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Let's Talk Fire: 50 Easy Steps To Ruin A Volunteer Fire Department

Stuff Happens

Things happen but we should avoid the bad, at all cost.

Things happen but we should avoid the bad, at all cost.

Issues will arise

Fire let me say this is a bit of a double edged sword. You will find humor in here but please don't let it over shadow the fact that people who exhibit these attitudes may very well be in our very own departments. We must try to be the most professional and dedicated firefighters we can be or we simply prove that we don't have what it takes to make it as firefighters. As volunteers we answer the call without the satisfaction of a pay check for our bravery. We go into the flames knowing that no money is there waiting at the end of all of it. That is why we need to stop accepting poor behavior and bad attitudes as something we must tolerate. The reality is we mustn't tolerate them. We need to shun these behaviors and avoid these attitudes.

I do not hope to offend anyone I simply want people to see how easy it is to ruin the integrity of a volunteer fire department. If this type of activity goes on in your station stop it, or at least try to. Always remember every member is equal in the eyes of the public we serve and if one member is a bad applethe entire tree looks the part. On the same accord it is when we weed out these bad apples we can better our departments and in the long run ourselves. A department that works well together will be much more capable of completing the job than one that has internal issues.

Getting our house in order can be simple or complicated depending on who wants what. So I present you a quick list of 50 things that can easily ruin a volunteer fire department.

Letting one firefighter have power when they are not deserving creates a much more dangerous work scene than the fire ever copuld.

Letting one firefighter have power when they are not deserving creates a much more dangerous work scene than the fire ever copuld.


The List

1. Only go to training classes you find interesting. Who cares about the other members who could actually benefit from a full staff. It is a much better image in the eyes of trainers to see a house full of active firefighters than to show up to teach three people.

2. Attend only the classes that benefit your certifications. Once again what does the rest of the staff have to do with your success. Aren't you the big dog on the porch?

3. Borrow all the tools you want from the station and never bring them back. The department can surely foot the bill and buy more tools. That $600.00 generator looks better on your porch anyways and heck while you are at it steal the gas for the saws as well. Your grass needs mowed more than that church roof needs ventilated!

4. Spread rumors on other members of the department. This is great to take that captain or chief down a few pegs and make you look like a total bad ass. Make sure the rumors make them look real bad and you look victimised, bad asses can be victims too. Tell people the captain was busy using the truck as a make out room with some girl who was visiting the station.

5. Show favoritism. Oh yeah if you are an officer pick one or two staff members and just let them do what they want. This is great for morale. Let one member have everything they want, hell let them use the truck as a party site by the lake. Let your buddies have all the officer positions on the department and make sure they never get their hands dirty during work shifts.

6. Only respond to major emergencies, after all no glory no guts. If they ain't mangled or dead it won't make the news so why be there. Fire in an abandoned house or re-runs of The Golden Girls? Hello Rose, goodbye main street!

7. Always skip those pesky fund raisers for the department, after all other people will be there you have better things to do. Why should you stand in the cold when someone else will do it. Besides you never get any of that money.

8. Be as rude as you can to civilians. They are below us after all. Tell them it was a shame they set their house on fire even if they didn't, we had sleep to do not firefighting, what do they think we are public servants?

9. Take credit for everything. So what if Billy got the fire department the discount at Lowes or Sally wrote that grant, you were present and therefore it is all yours. Heck even if you were not there you exude awesome and that just rubbed off on whoever did get whatever was great.

10. If the meeting is to vote on any issue miss it. You are to good to have to be subjected to making decisions. Everyone knows how you want votes to go.

11. Complain about the outcome of the votes you missed. They knew you would be upset that is why they voted that way.

12. Toss all the department's SOGs and SOPs out the window. You know everything anyways. Call them the HIDS, how I do shit! Sounds better anyways.

13. No matter what the situation is always run lights and sirens. Don't forget to drive as fast as you can. Going to the school for a presentation blar sirens and whip in like the school just got shot up by Rambo and friends. The kids will love it!

14. Show up at every emergency even if it is not in your call area. Remember you are great so they will need you. Why not go stand in the way to see a dead body? You can handle it, you are heartless. Just stand there and when the crew comes to work on the patient tell them how wrong they are doing CPR. It is even better if you use your POV to block the ambulance entrance way to the scene.

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15. Direct traffic from inside your vehicle. They can't afford for someone has great as you to get sick can they? This is great when the guys on the other end are standing in the rain getting drenched head to toe. Yep, been there done that!

16. Lose pieces of your turnout gear. Remember the volunteer fire service can always afford to replace it. If they can't steal someone else's. Hell, use your nomax to make a snowman and than use your boots to work in the flooded basement of your house. Or even better use someone else's.

17. Always assume you are the incident commander, even if you are not everyone needs to listen to you anyways. This is your fire scene anyways. If you show up after everyone just radio I am here and this is now my scene! I am sure people will listen.

