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Volunteer Rebuttal to “The Media Damage to the Fire Service”

***I will first address a perceived issue that has people whining – Station Pride DOES NOT endorse the IAFF or Volunteers exclusively. Station Pride is a conglomerate of BOTH volunteers and career personnel who share their opinions via articles that are written by the individual. Most of our career firefighter staff came from a volunteer department when they were younger. I am a volunteer with NO paid firefighter time. For some reason, volunteers are often so quick to defend our volunteerism and fail to see the bigger picture. What we all are here at SP, however, are PROFESSIONALS – regardless of where our paychecks come from. Can you say the same about yourself?***

The Media Damage to the Fire Service is an interesting article and a great addition from a “Mutual Aid” contributor. Mr. Duckworth has experience in the fire service and is the Local president of a very important organization – the IAFF. Out of respect for Mr. Duckworth, I will not nit-pick his article or attempt to degrade his opinion. My goal is to educate him as well as other paid firefighters with little experience with the volunteer system. Overall, I agree with you regarding the media “romanticizing” the fire service. I can’t stand how “Sons of Anarchy” changed the motorcycle world that I live in. However, I’m just happy they’re making shows about us. Police shows are a dime-a-dozen, yet very few shows focus on fire and EMS.

Everyone knows the history of the fire service. The more recent history, however, is the growth of the Combination System – volunteers and career personnel work together to provide emergency services to our communities. I happen to be a volunteer in the largest combination system in the country – Prince George’s County, Maryland. I am also a volunteer in another large combination department in Coombs IAFFvsVolsLoudoun County, Virginia where we work mandatory shifts, earn a retirement, and are expected to be professional. What being a volunteer in both of these areas has taught me is that we are ALL held to the same rigorous training standards and certification requirements. This means that a lot of us don’t treat it as an “extracurricular activity” and we take it as seriously as you do. Sure, there are exceptions to this, but that’s with everything in life. It has also taught me that regardless of the sticker on the back window of your car, we all make mistakes. I have read numerous headlines about firefighters from D.C., Loudoun, Fairfax, et. al. who made some awful mistakes and were arrested for it.

My point, Mr. Duckworth, is that your paragraph describing how the media never differentiates between volunteer and career is insulting, uncalled for, and erroneous. The argument is tired and lame. I can promise you that when our citizens dial 9-1-1, they don’t care if my shirt says “volunteer” or “IAFF”; they need help, and THAT is why we are all here. Just because you may know some volunteers that are lacking doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands more who are very proficient, so please don’t generalize. Stay safe up there.