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  • Lack Of Leadership

    Hello,

    I have been on a volunteer fire department now for about four years and I am really starting to question the leadership qualities of the Fire Chief. To give you some background, we are a small rural fire department that consists of four strictly all-volunteer fire stations which mostly respond to brush fires and the occasional structure fire. Our fleet consists of mostly donated trucks from either surplus or other departments and we have a training meeting once a month. The training meetings mostly consist of watching a video with an occasional hands-on activity. I asked that it would be great to actually get some more hands-on training and not just always review from the video but nothing has really come of it. It's gotten to the point that a group of us would get together on a weekend and review how to put the trucks into the pump, test the equipment and pull a line or two to flow some water. Anyway, a few months later the Chief heard of this and told us we could no longer do this because it’s a liability. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago two of our top volunteers got written up from the Chief because they took the Engine out of the bay and tested the equipment on it since it hasn't been used in a while. Now, I do understand what they did was wrong since he did give them a warning about however, I have some concerns about the Chief actions still. Even though he never handed the two top volunteers the letter, (his son who is 16 did it) he never discussed it with them. If anything, he got his information from was a Facebook post. Also, in case you are wondering we don’t have any standard operations procedure which this would be a violation of. In fact, we don't have any standard of operations at all.

    What I don't understand is how is taking the truck out of the station and testing the equipment a liability especially if they have already been checked out on the truck?

    Since we don't do many calls, isn't it a good idea to test the equipment? Just the other day during a call we found out the lightbar on the tender wasn't work, now if we are able to take the trucks out of the bay and test everything, we would have found this problem.

    Is it common to check with the Chief if you want to pull the truck out of the station and test the equipment? Yes, I know we could just give him a call but he isn't always available. Plus they do trust you on a call but not during downtimes, this too me doesn't make any sense.

    The double standard of the Fire Chief is unbelievable. It’s okay for volunteers to store a truck at his house to respond with (even though they are only 2 minutes from the station) but still, we need to contact him to take a truck out of the bay.

    The only reason why we felt the need to train on the weekends is to get familiar with the trucks so we have some idea of what we are doing and how things work. To this date, I remember my first brush fire with this department in which I had no formal training and I fought a fire for 12 hours. During this time, our truck was overrun with fire\smoke as the winds shifted, and lucky, we got out of there. During the night, I questioned myself as to why I was doing this even though it was a lifelong dream of mine. Anyway, I stuck with it, took actually training from the BLM, and learned a lot and I haven't been in that situation since. However, just recently we had a brush fire and we had a new volunteer in the area with no training at all, and Command asked them to drive out the to the area and get eyes on it in his POV. Lucky, it just turned out to be some farmers burning a ditch however to me this seems risky.

    I love being a volunteer but I can't stand the lack of leadership and the worst part is that I'm not the only one. I just don't know how we can change the department when the leadership is so out of control. Most of the volunteers are retired folk and really don't care, however, the younger folk who actually want to make a difference it's hurting the most.

    Does anyone have any idea on how to handle this or how to make changes?

    Thanks...

  • #2
    Look man you want some advice. It sounds like the chief is the main problem, at this point their is not a lot you can do besides confront your chief about the issues and or have an outside person come in and consult, another option you could look into is leave. Now where the liability part comes in is that some of your members could be uncertified and having them go in and test equipment that they may have only worked with a couple of times is bogus.

    As it is your lifelong dream live it do not be afraid to move do not loose passion over the job because someone cannot do their job, and if you truly are stressed out then leave, find a different dept with better leadership,

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ciccone_39 View Post
      Hello,

      I have been on a volunteer fire department now for about four years and I am really starting to question the leadership qualities of the Fire Chief. To give you some background, we are a small rural fire department that consists of four strictly all-volunteer fire stations which mostly respond to brush fires and the occasional structure fire. Our fleet consists of mostly donated trucks from either surplus or other departments and we have a training meeting once a month. The training meetings mostly consist of watching a video with an occasional hands-on activity. I asked that it would be great to actually get some more hands-on training and not just always review from the video but nothing has really come of it. It's gotten to the point that a group of us would get together on a weekend and review how to put the trucks into the pump, test the equipment and pull a line or two to flow some water. Anyway, a few months later the Chief heard of this and told us we could no longer do this because it’s a liability. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago two of our top volunteers got written up from the Chief because they took the Engine out of the bay and tested the equipment on it since it hasn't been used in a while. Now, I do understand what they did was wrong since he did give them a warning about however, I have some concerns about the Chief actions still. Even though he never handed the two top volunteers the letter, (his son who is 16 did it) he never discussed it with them. If anything, he got his information from was a Facebook post. Also, in case you are wondering we don’t have any standard operations procedure which this would be a violation of. In fact, we don't have any standard of operations at all.

      What I don't understand is how is taking the truck out of the station and testing the equipment a liability especially if they have already been checked out on the truck?

