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FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: LortonGuy ()
Date: August 19, 2008 08:26AM

I am curious about how the FFX volunteer fire department works. Is it truly 100% volunteer opertated solely through donations? I find that hard to believe.

If the fire fighters are truly volunteer, who has time to do an 8 hour shift as a fire fighter when you presumably have a real job to pay your bills? Lastly, why do we need them, we all pay taxes so the government can buy the equipment and hire firefighters?

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 19, 2008 08:48AM

LortonGuy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I am curious about how the FFX volunteer fire
> department works. Is it truly 100% volunteer
> opertated solely through donations? I find that
> hard to believe.
>
> If the fire fighters are truly volunteer, who has
> time to do an 8 hour shift as a fire fighter when
> you presumably have a real job to pay your bills?
> Lastly, why do we need them, we all pay taxes so
> the government can buy the equipment and hire
> firefighters?

Are you referring to Fairfax City or the volunteer departments in Fairfax County? It really doesn't matter since the model is the same, but here is essentially how it works.

The system is a combination of paid and volunteer with primary coverage for fire, rescue and EMS provided by career (paid) firefighters who man each station 24/7. Volunteers provide supplemental staffing which benefits the county (city) in several ways. First, they may be additional manpower on a piece of apparatus during regular operations. Second, they may put an additional piece of apparatus in service, typical a basic life support (BLS) or advanced life support (ALS) medic ambulance in service. Since the majority of the calls are EMS-related this provides a higher degree of coverage and may improve response time. Third, volunteers may provide backfill coverage during major incidents, again putting apparatus in service. If, for example, there is a house fire in West Springfield and the engine and rescue squad at Station 14 in Burke are on scene, volunteers can put the second engine in service so that the Burke area still has coverage. Finally, volunteers are used extensively to provide EMS and other services at large events such as Celebrate Fairfax.

In addition, volunteer fire companies (which operate in conjunction with and under the direction of the county or city fire chief) purchase apparatus and facilities which saves taxpayers the direct cost. You can go to the website (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/deptinfo/general.htm) for additional information, but there are 12 volunteer companies in the county plus Fairfax City. I know that in Burke the volunteer organization purchased and owns both fire engines, the rescue squad and both ambulances at an initial cost in excess of $1.5M. In addition, the Burke volunteer organization contributed to the cost of the construction of the new station.

I am sure that others will have comments here, but my sense is that the supplemental labor provided by volunteers is valued at close to $1M assuming 300 volunteers averaging 200 hours per year at $15 per hour.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: LortonGuy ()
Date: August 19, 2008 10:08AM

Thanks, I am amazed that someone would volunteer to do regular 8 hour shifts and 6+ momths of training for no pay.

I get volunteering and helping out the community but my idea of that is 2 or 3 hours after work on a weekend. This is like taking a second FT job with no pay.


Maybe the volanteer experience gets you a leg up when they hire for career fire fighters. Then it would make more sense.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 19, 2008 10:25AM

LortonGuy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks, I am amazed that someone would volunteer
> to do regular 8 hour shifts and 6+ momths of
> training for no pay.
>
> I get volunteering and helping out the community
> but my idea of that is 2 or 3 hours after work on
> a weekend. This is like taking a second FT job
> with no pay.
>
>
> Maybe the volanteer experience gets you a leg up
> when they hire for career fire fighters. Then it
> would make more sense.


I was a volunteer from 1990 thru 2005 and the minimum monthly participation was 20 hours which really isn't that hard. If you do an overnight from 7pm-7am with a couple of 4-6 hours shifts in the evening or during the day on the weekend you can easily crank this out and during special events (e.g., Celebrate Fairfax) you can get 12-20 hours if you want. This is not something that fits everyone's lifestyle which is why I left when I really could not contribute the amount of time needed.

The toughest part, in my opinion, is the initial training. The career staff are all firefighter/EMT at a minimum and it used to be that every volunteer had to complete firefighter school (something like 200-250 hours) over four months and then EMT-B which is another 100-120 hours. Given that 75% of the calls are EMS, the county created an EMS-only program for people who want to ride ambulances and not fire trucks which eases the training burden.

At one time I think that being a volunteer could be an advantage in getting a job, but the need for diversity and pre-employment physical testing weed out a lot of candidates. The physical standards for volunteers are much lower than for career firefighters without ongoing PT requirements.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: 4wheeler ()
Date: August 19, 2008 12:13PM

Mike Sorce Wrote:

volunteers may
> provide backfill coverage during major incidents,
> again putting apparatus in service. If, for
> example, there is a house fire in West Springfield
> and the engine and rescue squad at Station 14 in
> Burke are on scene, volunteers can put the second
> engine in service so that the Burke area still has
> coverage.

