Mass firefighter resignations: A vehicle for change or a detriment to the community?
A recent FireRescue1 poll raises questions about the tactic taken by firefighters
Last month, FireRescue1 reported that 10 members of a Polk County, Georgia, volunteer fire department resigned after the firing of the department’s chief, with dramatic photos of piles of gear left on the station’s steps.
The photographer who captured the gear drop-offs shared on Facebook: “They are tired of the way things have been handled lately. And have decided it is not something they want to do without their chief/leader …I can say for all of them this was not an easy decision or something they took lightly.”
But in a news interview, the county manager had a different take on the situation, alleging the firefighters “did not quit Polk County Government, they quit the community they served.”
We posed this question to FireRescue1 readers: “Do you think a mass resignation of fire department members is an effective way of communicating disapproval of a policy or change?”
We received hundreds of votes, but no real consensus: 43% of respondents said mass resignation was an effective tactic, while 42% said the practice was harmful to the community, and 15% of respondents were unsure.
Despite the near-equal split in the poll, FireRescue1 Executive Editor Chief Marc Bashoor was explicit in his reaction: Walking out is not OK.
“Regardless of an individual’s personal motives or the politics that may make it more difficult to serve, your decision to serve your community, and our departments’ missions, should be rooted in one word: SERVICE,” Bashoor said. “I don’t see the letters W-A-L-K O-U-T in there at all.”
A walkout trend
The incident in Georgia is just one of many mass resignations the fire service has witnessed over the last few years.
In February, six Montana EMS volunteers resigned from the fire department due to tensions between legacy department members and new recruits.
In November 2020, members of a Massachusetts fire department threatened to resign if the fire chief was not removed.
In July 2020, an entire Texas volunteer fire department resigned after learning city officials planned to remove volunteer firefighters from medical calls.
Nine volunteer firefighters resigned from a New Hampshire department after the addition of paid personnel in May 2020.
And in February 2020, 18 Maine firefighters resigned after the fire chief’s decision regarding a personnel matter was overturned by the town manager and the human resource manager. Bashoor addressed this incident directly in an article, saying “we’ve lost our way” as a fire service.
“Whether it’s the politics of elections or appointments, the politics of protected classes or the politics of municipal power, the people in our communities are the ones who suffer amid our battles,” Bashoor wrote. “When elected officials think we are merely bus drivers, when we walk out, when rewards are suspensions, when we ‘fail’ to respond, our communities lose – they lose property, and yes, people die.”
Editor’s note: Have you ever considered resigning as part of a protest to changes in the workplace? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story.
Additional resources for fire department management
Read these FireRescue1 articles to better understand fire station dynamics and how to foster a sense of camaraderie among members:
- The casualties of war: Our citizens suffer most amid our political battles
- 3 factors that motivate volunteer firefighters to join the service
- Professionalism is about performance, not a paycheck
- Transparent truth: 7 leadership traits for honest guidance
- Being chief: It’s not a popularity contest!
- 5 ways to overcome politics to achieve the fire service mission