      Since we don't do many calls, isn't it a good idea to test the equipment? Just the other day during a call we found out the lightbar on the tender wasn't work, now if we are able to take the trucks out of the bay and test everything, we would have found this problem.

      Is it common to check with the Chief if you want to pull the truck out of the station and test the equipment? Yes, I know we could just give him a call but he isn't always available. Plus they do trust you on a call but not during downtimes, this too me doesn't make any sense.

      The double standard of the Fire Chief is unbelievable. It’s okay for volunteers to store a truck at his house to respond with (even though they are only 2 minutes from the station) but still, we need to contact him to take a truck out of the bay.

      The only reason why we felt the need to train on the weekends is to get familiar with the trucks so we have some idea of what we are doing and how things work. To this date, I remember my first brush fire with this department in which I had no formal training and I fought a fire for 12 hours. During this time, our truck was overrun with fire\smoke as the winds shifted, and lucky, we got out of there. During the night, I questioned myself as to why I was doing this even though it was a lifelong dream of mine. Anyway, I stuck with it, took actually training from the BLM, and learned a lot and I haven't been in that situation since. However, just recently we had a brush fire and we had a new volunteer in the area with no training at all, and Command asked them to drive out the to the area and get eyes on it in his POV. Lucky, it just turned out to be some farmers burning a ditch however to me this seems risky.

      I love being a volunteer but I can't stand the lack of leadership and the worst part is that I'm not the only one. I just don't know how we can change the department when the leadership is so out of control. Most of the volunteers are retired folk and really don't care, however, the younger folk who actually want to make a difference it's hurting the most.

      Does anyone have any idea on how to handle this or how to make changes?

      Thanks...


      So how does or did the fire chief get the job???
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZdEH...e_gdata_player

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by fire49 View Post



        So how does or did the fire chief get the job???
        He was volunteer for two years and no one else wanted it. The District put him through all training required. He has threaten two quit twice in the last two years.

        Comment


        • #5
          Simple answer

          Have someone with Drive, Knowledge, and Leadership. Step up and do the job
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZdEH...e_gdata_player

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Ciccone_39 View Post

            He was volunteer for two years and no one else wanted it. The District put him through all training required. He has threaten two quit twice in the last two years.
            Sounds like him quitting would be a good thing. Question, under WHO'S authority does the VFD function? Is it a non-profit, under a village or township?? Would this by any chance be a Pa. VFD?
            Seems like there are virtually NO standards, which is unacceptable. If there isn't anyone that this Chief answers to, I'd RUN from a VFD like this, because they are going to get someone killed.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would advise him that NOT training and checking the equipment is a bigger liability for both the Department and himself than doing it.
              "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

              Comment


              • #8
                We have a similar issue though not as bad. We luckily have a "Captain" that does push training and equipment familiarity. My advice, go up to the dept and do what equipment familiarity you can. I see zero issue with any of our guys pulling a unit out of the bay to "climb over it". If you're going to do anything that means that unit can't immediately respond, then I can see getting approval to show it out for training (I.E. hooking up to a hydrant, pulling everything out of your rescue unit, etc.). Get with the other senior guys and set up one on one "Hey, can you show me ____". Heck, just go and make sure everything starts and works as it should. Make sure gas tanks are topped off, water tanks, SCBA bottles, etc. If you're not comfortable fixing the issues you find, make sure and get it addressed at the next meeting. If leadership can't see this as a good thing and a sign that there is a desire for training, then I wouldn't want to volunteer with them anyways.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Ciccone,

                  I feel your pain. I too am in a small rural department, and in a lot of ways it is an afterthought for many of the members, including the chief.

                  Myself and one other captain have made several pushes to improve overall preparedness, and fortunately we are both in the equipment officer and training officer roles respectively. It's been an uphill battle, but slowly we are changing the culture to a more proactive than reactive approach.



                  My advice, from past experience, is to submit some sort of comment to the board concerning the issues you have brought up. If there is an anonymous way to do so, that may not be a bad idea to keep yourself protected in case nothing comes of it.

                  Likely, if they take the complaint/comment seriously, there would be an internal inquiry between the board and the chief, and ultimately they are the ones who have the most chance of effecting change from him.

                  Aside from that, you may want to just keep your head down and do your best to maintain yourself to be ready. Doesn't matter if you go on 100 calls a year or 10,000, you still have to be ready when the tone drops.

                  Last parting advice, Don't try to take leaps and bounds in cultural changes. Nothing good every came from a big bang. But, if you persevere and persist over time you very well can see the improvements you seek.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Basically, you can read a little story about leadership. I think it will be helpful to understand how it works and what it is. For example, here's a leadership essay project that stores a lot of different information in examples, and there you can safely put frames and boundaries in order to understand how it works correctly. Leadership is incredibly important.
                    Last edited by Witoo1991; 11-27-2020, 02:10 PM.

                    Comment

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