Do you really believe that??

Finally, volunteers are used
> extensively to provide EMS and other services at
> large events such as Celebrate Fairfax.

Volunteers are used extensively to go to free concerts at Wolf Trap.


I know several people in the fire department and for what they've told me, every unit in fairfax county is staffed by paid personnel 24/7, 365.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Guest ()
Date: August 19, 2008 12:36PM

Some firefighers get paid really well. We had this one who was a part of our BMW M5 group. The following year he bought a 2001 360 Modena Ferrari. Not to mention the the guy had a wife and 2 kids to support as well.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: pp ()
Date: August 19, 2008 12:59PM

If you donate money to the FFX Vol department it goes directly to the holiday and special party events for the Fire Fighters. You are paying for their Christmas Parties, etc.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 19, 2008 01:49PM

4wheeler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Volunteers are used extensively to go to free
> concerts at Wolf Trap.

Extensively? I don't know if that is how I would describe 4-6 EMTs at a concert. Plus, would you rather have paid career personnel there instead which would result in one or more units being out of service or firefighters being called in at overtime rates?

This seems like a win-win situation to me.
>
>
> I know several people in the fire department and
> for what they've told me, every unit in fairfax
> county is staffed by paid personnel 24/7, 365.


Every front line unit is staffed with career firefighters 24/7, but the county has a lot of reserve apparatus. Burke, for example, has two engines and two ambulances, but only one of each is in service at any one time. During heavy winter storms you will might see 8-10 volunteers at stations like Burke, West Springfield, Franconia, Dunn Loring or Centreville manning an additional ambulance or vehicles like brush trucks with plows attached.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: liar ()
Date: August 19, 2008 02:24PM

4wheeler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Mike Sorce Wrote:
>
> volunteers may
> > provide backfill coverage during major
> incidents,
> > again putting apparatus in service. If, for
> > example, there is a house fire in West
> Springfield
> > and the engine and rescue squad at Station 14
> in
> > Burke are on scene, volunteers can put the
> second
> > engine in service so that the Burke area still
> has
> > coverage.
>
> Do you really believe that??
>
> Finally, volunteers are used
> > extensively to provide EMS and other services
> at
> > large events such as Celebrate Fairfax.
>
> Volunteers are used extensively to go to free
> concerts at Wolf Trap.
>
>
> I know several people in the fire department and
> for what they've told me, every unit in fairfax
> county is staffed by paid personnel 24/7, 365.


Stop lying...you are a FF. I KNOW!

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: pp ()
Date: August 19, 2008 03:36PM

If a Vol FF from Fairfax calls don't donate any money. They make it sound as if it's going to a good cause. Only to parties (retirement, x-mass, etc.)

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 19, 2008 03:55PM

pp Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If a Vol FF from Fairfax calls don't donate any
> money. They make it sound as if it's going to a
> good cause. Only to parties (retirement, x-mass,
> etc.)


OK, you have said this twice now and I can only guess that you are trolling for a reaction. I challenge you prove that what you are saying is even remotely close to the truth.

I would encourage anyone who is skeptical about donating to a local fire company's fund drive to ask about their budget and use of funds. Things have changed at Burke since the implementation of bingo and opening the hall several years ago, but the fund drive at one time brought in $150-175K and most of this was used for debt service on apparatus loans and capital expenses for the firehouse with the additional funds used for training and purchasing equipment which may not be provided by the county. I am pretty sure that the Burke VFD purchased additional or upgraded defibrillators. In addition, whenever a new fire truck is purchased they would pay for features that were not part of the county's standard equipment list.

Unlike volunteer fire companies where I grew up in Pennsylvania, this is not a social hall with beer on tap and poker nights.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: BKalik ()
Date: August 19, 2008 04:36PM

I can second Mike Source's comments. Virtually all of the money raised by the volunteer fire departments in Fairfax County goes toward capital expenses and operations (buying fire trucks, ambulances, expenses related to fire station maintenance and upkeep, etc.). A number of them also have once-a-year recognition banquets that are funded by the Ladies Auxiliary units. The Fairfax system has been a long-standing good exmaple of a public-private partnership that enhances community safety and security. Why knock 'em?

