We are not all “Big City Fire Departments”
By Lou Comenale and Justin Ientilluci
We see the hats, t-shirts, posters and even TV shows that advertise the “Big City” fire departments. The reality is, we all can’t be the big city. Most of us work or volunteer, in comparison, small towns, in all types of departments (Paid, Combination, Paid on Call or all Volunteer). It’s nice to think we can operate like a big city but in reality it is not possible. If you are privileged enough to be a paid firefighter, in this day and age you most likely are running on a skeleton crew. If you are noble enough to volunteer for your community, you probably do not know what your crew is going to be call to call. Firefighters that work in these conditions need to understand that, there isn’t always going to be a “Can Man,” “Irons Man,” or “Outside Vent.” Depending on how your department runs the fire ground some of these tasks or riding positions might not happen. Even though these tasks are not happening “by the book” the job still needs to get done and there isn’t time to complain about it. In most situations, these tasks or riding positions are usually combined into one firefighter or maybe split between two. We are becoming “Jack of all master of none” firefighters. This still is no excuse for not being proficient at these tasks, if anything it is a reason to train even more on these tasks. Water still needs to get on the fire, this usually makes all other problems go away on the fire ground.
In our home department, which is a combination department, we staff an Engine, Quint and Captain’s SUV/Command Vehicle. If we are fully staffed there is an Lieutenant and two Firefighters on the Quint, three Firefighters on the Engine, and a Captain in a SUV, there is also two Paid Chiefs and one Volunteer Chief. Depending on how the companies arrive on scene, time of day, day of week, the Engine could be doing “Engine Work” or “Truck Work” the same goes for the crew on the Quint. This is something we have to deal with, some deal with it better than others. The simple way to overcome this quandary is TRAINING, but to really overcome this mentality of “well that’s how they do it in .....(Insert the closet city to your department) is a culture change.
The firefighters in your department need to realize that your town is not the FDNY, or Chicago FD, even Phoenix FD. If they want to work in those departments the will need to first move to those cities, establish residency, take a test, score high enough, hopefully get hired. It seems smarter to embrace the department that you are in and strive to make it the best department it can be. We all need to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and realize what we actually are. Only then will we be able to become the best fire department that we can be.