Has the fire service reached a tipping point? Readers weigh in.
The FireRescue1 community considers what is driving high stress and staffing challenges
With the fire service facing a perfect storm of stressors, we once again asked the critical question, “What do firefighters want?” The short answer revealed through the more than 2,100 participants in the 2023 survey: stress relief and staffing.
The What Firefighters Want digital edition featured the flagship article, also lead by a question – “Are we at a fire service tipping point?” – by Dr. Reginald Freeman, who explained that while firefighters feel generally positive about the job, they report high stress, and many have considered leaving their organization. Freeman evaluates some of the possible reasons for this and concludes his analysis with this statement: “Servant leadership and transformational leadership emulation is not common throughout the fire service. We have plenty of people in positions of authority, but that certainly doesn’t automatically qualify them as leaders.”
Freeman’s article resonated with FireRescue1 readers, many of whom shared their thoughts on the fire service tipping point on Facebook. Following is a snapshot of the top comment themes. Join the conversation.
Wanted: Strong leadership
“Real firefighters and true leaders rarely move past the company officer level. The guys who don’t understand the job at the rank and file and have poor leadership skills always seem find a way to promote up to administration.”
“Real leaders should make the commitment to a higher rank. Some seem to, but the majority don’t. … I can understand why guys that should promote, don’t promote. It’s comfortable where they’re at and you’re really taking a chance.”
“It’s a very specialized position. Too often we just hand the Chief’s position to someone because they are well liked. It takes more than just being liked at a company level to be the Chief. I also think, and would assume you would agree, each department has its own issues to address when it comes to finding a Chief.”
“After 26 years of full-time fire service, I can definitely say EMS is the cancer. No one wants to say ‘no’ to the abusers of the system. It single handedly kills morale. People who call 100+ times a year with no problem are the real reason people no longer care. Fix this and fix the problem.”
“Get rid of EMS and keep it separated from firefighting and you will have more applicants for both.”
“The disrespect we get from politicians on both ends of the spectrum is spirit crushing. As long as the boss keeps his job by keeping the politicians blissfully unaware of the FD, there is no impetus to improve the work conditions and preparedness of those of us on the line.”
“Politics seems to get in the way at every level.”
“I get frustrated a lot and more and more as I get older. However, this job has given me so much and yes at times it has taken things from me. However, it’s a job I still love and no chief or politicians will take that from me.”
The job has changed
“I would say it has less to do with the runs/station life and the ‘actual job’ and more to do with the crap we put up with from city and admin. In the 12 years I’ve been with my city, we have changed computer programs 3 times. And each time we are told the preplans and such will transfer. Each time it doesn’t then we have to do all that work again … and since it’s new software we can’t access the old stuff so we need to research everything again leading to more and more apathy towards getting good info. We’ve moved away from in person hands-on training to favor computer training. There is more office/desk work than actual ‘fun’ work. It’s not the same job it used to be, and I get why people retire because they don’t want to do it anymore.”
“The increasing call load. Population booms outpacing the resources of law enforcement, fire/EMS, and available hospitals. Declining interest from the newer generations to do the job resulting in staffing shortages. Forced overtime leading to divorces. Dealing with an increasingly hostile and unreasonable public. Politicians from either of the dominant two parties sliding public safety to the back burner.”
“Time is the first and worst when it comes to [volunteering] … When you look at how many hours you’re going to have to spend in a classroom right off the bat, you look at your work schedule, and this is where it ends for a number of them. … Someone who’s already limited on their time would probably be the last to make it from home when the pager goes off. Considering the days of the volunteer are coming to an end, it was very easy for the local governments to step in if they were not already, and demand changes be made. Since many fire companies around the country are community supported, it would have been a better thought to retain what we had at the time, versus making dramatic changes, and hoping everyone understands and rolls with them.”
“Used to be that a public pension and benefits were well worth it. Now the benefits have been reduced and the pension isn’t as great. Plus, EMS has become the biggest part of career fire departments’ call volume. Stress, overwork, pay not keeping up with inflation, all play a part. As far as volunteer, it is hard to get people to commit the time for free when they have bills to pay. I always ask, why is firefighting the one job that people expect to be done for free? Because some people want to be firefighters so bad that they will do it for free.”
Do you agree with these comments? Join the conversation.