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: bob ()
Date: August 20, 2008 02:37AM

Mike Sorce Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> pp Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > If a Vol FF from Fairfax calls don't donate any
> > money. They make it sound as if it's going to a
> > good cause. Only to parties (retirement,
> x-mass,
> > etc.)
>
>
> OK, you have said this twice now and I can only
> guess that you are trolling for a reaction. I
> challenge you prove that what you are saying is
> even remotely close to the truth.
>
> I would encourage anyone who is skeptical about
> donating to a local fire company's fund drive to
> ask about their budget and use of funds. Things
> have changed at Burke since the implementation of
> bingo and opening the hall several years ago, but
> the fund drive at one time brought in $150-175K
> and most of this was used for debt service on
> apparatus loans and capital expenses for the
> firehouse with the additional funds used for
> training and purchasing equipment which may not be
> provided by the county. I am pretty sure that the
> Burke VFD purchased additional or upgraded
> defibrillators. In addition, whenever a new fire
> truck is purchased they would pay for features
> that were not part of the county's standard
> equipment list.
>
> Unlike volunteer fire companies where I grew up in
> Pennsylvania, this is not a social hall with beer
> on tap and poker nights.


Who are you kidding? Where do you CURRENTLY volunteer - you are a fool for trying to lie but 'inform' viewers at the same time?

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 20, 2008 08:24AM

bob Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Who are you kidding? Where do you CURRENTLY
> volunteer - you are a fool for trying to lie but
> 'inform' viewers at the same time?


Like I said, I let a couple of years ago, but stand behind my comments as I am still close to many current volunteers and senior leadership at several volunteer departments. If you have facts which contradict what I have said I would like to hear them, but if all you can offer is that the money from the annual fund drive goes towards parties I would guess that you are one of the hardcore IAFF union guys who feel that the volunteers are taking money out of your pocket.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: pp ()
Date: August 20, 2008 09:43AM

You are wrong. Some monies may go to equipment, but most don't.

So you are telling me none of the money donated goes to "special events". Right. I have talk to several FF from Fairfax and they told me.

Whenever Fairfax police or Firefighters call for money I just hang up.

I pay may taxes. Go away.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 20, 2008 11:15AM

pp Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You are wrong. Some monies may go to equipment,
> but most don't.
>
> So you are telling me none of the money donated
> goes to "special events". Right. I have talk to
> several FF from Fairfax and they told me.
>
> Whenever Fairfax police or Firefighters call for
> money I just hang up.
>
> I pay may taxes. Go away.

Whatever...if you don't want to donate that's cool. My guess is that the response rate is less than 5% anyway. Still, I would encourage anyone who questions how the money is spent to inquire directly to the volunteer fire companies.

Frankly, if a few thousand dollars get spent on morale, welfare and recreation (MWR for you military folks) then I am OK with that given the level of volunteer activity. No one forces you to be a firefighter or EMT, but the time commitment is much higher than most community service activities. The training alone is 150-200 hours to start at night and on weekends.

You pay your taxes, but I still contend that the volunteer contribution is in excess of $1M...savings which can be used in other areas of the county budget.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: pp ()
Date: August 20, 2008 11:54AM

You keep using the term " volunteer fire companies". All the FF in Fairfax are paid.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 20, 2008 12:12PM

pp Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You keep using the term " volunteer fire
> companies". All the FF in Fairfax are paid.


Fairfax County Fire & Rescue is structured as a combination department. There are no independent fire companies in Fairfax, but there are 12 volunteer departments which are co-located within fire stations. Check this website for details: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/deptinfo/volorg.htm.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: RESton Peace ()
Date: August 20, 2008 01:47PM

as a former volunteer I just want to chime in that mike sorce is the only one giving any real info here, and most if not all of it is right. His info can be checked... the guy whining about the special events can only point to hearsay as evidence.

and of course we have volunteer firefighters here, for christsakes, they have very distinctive trucks that are clearly marked and they work at most of the same stations the paid dudes work at.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: MBF ()
Date: August 20, 2008 02:02PM

I challenge you prove that what you are saying is even remotely close to the truth.

He/she has no proof...if they did, they would have cited it by now. It's evident they're just trolling.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: pp ()
Date: August 20, 2008 02:36PM

The most resent FF I talk to work at the Burke Station (the station next to the post office).

I have FF and police as customers and they talk.

I don't know how the subject came up, but he even told me not to give money to the volunteer’s ff who call. They are paid and not volunteers and the money goes to whatever they seem fit.

I don't know what your point is. They are PAID. When the county was young they where probable Volunteer FF, now our taxes pay for it.

