Well, I thought I would give this “blog” thing a try. I figured if Willie Wines could do it, so could I! I send out all the respect to Willie Wines @ IronFiremen.com for being an inspiration for this blog!
I took on the task of being a combination Fire Chief in October of 2013. Since then, it has been an amazing journey with ups and downs. I have had some challenges that I thought would break me but I have made it through so far and hope that what I have been through can help some others.
Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I was dealing with corruption, some natural disaster at the firehouse or, god forbid, a LODD. What I did deal with is a bit of an internal war between the old and the new; the past and the present and the need for change against the willingness to. That situation caused an internal conflagration that took some strong mutual aid support to put out.
I guess I should back up and give a little background information. I came into the department with 20+ years of experience in the fire service. I have served in many capacities over the years, from line firefighter, Captain and now Chief. I have been a certified EMS provider since getting out of high school. I have been a State of Ohio Paramedic for 10 years. I was the Chief of EMS for an all volunteer department (everyone, including me was paid $1.00 per year). I am still a line firefighter/paramedic for a busy suburban department in Ohio.
I have now found myself the leader of a very passionate group of part-time and paid-per-call firefighters and EMT’s running out of 2 stations with 2 people in station 24/7 at each station. We also have a daily supervisor on each day (schedules permitting).
I will admit I quickly realized that I was not prepared for what I found myself in charge of as I had made assumptions that the department would move forward on the track my predecessor had established. I worked as a Captain under his command with a focus on EMS operations. I felt I had a handle on the overall temperature of the department and had clear ideas of what I wanted to accomplish. Basically, picking up where he left off and moving the department forward with my own “flair”.
I felt that I would have to play “catch up” in the beginning, learning what I needed to know about the workings of the City government, knowing who actually signed checks to pay for what we buy, and updating plans for my vision. I was fortunate to have a few folks in the ranks that already were in tune with my vision and as things progressed, those folks got promoted and we really took off on the journey that I had envisioned.
And then, one day, the department imploded (internally). I know that’s what imploded means. It was a partial collapse. We had some people injured (pride mostly). Some people were trapped (figuratively speaking) and some, as we have found out over the last few months, were the cause of said implosion. It was an inside job with help from some outside sources. It was in the news and on social media and we looked like we didn’t have the ability to serve our community without destroying ourselves.
We called in mutual aid to help us, as any one would do, and have since then started rebuilding the morale, teamwork and collective vision for our department.
Although, the structure of our department has remained intact, we had to repair some feelings, attitudes and plans for our future. The ripples of this disaster went way out into the community. We have been rebuilding ever since.
What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to use it as a tool for me and other combination department Fire Chiefs to share experiences and ideas on how to manage, operate and progress a combination fire department. I hope it lives up to that idea
Stay tuned! In the next installment, I will share what we did to repair the black eye we ended up with. It took more than an ice pack to heal it………