Letter to the editor: Dwindling fire service

By Tom Carlin, Miami Valley Area Firefighter

 

Why are the numbers in our (Dayton, Ohio) regions fire service dwindling? Well to answer that big question I’ll list my my reasons and expand on them.
1. High turn over rates: Why do we have such high turn over rates in our area? Several reasons, the education and certification requirements are long and heavily involved with little reward and immediate payoff. Coupled with trying experiences along the way, poor fire service culture.  Possible severe debilitating injury with no paid leave or illness time can ruin or wear one out along the way or completely end it for them. Multiple jobs and schooling are hard to manage as well. One used to be able to keep financially able with 2 or three part time fire service jobs. Now with the hours regulations that is no longer possible requiring other jobs and precious time that could be devoted to furthering someones career.
2. Pay is not the greatest even for full timers: we all know one does not do this job for the money nor should we expect it to be a high paying job. However the public wishes to pay less and less for our services and have the same results. Not just in our line of work are our wages and budgets being scalped, but in all forms of public service and government employment. The public culture movement of increased appreciation for the partying culture and glorification of criminals and thug life has made our public services an enemy of the American people. I in no way am stating we ought to be making football player like salaries but that we must be compensated for what we do in a manner that makes it viable for us to continue to do it. Love for our job and community is not enough alone, we must also have a means of living. Even if the fire service is to move toward a volunteer function again, those of us that depend on our wages will have to find work else where.
3. Poor fire service culture: The culture of the fire service has been changing for a family atmosphere to one of a cut throat back stabbing, gossip factory of overly inflated steroid induced sorority of failed 80s jocks who couldn’t make it past high school sports. There is a level of humility required in this job that the old timers maintained that the newer generation of full timers do not have. Part timers in career departments are looked down upon as moronic burdens, just because of employment status or the fact they don’t have x certification or y certification. I thought ,in an unnamed department where I encountered this culture, I would be working with adults. It was not the case. We should all have pride and confidence in ourselves but to the point where it has a positive impact on the whole organization and the fire service. Mostly its way over done running people out of the department and fire service as a whole. The family aspect of it is a rapidly dwindling culture leaving a cancerous culture of miserable cretins behind poisoning the fire service altogether.
4. Surplus of certified personnel: In our region we have many educational institutions cranking out several certified people in many ranges leaving little jobs and higher requirements for petty part time positions that offer little incentive other than a pay check incapable ,by itself, of much means of support for one let a lone one with a spouse or family. Thus just to enter one may need all the same requirements of a full timer and experience just for the part time job. And most places prefer to hire one with experience. But how can a new person who may be looking at thousands of dollars and hours in training and education justify that when the can not be hired without experience? Its a cycle of doom that can be hard to escape. Not impossible though. There are positions that will hire different cert. ranges without experiences, but those jobs tend to be bottom of the barrel offering poor structure, on job training and equipment and facilities. Its hard to justify that whole process when one can make $15 an hour flipping burgers in some places or doing other jobs that take less skill, education, training, and do present the hazards that our job does.