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  • 2 Departments?

    Brief info on myself, i'm a Probationary Firefighter for the dept of the town I live in. It's a very small town with an equally small department that yields about 100 calls a year. The more time that passes the more humbled I become by my lack of experience, and my need to practice and train as much as possible. Which is why i'm in the process of joining a dept in the next town over. They have everything my dept doesn't: More calls, better equipment, more members, more commitment. I can't actually leave my current department either because of training and gear my Chief has helped with, so I owe them reciprocity.

    Does anyone else have experience with this, anyone that also works with two volunteer departments? Anyone with advice or perspective on the matter? I remember a friend of mine from school (also a volunteer) warned me that I should be careful of what department I get into, but when you're new and desperate you take what you can get I suppose.

  • #2
    It depends a lot on where you are.

    In NY you can't belong to two departments, although it is possible to arrange to be able to respond with another department on a regular basis. That's sometimes done if someone works in another department's response area and can get away from work, or for "bunk-in" programs associated with colleges where the student lives at (and responds with) a station while attending school, but still belongs to his/her "home" department.

    If it's legal where you live, then that's one obstacle out of the way.

    But you can't forget small town politics. There are those who will view such a member as a traitor for being involved with "those" guys. If you can deal with it and/or overcome it, you're golden.

    There's a lot of us in the same boat. I'd almost bet that the bulk of the volunteer fire departments in this country are very similar to yours - 100 calls a year and about five working structure fires.

    I'd hazard a guess that any other department you're involved with will have a similar profile to your own. And as is the case in my area, you often go to the same fires anyhow.

    Don't let the fact that your department's activity level and your enthusiasm level aren't the same right now. Do what you can (including training) while you have the time. Jobs, marriage and couple of kids will trim you back substantially in just a few years.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Multiple departments

      Originally posted by Big Ern View Post
      Brief info on myself, i'm a Probationary Firefighter for the dept of the town I live in. It's a very small town with an equally small department that yields about 100 calls a year. The more time that passes the more humbled I become by my lack of experience, and my need to practice and train as much as possible. Which is why i'm in the process of joining a dept in the next town over. They have everything my dept doesn't: More calls, better equipment, more members, more commitment. I can't actually leave my current department either because of training and gear my Chief has helped with, so I owe them reciprocity.

      Does anyone else have experience with this, anyone that also works with two volunteer departments? Anyone with advice or perspective on the matter? I remember a friend of mine from school (also a volunteer) warned me that I should be careful of what department I get into, but when you're new and desperate you take what you can get I suppose.
      I'm not sure about your area. Check with your Chief to see if it's okay with them. In my area, being a member of multiple departments is not uncommon. There's a possibility that your friend might be refering to politics. One department may frown upon another for what ever reason. Take a look and find out the circumstances of the situation at hand as best you can.

      I think it's actually a good idea. You get to work with more people. And it's possible that on a mutual-aid scenario, will know you and your capabilities, and therefore have more trust in you. It has the possibility of promoting interdepartmental relationship. Then there's the experience that YOU will gain from it all.

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      • #4
        Indeed, many of the towns in my area have a similar situation which is why it is okay to be a member of more than one department. I got the okay for from my officers as well. I can understand that under different circumstances I would probably appreciate my situation, but I already feel like I should have gotten into this at least 4 or 5 years ago so I don't want to drag my feet about it.

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        • #5
          Twice in my life (1998-2000 and in 2009) I volunteered with two different departments. I did it for many of the same reasons you did. My primary VFD, a couple of miles from my home, is rural and averages about 500 calls a year with 50% of those being EMS first-responder incidents.

          My first "secondary" department was in a urban/suburban area, the station I ran from was averaging about 1500 calls a year. They had a nice fleet including a tower ladder, which is the main reason I joined -- I wanted truck company experience. The members of my department didn't really seem to care that I was running there. This station was about 40 minutes from where I lived, but about 2 minutes from where I worked. I left there when I got hired with as a career firefighter.

          My second "secondary" department was a department that ran about 1000 calls a year, but no EMS. This department was very progressive, had great leadership, very nice fleet, saw a lot of fire and really bad accidents. I joined here because I had taught many of the members various fire-service classes, and they more-or-less begged me to join for about 2 years. I agreed to do 32 hours per month, mostly daytime hours. The station was located an hour (yes, you read that right, a two-hour round trip) from my house. I found out after I left, strictly due to personal reasons, that a lot of guys in my primary department did NOT like the fact that I was an active member of the second department. There wasn't anything they could do about it, but they felt like I was "taking away" from my home department.

          Every situation is a little bit different, and as one of the other posters pointed out, you'll have to weigh if the right thing to do. Politics, whether we like them or not, will play a part in this and you must be prepared for that. You'll also need to be very good at doing a balancing act, making sure that you're meeting the expectations of both departments.

