PM The word professional means you get paid to do something, it has nothing to do with the level of service. Lots of people play baseball, basketball etc, but if they get paid to do it, it means they are a professional athlete.
Tim Luttrell Tim Luttrell Saturday, March 01, 2014 5:50:30 PM I agree with Zac Boyd said above. The biggest challenge is having enough people who can respond in a timely fashion to be effective at all hours of the day. A close second to that is the fact that it is very difficult to get enough volunteers cross-trained to competent levels on a continuous basis to address all types of incidents. Volunteers by definition are usually involved in other pursuits such as making a living and if the call volume gets to high there are simply not the human resources available to respond. In our rural region we can get by as the duties are shared across fire departments, rescue squads and EMS and the call volume is low. On those occasions when there is a big enough spike in calls all at once we are forced to call out of our county for mutual aid. If this increase in call volume became continuous paid fire/rescue would become necessary.
Rob Stables Rob Stables Saturday, March 01, 2014 5:56:44 PM I was told once that bowling green, key staffs 4 halls with a full vollie department - tough task given today's pressures
Frankie Rodriquez Frankie Rodriquez Saturday, March 01, 2014 6:19:15 PM There will always be a need for both! The article simply states why! Were all professional firefighters, the difference is some it is a career hence the term "career firefighter " vs volunteer . Stay safe everyone. !!
Claude Kerley Claude Kerley Saturday, March 01, 2014 7:25:37 PM Stephen, It IS what you make it, there are city departments that embarrass county departments. Some are short handed and tired and don't have the heart anymore, just "hang on till retirement" attitude. city departments here, of the ones that are not boarded up, do not do medicals anymore, have to rely on mutual aid from the county to have the manpower to fight a fire, you can't tell me that full time departments are more professional than on call departments...
Ben Haskins Ben Haskins Saturday, March 01, 2014 7:30:19 PM IT IS DIFFERENT EVERYWHERE U GO, Career or Volunteer a fire dept is still a fire dept that your local government has in place to serve the area assigned. Its alot based on Money money money, Alot of places do not have enough commercial tax dollars to fund a department. This may be due to un-incorporated areas throughout your counties or cities. YET Career departments is the proper way this day and time governments should run their local emergency services. Not knocking VFDs. Most do have paramedics,emts,hazmat techs,etc, that are full time career FFs ..... but all full time career fire departments at least in MS have NFPA Fire Certification and NREMT, with driver/pump ops and Hazmat tech. VFDs in MS only require EMR wich is EMT, minus registry and Volunteer Cert, wich is the basics.There really is difference.. i fought and fought and fought until i woke up and realized its not a competition. its about Insurance Finances and Ratings for Corporate America. IF YOUR VFD/CAREER FD whatever Keep Fire in your life. ITS ABOUT HEART AND HELPING YOUR FELLOW MAN. ITS UP TO YOU--------IF YOU WANNA MAKE A LIVING OUT OF IT OR NOT. EITHER WAY FD IS FD but NOT ALL ARE PROFFESIONAL, BC ALOT DO IT FOR THE WRONG REASONS.
Brad Kerber Brad Kerber Saturday, March 01, 2014 7:53:03 PM Right on Orland!! Some "volunteers" ( not all) give up more to reach, maintain or exceed the standards to be the professional skilled and educated firefighter then what a full timer would do
Tim Paul Reed Tim Paul Reed Saturday, March 01, 2014 9:32:32 PM Good article, not to mention the consistent 'push-out'; time of career dept.s
Bob Jones Bob Jones Saturday, March 01, 2014 10:19:47 PM The word "professional" is often misused in the English language. Someone who is trained to do a particular task or job and has become competent at the job is a professional. In the fire service, there are career (paid) firefighters and volunteers. Both are typically trained equally and perform the same job. But if you want to get right down to it, a volunteer is more community minded. They have a vested interest in the community because they perform the job as a sense of duty to their friends, neighbors and family. They do the job with enthusiasm, zeal, and passion without regard to the weather, time of day, location or type of call. So typically, a volunteer is more professional than the career firefighter in my opinion. I have had the pleasure of teaching volunteers and career firefighters and have found more dedication in the volunteers than the career guys.
Tom Sloane Tom Sloane Sunday, March 02, 2014 4:34:10 AM I could understand what he was saying but I'm a volunteer and I can leave my job for an emergency and still get paid for the full day so it could work if the laws change and business's have to let volunteers go to emergency and get there missed time paid. Put volunteers on salary at there jobs
Bobby Stinson Bobby Stinson Sunday, March 02, 2014 6:16:32 AM As a volunteer firefighter now 33years with the same department ive seen pros and cons of both paid and vol. to start most larger city dept. are now having employment issues, the younger generation are not interested in doing this type of work, I seen a post that was shocking but most vol. f.f. are 50 plus in years I believe they said 54% and that's scary to say the least, now having people not showing up for shift for what ever reason some city are now creating a reserve set of qualified vol. f.f. to make up the difference, I like this idea, for many f.f. get to experience of both worlds, both vol. and paid, but under a vol. world you train new guys and there always excited to start but after a while on the department they begin to fade away, not showing for call or training or station detail and they end up quitting, a cycle that never ends but on the bright side we still have the ones that have bought in and love what they do and im proud to say im one of them..... our department had 233 calls last year but 27 were structure fires in a town of 1800 people but we have to cover over 68 square miles and that a lot for us...