18. Disregard all direct orders. Who is that safety officer to tell you that the building may collapse anyways. Hell just keep poking your ungeared head in the window and shouting man that is a fire as loud as you can!

19. Outdo the instructor. Even if you know you are wrong correct them over and over again. This shows the rest of the staff that you are the big dog on the porch. Always make sure they know your method is fool proof! Fog everything all the time, CPR in progress show up and fog them down!

20. Allow forged and falsified paperwork. So Billy claims to have 60 hours of training in hazmat and it is written on a napkin from Burger King. Sounds legit to me.

21. Who needs receipts anyways. never keep a record of what you buy. Remember that 12 dollar purchase at DG came to 60 bucks. If you go down the street to get toys for a toy drive charge the department gas and eats. Steak is always a good choice!

22. Why go to that city meeting anyways. Skip them and stay home and play video games. Who cares about budgets and lay offs, I got to get to level 7 or I will never forgive myself.

23. Never recruit new members. You have it all under control. Younger folks are not as deserving as you are anyways.

24. Tell that reporter everything. I suggest giving names as well, it is good for the scene. "Billy was just poking around the roof when suddenly it went up like hell fire and we just dropped everything and got the hell out of dodge!" "Billy?" Oh crap!!!!

25. Let the most untrained member of your staff assume command and watch the fun unfold. Heck give them the ability to ban members from the scene. They will always ban the most important member.

26. Be at every parade or dinner but never attend classes. Food and glory trumps knowledge and training.

27. Wear your uniform everywhere you go and act like a total ass. Skip people at the local Denny's and flash that volunteer badge, oh yeah bitches love badges don't they!

28. Play the jealousy card. if Joe doesn't like the fact you get away with murder make sure that chief knows it is because he is jealous of you and how great you are.

29. Play firefighters against each other. Buddies are overrated anyways. Make everyone hate each other except you. You are the glue anyways right?

Something Fun


Right now I am sure you are starting to put names to the descriptions I am giving. I hope you can not do so. Sadly the service does have these types of attitudes but they are rarer than the traditional true firefighter. Please continue on.

Bringing law enforecment in on petty disputes is a waste of resources and time. This tactic shows a lack of heart and a blatent disrespect for the service.

Bringing law enforecment in on petty disputes is a waste of resources and time. This tactic shows a lack of heart and a blatent disrespect for the service.

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The List Continues

30. Use your radio to talk to your buddies. So what if it ties up emergency lines, you aren't the one in trouble. Mayday, mayday, mayday.. shut up Bob I am telling Billy about the fish I nearly caught.

31. Give your pager number out for personal use. it is better used to have Bob tell you the steaks are done than know about the house fire on Elm Street.

32. Use the station phone for personal use. Those lines are for important members like you anyways. Call fortune tellers and find out when your next fire is.

33. Always leave the work at the station to other members of the staff. You have other stuff to do like eat and play Halo. Even better drive by and wave at the guys cleaning the trucks and doing maintenance.

34. Be the resident station prankster. Play as many jokes as you can, and remember extra points for injuries. It is all fun and games until someone loses an eye than it is hilarious... well until OSHA comes to shut you down.

35. Go way to far in initiating the probie. Make him stand in traffic in the snow in his underwear. Remember they may advance better than you so you got to get rid of them. It is fine to give them a little hell but remember this may be the next generation of firefighter and they need to know they are accepted.

36. Interrupt the chief as much as possible. Nothing he says is as important as what you want to say. The best bet is to interrupt with something as irrelevant to the original topic as possible. "That fire on Monday was.... Hey anyone want to get some grub!...."

37. Vote your friends in the department when you know they will be waste of time and never show up. You need running mates and odds are if you are like this you have no friends on the department.

38. Maintain an unprofessional attitude always. You are the man or woman and people need to accept that.

39. If the emergency does not require you at the end of a hose just ignore it. Hell you are a firefighter not a rescue dog. Wet stuff on red stuff or just don't bother showing up.

40. Keep other firefighters from achieving anything. You have to hold them back so your glory will be the one one the spotlight. if you mess up blame them.

41. If you are assigned a task give it to someone else. Why should you wash the truck, you are the reason it is there anyways.

42. Let people into the fire scene. Sell tickets. The fire is out so who cares about life safety anyways. So what if someone steals something, they earned it by going in there. Heck yeah Mr. Creepy Guy take all the copper you can carry from that structure, I ain't going back in.

43. Of course you can use your camera phone to snap some pictures of the scene. Heck post them to Facebook. Email them to everybody even the family of the poor sap who got killed. No publicity is bad publicity. Extra points if you get as much gore as possible.

44. If you have a disagreement with another firefighter call the cops and swear they threatened you. Never tell them what you did though, remain innocent.

45. If you see someone goofing off don't report them. Simply wait for them to get hurt and remind them you are better than they are.

46. Always take food and soda from the department and never return any. After all that stuff is there for you because you are awesome. So what if I drink a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper and eat the entire supply of bread, I am worth it aren't I.