          Best of luck to you....
          Career Fire Captain
          Volunteer Chief Officer


          Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

          Comment


          • #6
            I am a member of two departments but my situation is probably a bit differant than yours.
            The first department I joined is a totally volunteer department that services a City of 2000 residents, call volume is around 50 per year and we have a 20 member roster. A few years ago we (city fire members) were approached my the County Chief and ask if we would like to run as part of their department on injury accidents only, the county/rural department had some manpower/experience issues(only had 7 members). About 15 of us City fireman joined the rural department. Within the first year our help on injury accidents only turned into being full members of the rural department for all calls.....structure, grass fires, accidents...everything. Now they are down 3 Rural Fire only members and 14 of us that run both Departments.
            The Rural department station is on the edge of the City limits and the rural department runs about 150 calls per year, mostly grass fires and injury accidents. We have a major interstate splitting our territory! The Rural department covers about 300 sq miles of mostly Pasture and Farmland. The Rural Department is county wide with our Station covering 1/3 of the less populated end of the county, 5 other stations are located around the county!

            Being on the Rural Department is nice because they run a lot more calls and so its good experience, our City call volume is pretty low! I think that all of us who run on both departments feel more of a responsibility to the City Department, mostly because thats the department we were a part of first! I have been on a Rural call and got a call in the City and ran the Rural truck to the City call and that didn't always go over so well but we have worked out those issues lately. It does make our City Department a little short handed with 10-12 of us are on a big call within the county, 15 miles from town!

            That is my experience for what is worth!

            Comment


            • #7
              I am in that situation as well .... sorta.

              I work fulltime for a combo department that does about 1500 calls a year, and I live in the community it serves. The fulltime personnel also run as volunteers on our off hours and are expected to respond to major incidents.

              I also volunteer for a rural department to the west, which does less than 200 calls per year. The line is about 5 miles from my house, but due the layout of the district, i can make the station on the east side of the district before anyone else or go direct and arrive on scene before anyone else on that side of the district as well. I have been there 3 months and have already been promoted to a LT due to my experience.

              Most of the guys on my combo department don't understand why I joined the vollie outfit. That being said, they generally have no problems with it. If we ran a lot of mutual aid, I could see issues, but we don't. Even though we are neighbors, we rarely call each other because in this part of the state, departments tend to work within their parishes, even if mutual aid is farther away than a closer department in a neighboring parish.

              I find it challenge to work with a department that has less money and resources, and I also find it a challenge working to bring their training levels up. There are several members of my volunteer department that actually belong to 3 departments.
              Train to fight the fires you fight.

              Comment


              • #8
                Yep - in NY, you can't belong to more than one department as an active member.....

                Umteenyears ago, when I was active on the Vol side, I was able to ride with neighboring departments on calls - ~but~ I had a good relationship with the officers in the departments, they knew me and my abilities/training and I knew them. I would have to approach the IC/Chief and tell them I was available to help out on a scene - as soon as they said OK I was covered by Workers' Comp in the event of an injury.....

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                • #9
                  I am a career firefighter in the suburbs of Milwaukee and a volunteer where I live, 90 miles and 5 counties away. There is no problem from either department for belonging to 2 fire departments.

                  I was on 3 fire departments at one point, a career, a POC, and one where I worked as a paid relief officer in a combination department.

                  My different departments were always far enough apart that crossover was never a problem.
                  Crazy, but that's how it goes
                  Millions of people living as foes
                  Maybe it's not too late
                  To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    So how do so many FDNY guys volunteer in Long Island and everywhere else when they aren't at work?
                    Career Firefighter
                    Volunteer Captain

                    -Professional in Either Role-

                    Originally posted by Rescue101
                    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by GTRider245 View Post
                      So how do so many FDNY guys volunteer in Long Island and everywhere else when they aren't at work?
                      In NY you are allowed to work as a career FF and volunteer in a department at the same time (any Union restrictions aside).....

                      You are NOT allowed to be an active member of 2 different volunteer fire departments at the same time.....

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pasobuff View Post
                        You are NOT allowed to be an active member of 2 different volunteer fire departments at the same time.....
                        Is it an issue with Active Membership in two departments, or belonging to two separate Relief Associations? I'm not intimately familiar with it but I believe in NJ you cannot be a member of multiple Relief Associations, but you can run with multiple departments as long as their individual bylaws allow it.

                        We have an Open Enrollment program where we allow firefighters from other departments to join and run with us. It's specifically for the reasons the OP mentioned.. we may have a higher call volume, better/different training, or just different equipment. We have had some had some applicants to that program leave because the bylaws of their home department forbid it.

                        My opinion for anyone joining another department is to make sure you meet your activity requirements of your home department. Most of the problems I've seen stem around someone's reduced participation (or perception thereof) when joining another dept.
                        So you call this your free country
                        Tell me why it costs so much to live
                        -3dd

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You can belong to multiple organizations - but can be an active firefighter (on the rolls) in only one department at a time....for example - I used to be an Associate Member of a neighboring department, and active in my home department.....all my training records, workers' comp etc was under the home department.

                          I'm looking for the specific law section.....

                          Here it is - in NY -

                          Town Law, 176b, paragraph 10 - A person shall not be eligible to volunteer membership in more than one fire company at one time.
                          Last edited by pasobuff; 10-19-2010, 02:00 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I was in the same situation as Pasobuff mentions for a while - active member in my current fire department, but an "associate" in a neighboring deparment. I did it chiefly because I was running on their ambulance as an ALS provider. Ambulance calls notwithstanding, in the case of fires, I almost always ran with my home department.

                            I've already mentioned other situations where a similar arrangement can be made.
                            Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                            Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The Laws in NYS do allow a member of one department to run calls with another - but they have to get permission of the Chief of hte responding department.....if someone needs it, I can pull out the chapter etc from my Law book.

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