William Howard William Howard Sunday, March 02, 2014 6:31:38 AM The best Department in our area is a Volunteer Department, many of their members are college graduates, industry trained Haz Mat Team members, Occupational Health certified and FF instructors. And Dedication is evident in all members.
Brandon Strickland Brandon Strickland Sunday, March 02, 2014 8:22:46 AM Those butt hurt thinking this was a knock on volunteers need to get that chip off your shoulder. Read the article. Just simply stating facts does not equal an attack.
Douglas Burns Douglas Burns Sunday, March 02, 2014 12:42:55 PM You are correct by making statements that the public deserves professional fire fighters. The dictionary defines professional as one who is paid for a service. It has no bearing upon qualification or competency of services provided.
Chad Nieuwkoop Chad Nieuwkoop Sunday, March 02, 2014 4:00:29 PM Well I guess I must be a Professional Firefighter because all it takes is one call and a group of highly trained people show up with all the right equipment 24 hours a day 365 days a year. I do agree with the fact that sometimes call volume dictates having full time firefighters. BUT all firefighters whether full time, part time or volunteer are PROFESSIONAL.
Patrick Kelly Patrick Kelly Wednesday, March 05, 2014 6:02:27 AM This topic has nothing to do with if I am paid to be available 24/7 or volunteer to show up when I can. It is determined by what your community is willing to accept for protection plain and simple. Communities with organizations that respond to maybe a few hundred calls a year may be well served with all volunteer organizations and that is OK with them. Other communities want to know there will be responders on site 24/7/365 that can respond when they need help for anything, not just fires which only account for 1% of a full service FD's activities. Many if not most volunteer departments are finding it hard to recruit and keep volunteers in todays society with today's lifestyles. There are many, many volunteer organizations vying for peoples services and most do not require the extensive training and certification time required of volunteer fire departments. With that stated there are also many states that do not require much or any formal training for volunteer firefighters (Alabama for one) and this is unacceptable. This job, while not always dangerous, has its elements that can take your life and must be regulated like other hazardous industries. This is not a game or social event it is serious business and we all need to take it that way 24/7/365.
Martin Gill Martin Gill Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:03:01 PM It amazes me that folks always try to take a question and agendize it like this. The question is not about whether Professionals are more Professional than Volunteers, the questin is whether our society can or would return to all volunteer emergency response for fire and EMS due to financial issues with the economy. Anyone who does not understand the intent of the question is simply looking for a fight becaues they want to see who has the bigger chest! I don't think you could ever return to an all volunteer emergency response in any real urban setting. The amount of time, call volume, etc... associated with metro/urban areas is simplt too high to expect the general public to devote that much time without compensating them. From maintaining certs and regular in service training to equipment maintenance and new training for advances in EMS and changes in equipment, it requires many hours and it would be tough to balance a family, a job to support them, and being a responsible responder timewise. Ithink that is the point. In rurak areas where call volume is lower, volunteer departments can and do work, but in a setting where incidents number more than 5 a day per unit, it begins to push the time limits of the personnel. The department I work for had a very strong and supportive volunteer program associated with the county's paid staff program way back through the 1980s. But as time rolled on, requirements for response increased, certification and recertification became mandatory, etc... many volunteers and possible volunteers simply couldn't juggle th etime with other competing factors and left. Priorities always fall to family first. So thj edepartment added more paid staff, increased from basic first aid to minimum EMTs and now runs ALS on every first line piece of equipment, even ladder companies. This in a department with 101 stations and a call volume over 120,000 calls per year and climbing. Do you think that would be possible with an all volunteer program? I think that is what the question is about. This isn't a knock on volunteers, it is a statement about society. Should society accept a reduced response and level of service simply because it doesn't want to prioritize Fire/EMS service over other services like dog catcher or meter maid? That is the true question here.
David Watson David Watson Monday, September 15, 2014 4:53:20 PM Chief we are one of few Departments in the county that are all volunteer. We are looking at the cost of two paid people. That will mean a fire tax incress.
Alan McGinn Alan McGinn Wednesday, November 05, 2014 12:21:32 PM I feel very fortunate that for the last four years of my 24 years on the job as the fire chief of a professional volunteer fire department that I have found that professionalism is not a title but an attitude and I am lucky to neighbor some outstanding full time departments, we all train together, work together and are there whenever the other needs. I think it's time to put an end to the debate as to who is better the full time vs. the volunteers, all the members of my department are here for one reason and should be the same for any department to protect and serve the communities we work for.

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