Volunteer vs. Paid …Respect my AUTHORITAH !!!

Another paid vs. volunteer battle and this one is in my back yard. It’s embarrassing!

I don’t speak out much on the paid vs volunteer issue here on the site but most of you who have met or know me, know where I stand. For me, it’s not paid vs. volunteer; it’s professional vs nonprofessional.

I know a lot of damn good firemen who are volunteers. I know just as many “paid guys” who aren’t worth a dime. Paid or vollie … it doesn’t matter to me as long as you do the job.

To expect less would be a disgrace to those who came before us.

That is why we are all here right? It do the job. To protect and serve our fellow man.

After reading our local paper this morning, I’m not so sure all of my area Departments / members share that same direction / goal. I work in the city (43 sq. miles). We are surrounded entirely by Roanoke County (251 sq miles) who has their own combination Department. Rhett and I tell everyone to think of Roanoke County as a doughnut with the City being the “hole” … lol… I know… in more ways than one!

Roanoke County is then obviously bordered by several other Counties.. Botetourt County is one of them. Botetourt is becoming a lot like Roanoke County in that it’s growing fast. It is is 541 sq. miles and is served by 7 fire departments ( census stats HERE ). Until recently, they were all volunteer.

Roanoke County started out all volunteer as well. Years ago, forward thinking volunteer Chiefs such as Woody Henderson(and others) realized that the County was rapidly outgrowing the resources of many of their volunteer  Departments. They simply couldn’t meet the demands of growth and I can understand that.  They asked the County for help.

Roanoke County’s response was to supplement the Volunteer’s with a variety of paid members. Ambulances were staffed at some stations while others received crews to staff fire apparatus. Not all stations were supported with paid members in the beginning. I believe that for the most part, the shifts were only 8 or maybe 12 hrs back then … they covered the daylight shift while most volunteers were working and unable to respond to calls.

With the leadership and support  of Chiefs Tommy Fuqua, Rick Burch and many of the Volunteer Chiefs (again like Chief Henderson) their Department now has approx 153 paid members supporting 250 volunteers in 12 stations.

Apparently, some of Botetourt’s Volunteer Chiefs are not as forward thinking. The County just recently hired it’s first few paid firefighters. I believe they run out of the Fincastle Station (#4).

Continuing with their plan, on January 24th; the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to  establish a Department of Emergency Services. It will combine  all existing fire and emergency medical services into a single Department, volunteers and paid staff, and would also create within it a new director position to oversee operations.

“The director will not have the authority to direct the volunteer organizations’ routine administrative functions. The job description calls for a team-oriented consensus builder — skills that surely will be important from Day One”

A couple volunteer Chiefs are calling foul ….apparently they don’t want the help.

Actually, it’s not the “help” they’re afraid of, it’s the possibility of someone taking over “their” emergency scene. YEA .. they don’t want the position filled because they are afraid of the authority the new position will carry.

If need be,  “when deemed necessary for the welfare of the public or responders “ the Director of Emergency Services COULD assume command of an incident…. “COULD” but it’s unlikely.

Read the article from this morning’s Roanoke Times HERE 

 Never mind the welfare of the citizens and visitors of the County they protect. Never mind the safety of the Fire and Rescue members (paid or volunteer) who respond to  incidents within the County. This is all about a Volunteer and his “AUTHORITY” ? Are you kidding me?

One of the Chiefs opposing the new position caught my attention ….Buchanan’s Chief Billy Joe Carter.

You may remember Chief Carter as well. I posted on him a couple of times back in January as he was injured in a “Firefighter Close Call”.

Carter arrived on scene of a well involved mobile home fire with reports of an occupant trapped. As the fire quickly progressed, the service drop burnt from the home and delivered an electrical shock to Chief Carter after hitting the ground. He said he didn’t get “out of the way” quick enough this time ( I guess he’s out ran electricity before). He radioed the information to dispatch stating “it’s pretty bad” then directed the arriving members attention to the fire and away from him. He was later transported to a local hospital and placed in ICU .

I cringed every time the local news played the interview with Chief Carter from his hospital bed. THIS is a Chief ? THIS is the image the Buchanan VFD wants to project? What “message” is this guy and his Department sending (to it’s members as well as the public) ?

As it turned out, the mobile home was unoccupied and I said it was “good news for the Chief”. I said that because had someone HAVE been inside that home, he would have had to listen to them die. Even if he had PPE and an SCBA with him, he would have never gotten a seal or been able to execute a rescue. This member was not “Battle Ready” and  SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME.

