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Friday, January 13, 2017

Seasons

It's been a good long time since I've been on here.

Things at my fire agency went absolutely to crap a couple of years ago after a change in leadership.  That's why the fire stories dried up.  No joy in writing about them any more.

Due to the changing tides of volunteerism, the agency ended up hiring more full time personnel several years ago. Management did not do a good job managing the culture shock.

In an established department, you've got seasoned veterans who kick the new guys in the teeth as often as necessary until they learn to respect the job and the agency's history.  Problem was, management basically established that the new paid guys were essentially "officers", even though most weren't.

Being young and full of bravado and feeling the recentism from being fresh out of school and knowing everything, they failed to respect our older volunteer personnel, who had legitimately earned their commissions.  You see, our volunteer officers were not "elected", they were always appointed after meeting fairly strict training requirements.

On paper, paid or volunteer was not supposed to matter.  Firefighters were firefighters, and officers were officers, period.

So, following fire service tradition going back centuries, our volunteer officers began kicking the new paid guys in the teeth when they were dickheads or disrespectful.  The new guys whined, and the new management backed them up, undermining our agency's entire history and culture, marginalizing our volunteer officers.  Unsurprisingly, our entire base of volunteer officers all left within a single year.

And it just went to hell from there.

Eventually I think the Chief started to figure it out, but it was far too late to repair the damage.  The new guys got their own elected officials in office over the Chief, and then the Chief was fired.  The Deputy Chief was promoted to interim Chief, with no desire to hold the job permanently.  The electeds, totally out of control by now and micromanaging everything, drove the Deputy nuts.  In June of 2015 he announced his retirement effective at the end of the year.  By October, they drove him so batshit crazy he gave his minimum two weeks notice and bailed, unable to stand them even four extra weeks.  That pretty much says it all.

Anyway, with the new management in place, volunteers are being phased out.  On paper, they still exist, but as a mere show.  They get used as abused interns, never allowed to think for themselves and never utilized in a way that promotes their growth within.  Turnover is absurdly high, by design in my opinion, to justify the inevitable ending of the program entirely.  Once upon a time the volunteers were trained to be autonomous, to be community-oriented, to know when to go grab a rig, to be trained enough to respond directly to an emergency scene and size things up or make an EMS intervention, and appropriately meld into the ICS structure when more resources arrived.  No longer, as today none of the volunteers can work without direct career member supervision.  I guess this is partly because all the volunteers who had more training than the paid guys are all gone now.

Also, now the agency only responds from two of its five stations.  They closed and sold a sixth one - without telling the residents in that area beforehand - and are using that money to buy an unnecessarily fancy new fire engine.  There are rigs sitting in the other three stations that literally have responded to zero incidents in over two years.  Zero incidents.  The buildings are abandoned, dusty, leaky ceilings unrepaired, falling apart, with trucks mostly stripped of equipment but holding ceremonial spots for fire insurance rating purposes.  Those stations are mere storage facilities now.  Just a few years ago we would turn out rigs from all of our stations for a structure fire, but those days are over.  The agency still has four tankers, but is lucky to turn out even one for a structure fire because there's no one left to drive them, instead relying on mutual aid for water.  Classy.  In fact, the last few fires, water tankers had to be called from as far as over 20 miles away.  Neighbor agencies are already tiring of carrying this one, but the long term agenda appears to be merger into the neighbor city, and liquidation, leaving the rural people hostage to the city's whims.  Because once your agency has been gutted and you have no assets, no money, and no volunteers, how do you restart from scratch if you don't like what the city is offering?

Bear in mind this isn't a tired retread of the paid vs. vollie debate.  This was the second combo fire agency I've worked at.  I've worked alongside paid guys with lots more training than me, and also alongside paid guys whose hand I needed to hold at many calls.  We're all supposed to be on the same team.  This story is one of too many 2-20 hotheads coming in and no one there to teach them respect.  When they spend their days drawing logos with phrases like "Station 54 - The Filthy Few" for a house that runs less than 300 calls a year.... give me a break.  They want to be big city jakes, and their insecurities turned too many of them into dicks,  Of course, when they did get called in to one of the bigger neighboring cities and got trampled on by busy companies that actually do stuff, their feelings were hurt, and instead of learning respect and humility, they just doubled down.  No, not paid vs. vollie, but rather a total loss of culture by flooding the roster with empowered hotheads while hamstringing the efforts from those of us who've actually done this for a few years to shape their character.

Anyway, if it wasn't already clear to you by now, I am no longer part of this agency, and retired from the fire service myself about a year ago.  I haven't ruled out a return in some sort of rehab/canteen capacity with another agency, but I'm kind of burned out by being treated like whale shit on my way out after a 21-year career.  Just not feeling it any more, and that is genuinely sad.

I still work for the power company though.  Always neat things going on there.

Maybe I'll pick this blog up again, maybe not.  But that's where things are today.

Keep the faith, and stay safe out there.

1 comment:

  1. Still Here Grumpy. I check on the page every other week. I'm sorry that the fire station went to hell. Head up. Stay strong. Hope all is well!

    ReplyDelete