47. Bring your girlfriend to every class and totally ignore the trainer. You got second base to worry about who needs to learn how to save a life.

48. When you visit other departments talk bad about your trainers. Make sure you tell how you know more than they do and you should be the trainer.

49. Never participate in drills. You know it all anyways. Who cares which end of the hose goes to the truck, I am worried about which end the water comes out of.

50. Do what the rest of us do, but only do it for the recognition.


I hope I did not offend anyone with this but these concerns have been growing on me for some time. More is expected from the volunteer service now than it ever as been yet these behaviors and attitudes are still allowed to exist on a department. I admit some are not that bad. We have several guys who bring in their girlfriends, but they set examples by always staying tentative with the trainer and if anything even their girlfriends show an interest in the service.

As firefighters it is our duties to be beacons of light and hope not egotistical show offs who really wouldn't know a brush axe from our own ass. The service is in a state now where every mistake we make is under scrutiny yet so often I see departments allow the prankster or the egomaniac every one hates to remain and continue to tear the fibers that hold the department together apart day after day. The fire service is and will never be about one person. We all play our parts to make the puzzle complete. You need to step back and make sure that you are a piece that fits in that puzzle. If you are not than you need to step out of the picture and let it be. Until next time stay safe.


Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on October 31, 2015:

Thanks for the comment and that is terrible. Some departments are very clicky like that and it destroys the reputation of the firefighters who are doing the right thing.

moonlake from America on October 29, 2015:

This was years ago. My husband wanted to join the Volunteer Fire Department, but you had to have someone from the department recommend you or you didn't get in. Of course, they always recommend their friends. When the department ran short of people they ask him to join. He just told them to forget it. They were a click not only the firemen but also their wives.

Later years one night when coming home one of the vans with the big lights across the top got right up to me on the highway and flipped on those bright lights and scared the heck out of me. This wasn't a fire department van just some ugly black funny painted old van. They drive like crazy people.

I'm sure all of your 50 steps are very true.

Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on June 15, 2015:

Julie we have a few of those as well. Drives me crazy.

julie on June 11, 2015:

Dont forget stay on your cell phone through the entire meeting texting each other and facebooking.

Janice Ledbetter on June 10, 2015:

That is so true and so awesome you touched on everything if everyone would read it and take it all to heart each dept would be much better and they would run in a morr eficient order you dud a great job writing this I k u st hope people read it and think about it

Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on April 29, 2013:

It kind of does that way you know your not alone in that struggle.

Cat from New York on April 27, 2013:


Not that I like to see any other department struggle, but it almost makes you feel better to know that departments everywhere are having a hard time. Recruitment/retention and just keeping current members active is proving to be quite hard. Our fires are known to get everyone to come out of the woodwork and MVAs too, but we've struggled to even roll an engine from time to time. I don't know what the answer is; I've been on committees and we've tried all kinds of different things, but people just don't seem to want to give up their time anymore.

Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on April 19, 2013:

I am starting to feel that way here as well. Usually we have 4 to 5 people show up at a fire but one of them never reports to training so we really don't let the guy do to much.

Cat from New York on April 18, 2013:


We can't afford to do any weeding :-(

Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on April 18, 2013:

I agree. We have been doing a lot of rebuilding within our department to try and weed out the things that have caused more harm than help.

Cat from New York on April 17, 2013:


Absolutely! Overall, I have quite a bit of patience for anyone that comes into our fire department, or any other. I've just seen how we seem to be under constant scrutiny and all it takes is one fire fighter doing something silly and the whole fire department hurts.


Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on April 17, 2013:

I agree Cantuhearmescream, we have a good traffic accord with our department but we have had our fair share of people who assume they rule the road. It creates a very hazardous environment for us and gives the public a very bad picture of what we do. Thanks for reading and I am glad you enjoyed it.

Cat from New York on April 17, 2013:


This is absolutely awesome, I think you touched on just about every possibility, but if I try hard enough I can probably think of another. I am a volunteer fire fighter Captain and EMT and I've realized that it's about one of the most rewarding but least appreciated job you can have. We spend our time saving people and getting up in the middle of the night in the freezing cold and leaving the table during Christmas dinner and there seems to be more complaining than thank yous. I know we don't do it for the thank yous but it would certainly be nice to live without the constant criticism. One thing I've learned is it doesn't seem to matter how far you travel or how big or small the department is, fire departments are very much the same. After reading your article I feel like you've spent time hanging out at my station :-)

How about this one... a few years ago, we had a relatively new member responding to a call from about 10 miles away. I don't remember if he had or was running a blue light but he turned on his four-ways and beeped his horn as he blew through a four-way stop! Guess what? We had an MVA to respond to aside from the call that we already were dealing with. This is one of the biggest things I preach; whether it's your own personal vehicle or a piece of fire apparatus, it doesn't make any sense to create a call when responding to one. We have so many "get in and go" types, they get so damn excited and drive like idiots.

Voted up and Awesome!


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