Read my Previous post  HERE  and the one including his bedside interview  HERE 

 Chief Carter seems to be one of the leaders of the opposition to Botetourt’s new Director of Emergency Services. No way is he going to let some body else run one of his emergency scenes!

“He said Tuesday that if an emergency services director assumes control of a scene “there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings and busted noses.”

“Hurt feelings” ???? “Busted noses” ???  You’ve got to be kidding me?  Now THERE’S a professional Chief for ya!

Well I hope I don’t hurt his “feelings” but I wish someone more competent would have been there to take command back in January…. maybe then he wouldn’t have became another “Close Call” statistic and ended up in ICU.

This job is NOT ABOUT YOU or being in “CONTROL”. It’s not YOUR fire. It’s about the people we have sworn to serve and protect. There is no shame in asking for or accepting help. If supplemental paid positions will decrease response times and  increase the level of Public Safety in Botetourt County, then I’m all for it and any Chief in his right mind should be as well. Drop the egos and do the right thing guys. DO YOUR JOB … I have family who lives there and I’m depending on you!  ALL OF YOU !

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines

  • TNVollie

    Speaking as a vollie, I can say that a lot of guys aren’t in it to do the job. They’re in it because they think it looks cool and is easy to use to pick up chicks. They don’t want someone else to take charge cause they are afraid of the consequences it might bring to that mentality. At least – that’s my take on it.

  • Vollie

    As a firefighter under Chief Henderson at County #9, where the hero of the month is always a sandwich (not Capt. Wines’ original #9), I agree.

    We live in our communities too, and I would love for fully-staffed apparatus to show up when my Mom or my house is in trouble. Sure, during the weekends and night hours we have it covered, but we can’t always be there during the daytime, and in the field of ALS, that takes years full-time, almost impossible to complete as a volunteer. Instead of having a you-know-what measuring contest, why can’t we just all work together and learn from each other? I love running with the paid folks during the times when I’m free during the day, they show us a lot, as do we when we have the opportunity.

    Cuba got change in the fifties, but that isn’t the kind of change we are talking about here. This is a step forward in showing that we are all professionals, and that a paycheck shouldn’t be visible to the communities we serve.

    • Ast. Chief Estep

      I agree 100%. Stop bragging who is better and work together for our community. Thats why we are here is to serve and protect. We can learn from each other. I have a very educated and trained group of guys and wouldn’t have a problem putting them with a paid dept. and know they would work with them with no issues. Both sides need to reach out and help each other to make our profession stronger for the future.

  • BCES Vollie


    I think you may find this news story of great interest – http://www.wset.com/story/16995958/fire-chief-resigning-because-of-politics-in-department

    Thanks for posting and giving your thoughts on this topic. It should be worth noting that at least 75% of all the fire and rescue departments support this new position, but the minority has chosen to bring the media into this to share their view. I’m afraid that this might be just the beginning of public backlash for my county and volunteer brothers and sisters.

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    I agree with your post. As a paid FF, previous volunteer under Woody, change is needed. Today’s society is everchanging. Vollies are having a harder time running daylight weekday calls. This is understadable! I understand growing pains when it comes to paid vs. vollie. The article about a chief leaving a department due to someone possible taking command over him is repulsive. Its a job, we fight fire, we save lives, we dont come to “work” to have a pissing match and see who is bigger. Blows my mind! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this.

  • John B.

    Hey Cap,
    I believe the same as you, that it doesn’t matter, if you are career, or volunteer, the main thing is Professionalism! The fire doesn’t know if you get a pay check or not.
    I took quite a few of the NIMS classes, and one thing an instructor said stuck with me. “Everyone wants to be in charge, but nobody wants to be responsible”

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  • ukfbbuff

    It’s 2012, the Citizens/ Politicians/Accountants are looking at everything that happens in the Fire Department Career/Volunteer these days and expect “Professionalism” for what they pay for.

    ICS/NIMS is one guiding set of rules that we should be working TOGETHER with and under at ALL Times when We respond to an incident.

    If “Turf Protection” continues to be the main principal in this instance or any where else, the net result is:

    “A Thumb in the Eye” to all involved, which reflects on the rest of the Fire Service.

    The UL/NIST Studies, Chicago FD “Everyone Goes Home Video and Major Recent Disasters and have shown that the Fire Service and All who are part of it Must be Open Minded to Changes and
    in Working Together not with just other FD’s but Related Agencies Effectively to get the Job/Mission Done.

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