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I have been a member of my department for just over four years now and during this time we have gone from a full volunteer to a Combination department. Ever since the switch about 3 years ago morale in the department is dropping and now its at its lowest. The once outgoing group of guys are now miserable and dont enjoy spending time at the station anymore. I dont know if this is a common problem during transitions and if it is what some people have done to help bring morale back up. I know its a place of employment but it is also a sanctuary for most and a place where we should be able to go and hang out and wait for the next bell. This is my first post so let me know what I can do better. Thanks

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Brother! I believe that morale is what you put into it, if you put a lot into it you will get a lot out of it. However, if you do not put to much into you won't get to much out of it.
I have been on 3 departments that went through the same thing that you are going through. It is a rough change for some because it will never be like it used to be. The fire service itself has a rough time with change and I feel that it spreads to the firefighters over the years. Keep plugging away, Keep training hard, and Keep your love for the job! Those three things in itself will spread to each firefighter on the department and it will pay off.
Here is my personal cell phone number, if you ever need anything please call! (740)507-8802

Your friend, Todd McKee
You Have some great advice hear one more thing I would like to add is mutual respect, that will go far as well. For example you might want to limit late night "hanging out" sessions especially if you know those guys had a rough day. You might also want to sit down with one of the paid guys and ask how can we make life for each other better at the station? a little compromise on each side will probably do the trick. I come from both disciplines so I can imagine what your going through, Your station which was once your place of salvation and or "club house" if you will has now transformed into a business with shifts and pay checks and all the ugliness that come with it. Your still the same fire dept, and the two sides do need each other try to build a team with each other weather it be through drills, possibly an inter dept bowling league or softball team, poker night, some thing that will get you guys to click a little better will make your dept your second home again.
Bryan, I wrote an article for Fire Engineering in the March 2008 edition under Volunteers Corner. It doesn't pertain directly to your particular circumstance but it does address things that can be done to improve moral within your department through various programs and activities. Check and it. If you don't have a copy of it, let me know ( and I will email you the original document.

I've been on the volunteer side of this transition and it can be difficult. One thing that helped us was that our chief constantly said, to us and others, that we were still primarily a volunteer department supplemented by paid personnel. This told the volunteers in no uncertain terms that they were still valued and welcomed.

Your department may be leaning the other way. Unfortunately, there are too many departments that were so eager to "go paid" that they went from having 25 active volunteers to five full-time personnel...and then they wonder why they're short on manpower!

Like it or not, the burden may be on the paid guys to reach out to the volunteers. If they came from the volunteer ranks, that shouldn't be too much to ask. The flip side, though, is that the volunteers now have to step up and maintain the same levels of training and accountability as the paid personnel.

Keep the faith, Brother. Set an example: Do the right thing and things will get better!

Thank you all for the good information and the positive reinforcement. I love the job and have already started talking to some of the full time guys and a few are coming around and there are a few that I know wont, but any little bit helps. I hope everything starts to come around soon but I know I will just keep doing the job the best I can.
One thing you might want to look at also is where the paid guys came from. If you have 25 in a department, the 10 most active applied and 5 got the job, there will probably be some jealousy. Or if you department hired strictly outside personnel, same thing. Also look at how your department is set up. There is a department near me that runs 4 paid guys on all first out calls. The volunteers mainly staff the station after all the paid guys are gone. That would be frustrating to me knowing that I’m just backup.
I have watched 3 neighboring departments go through this very transition and in every case it seemed that moral dropped a little. At least one seems to be doing pretty good but I still do not see the number of volunteers at calls that I used to. One is city department and they have now apparently split the department in two. The volunteers have a president that they report to and the paid guys report to the deputy chief/chief. I think the president also reports to the chief. But the volunteers no longer hold any officers positions. My department has been talking of hiring a couple of guys for weekdays 8-5 but after seeing the others problems we have purposely been waiting. We do not want to become the department that hires 2 and loses 10. I wish you luck, hopefully your chief is still committed to the volunteers and has not reached the point he thinks he has a paid department with a couple of volunteers hanging around taking up space.

Bryan Aube said:
Thank you all for the good information and the positive reinforcement. I love the job and have already started talking to some of the full time guys and a few are coming around and there are a few that I know wont, but any little bit helps. I hope everything starts to come around soon but I know I will just keep doing the job the best I can.
-I have see this situation occur a few times across the country involving some different people and some friends and have an opinion. The opinion is usually terse and sometimes honest enough to not be received well by those involved but here goes.
-To me it sounds as though the volunteers are upset at a base level because they feel that they have lost their clubhouse and that they weren't selected to be on the new team that is in the clubhouse.
-The bottom line is that the fire station was never a sanctuary, a club house or a place of refuge. It is a fire station and has always been a place of serious business and work. All firefighters, paid or volunteer, are capable of performing professional level service. If you can't then you shouldn't be a firefighter. Period.
-Lastly, any deep seeded resentment that the volunteers have against the paid staff needs to be addressed by acting like an adult. If you didn't make the cut, if you didn't get hired... try harder next time and prepare yourself better.
-You are all firefighters, career and volunteer, and all members should act like professionals despite training and experience disparities brought on by the fact that some members make a career of this profession.

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