ASK THE CHIEF
Answers to questions asked by community members.
1. Chief’s pay –
The question was asked on Facebook in jest, but this information is relevant to where NLFR is going.
For a yearly salary I took about $50K less than what the chief whom I replaced, was making. This was to free up money to pay stipends for the new staffing program of shift volunteers. I am considered part-time and am only required to put in 128 hours per month. My replacement will be full-time and will have a starting wage of $110,000 (regional average).
The Chief’s position needs to be a full-time position due to increased job standards, legal standards, documentation standards, and ensuring training/safety standards.
2. I was asked, “why do we need Shift and Resident Volunteers and not just rely on Community Volunteers?”
When community volunteers work outside of the fire district during the day we have ‘holes’ in our response capabilities. If we can have shift volunteers available to work shifts during the weekday hours, and resident volunteers to work on weekends, it will give us a better response capability. Many volunteer fire departments have gone to this service delivery model for this very reason. Some have even added some full-time positions to deal with training, maintenance, and preparedness issues because community volunteers don’t have time in their schedule to do these jobs anymore.
The challenge is finding community volunteers who have the time to commit to being a firefighter. We have plenty of applicants who want to help but very few who want to go into burning buildings! This is why we need to recruit younger volunteers. Most of the younger recruits are shift volunteers and not community volunteers because most 20 – 30 year old recruits don’t live in the district.
3. Turnover of volunteers
Turnover is a common challenge for all volunteer departments. Volunteering isn’t for everyone:
Between 2020 and 2022 this is our turnover numbers:
Community Volunteers – 50% quit within their first 2 months
Resident Volunteers – 66% quit or didn’t pass their training in their first 6 months
Shift Volunteers – 40% quit or didn’t pass their training in their first 6 months
4. Training Requirements
If a firefighter has passed their one-year probation and is considered a “veteran” firefighter, we require them to attend no less than 50% of the department’s training nights and 4 Saturday drills. To stay current in their training they have to pass yearly performance standards.
Any new firefighter who joins NLFR has to complete up to 110 hours of training. As comparison, Spokane Valley FD puts their recruits through 560 hours of training. Volunteers can not commit those kinds of hours with their busy schedule.
110 hours of training requires our current volunteers to give up their time to train them. This can become burdensome for our existing volunteers. Our plan is to hire full-time firefighters to handle these training demands as well as maintenance needs.
5. Would you be willing?
Is there any community member who would be interested in becoming a paramedic, a firefighter, a Fire Instructor I, II, a trained Incident Commander and Incident Safety Officer?
Then, after getting all of these certifications through years of study and experience, be willing to attend yearly continuing education on your own time? We would like you to work with our department to be our EMS and Fire Instructor.
You would have to schedule your fire department time, after you have worked your full-time job, and be willing to put in 40 hours a month. All for a $400 gross monthly stipend!
Would you be willing?