Paid and volunteer don’t go together. What’s your point? I'm bored. I’m done.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 20, 2008 03:09PM

pp Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The most resent FF I talk to work at the Burke
> Station (the station next to the post office).
>
> I have FF and police as customers and they talk.
>
>
> I don't know how the subject came up, but he even
> told me not to give money to the volunteer’s ff
> who call. They are paid and not volunteers and
> the money goes to whatever they seem fit.
>
> I don't know what your point is. They are PAID.
> When the county was young they where probable
> Volunteer FF, now our taxes pay for it.
>
> Paid and volunteer don’t go together. What’s your
> point? I'm bored. I’m done.

Dude, believe what you want...the website explains things pretty clearly and, as pointed out above, the yellow fire trucks from Springfield, Centreville and Burke that say "volunteer" should be a good tipoff.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: formerhick76 ()
Date: August 20, 2008 04:36PM

I've heard nothing good about various charities that supposedly support police and firemen.

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?keyword_list=police&Submit2=GO&bay=search.results

It seems some of them use 80% for 'fundraising' expenses.

Be very very careful!

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: dd ()
Date: August 21, 2008 03:47PM

Mike Sorce Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> pp Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > The most resent FF I talk to work at the Burke
> > Station (the station next to the post office).
> >
> > I have FF and police as customers and they talk.
>
> >
> >
> > I don't know how the subject came up, but he
> even
> > told me not to give money to the volunteer’s ff
> > who call. They are paid and not volunteers and
> > the money goes to whatever they seem fit.
> >
> > I don't know what your point is. They are PAID.
>
> > When the county was young they where probable
> > Volunteer FF, now our taxes pay for it.
> >
> > Paid and volunteer don’t go together. What’s
> your
> > point? I'm bored. I’m done.
>
> Dude, believe what you want...the website explains
> things pretty clearly and, as pointed out above,
> the yellow fire trucks from Springfield,
> Centreville and Burke that say "volunteer" should
> be a good tipoff.



Every post in this thread is wrong in one way or another. I don't have time to correct them all, but I will say that just because a fire engine says 'volunteer' on the side does not mean that it is staffed by volunteers. In fact, 99.9% of the time, there is no volunteer aboard, only paid personnel.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: Mike Sorce ()
Date: August 21, 2008 04:40PM

dd Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Every post in this thread is wrong in one way or
> another. I don't have time to correct them all,
> but I will say that just because a fire engine
> says 'volunteer' on the side does not mean that it
> is staffed by volunteers. In fact, 99.9% of the
> time, there is no volunteer aboard, only paid
> personnel.


Why don't you take a stab at just a couple? "Volunteer" painted on the side of a county (or city) fire truck in most cases (there may be exceptions, but I can't think of any) means that a volunteer organization purchased it and owns it, but provides it to county for use as part of the regular fleet.

99.9% seems a bit high, but I would give you 98% with regard to overall operations since volunteers are most typically supplemental staffing. However, volunteer activity tends to go up during major events such as snowstorms and it varies by station, but you might find 40-50% of staff at Burke, for example, being volunteers during this type of event. Depending on the area you will find volunteers performing standby duty at many events (e.g., HS football games) which require an EMS presence. That is why you see volunteers at Wolf Trap.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: RESton Peace ()
Date: August 22, 2008 03:12AM

dd, that does not mean there are no volunteers. The point of this thread is to establish whether or not actual volunteer firefighters exist, and the answer is yes. I can't believe we're still discussing it when no less than 12 websites have information on it.

I do agree that most of the dudes on the trucks are not vols, though.. when i volunteered they made the vols stand in the back for the most part and we didn't get to ride the trucks because most of us at my station were newbs.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/2008 03:22AM by RESton Peace.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: snowdreems ()
Date: August 23, 2008 12:35AM

I am a volunteer in another county (not Fairfax) We do it for our neighbors, family and friends. Sometimes we volunteer to cover concerts (for the most part is checking-out people who are over-heated or who have a minor injury). If the volunteers don't cover the concert then career have to do it. That could mean overtime. I don't begrudge anyone overtime (we could all use it I am sure).

For every shift we work (at one station) we save the taxpayers $500,000.00 per year. We buy our own equipment (through donations and fundraisers).

Most important, we are a family. It is a huge commitment but it is worth it.

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Re: FFX Volunteer fire department
Posted by: tillerman ()
Date: August 23, 2008 01:21AM

Most ticks are squirrels. And most are goofy. Thats all anyone really needs to know.

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