Editor: I am writing because I am disappointed with some of the remarks Jim McGregor made in respect to career and paid-call/volunteer firefighters (The Times, April 10). While I agree with many of his opinions, to imply that a career firefighter and a paid call firefighter are the same is an insult to taxpayers who fund such an important service.
A profession is defined as “a type of job that requires special education, training, or skill.” Career firefighters are required to have multiple certifications to even apply for the position. Most municipalities require at minimum 30 post-secondary credits or two years trade equivalence in addition. This is not remotely close to the requirements of a paid-call/volunteer firefighter, which in most cases amounts to an eight-hour CPR course. A full-time firefighter trains at minimum two hours per shift (in addition to all responsibilities of the job) during a 42 hour work week, versus the volunteer who is not required but encouraged to attend one two-hour practice per week.
McGregor should be well aware that fires double in size every minute. A full-time staffed fire engine is responding anywhere from seven or more minutes faster than its volunteer counterpart. This has huge implications on fire attack.
Where the Township and City once took to protecting surrounding buildings and containing fires, fully staffed crews are allowed the chance for a direct fire attack and subsequent rescues that were nearly impossible before. This same experience can be applied to any emergency call. You get there sooner, the call can be dramatically different.
These men and women are at the halls, ready to respond at a second’s notice. There is no luxury of choosing which call they go on. There is no consideration of letting someone else go to a call that maybe they do not want to go to, are not ready for, can’t emotionally deal with, etc. We pay them to deal with the unknown immediately, without hesitation.
When they got hired full time, it went from a noble hobby of helping in their community when available, to a full-blown career with a responsibility to themselves, their co-workers, and the tax payers.
As an active serving police constable I have dealt with career and volunteer members. As people, I do not look at them differently. But I realize that one group is vastly more experienced and trained than the other.
“Professionalism and “a profession” are two different things — McGregor nailed it on the head in regards to professionalism as a personality trait. Both groups of firefighters are needed.
I have seen volunteers work in subordination of career members with great effectiveness. They are all fire fighters, most are great people and almost all of them are in the uniform to help their community. Please, let us not muddy the waters on what it means to have a career, one that requires special education, training and skill just as basic requirements,and anoint it the same as volunteering.