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Volunteering in the Fire Service or EMS Field

Candidates want the opportunity to be a volunteer as a way of showing interest, gain hands on experience, have something to put on their resume and can say in their oral they have been a volunteer. Often they don't know the culture, politics and etiquette. You will make an impression becoming a volunteer. Good or bad. Because of the politics something could happen that could ruin any chances you will ever have as a firefighter. And the big problem is you will never know what or who bad mouthed you. Even if you're testing else where, if you listed you are or were a volunteer the background investigator is going to be checking out your history with the volunteer department. They could contact a person that will bad mouth you that will keep you from being considered. Many volunteers, officers and chiefs of departments have tanked a lot of up and coming firefighters just because they played favorites, were jealous of their career path, couldn't make the cut trying to get a paid position themselves, lied to these candidates faces and they never knew what happened. I've seen this happen far too much. Candidates wait years trying to become a paid member of their volunteer department or candidates like yourself want to be a volunteer as a stepping stone to a full time position and they have been marked because of some incident they don't even know about.

Here's an example: About 2 months ago I received a written letter from the volunteer FD I have been part of for about 6 years telling me I was terminated. I had 2 weeks to appeal the termination. I did so by the date requested and now over a month and a half later I still have not heard a word about having an appeal hearing with the department to find out specifics of what there reasons were.
I also was terminated along with 2 other members of the department. Up until my termination I was one of the top 5 most active guys among a group of over 50 active members. Basically when I wasn't at work I was there drilling, taking classes, going on runs, etc. I have had no disciplinary action taken against me prior to this other than supposedly breaking a "house rule" at one time which since was repeated by multiple members with no disciplinary action ever taken against them.

My letter of termination stated that I was disrespectful to an officer at one point and it affected morale. The other 2 guys received identical letters. I have never had any disciplinary action taken against me regarding disrespect towards line officers or members so this caught me as a huge surprise. I truly feel that the description of "disrespect of officers" is actually a difference in opinions. Basically I am curious how you feel I should handle this on my applications. I have always listed my volunteer experiences as part of my employment history as requested on most applications. I have always taken a great deal of pride in my volunteer history as a lot of my life was dedicated to volunteering. I am not sure how I would go about explaining this to a review panel or in an interview as I am not even sure of the specifics as the letter of termination was very generalized. I currently have 3 jobs. Full-time EMT/Firefighter, part-time Airport FF/EMT and part-time EMT. At my places of employment, I have NO issues EVER. I have a great work history and feel very comfortable saying that.

Captain Bob's Reply:
Oh, boy, sounds like the politics of small town vollys. Jealousy with the full time firefighter and your experience? What were you thinking arguing your opinion? There is no winning. Only degrees of losing. Is this how you're going to be when you get on a new department? This could create some big problems when someone does a background. These guys will trash you. If you don't put it on your application or background file and they find it you could be immediately eliminated from the process. This is something that you don't bring up during an oral board unless they do. So how do you present this situation? Blaming those officers could raise red flags. It will help that you didn't realize there was a problem along with the others that were let go. Nothing had ever been brought to your attention and nothing has ever happened like this with your other jobs or department. Unfortunately the politics of the small town volley house did get involved. As far as jealousy goes, I would hate to think that was the case here as I am never one to think people are jealous of what I have worked very hard for. As far as arguing, I wish I would have thought about it more because you are so right, there are only degrees of losing. Courtesy of Capt. Bob @ Capt. Bob Smith, Speaker, Author, Publisher, Information Products. 5565 Black Ave. Pleasanton 94566

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