Fire Chiefs Discuss Two of the Most Pressing Problems of the Fire Service

IN the October issue of FIRE ENGINEERING, there were included two symposiums on the topics, “Should Firemen Be Permitted to Hold Outside Jobs” and “What Is the Solution to the Problem of Undermanned Fire Departments.” Because of space limitations it was necessary to withhold a number of contributions to the discussion. Below are included those which were withheld.

The Editors express their appreciation to the many who participated in these interesting discussions.

WILMINGTON, DELA. George T. Morgan, Chief Engineer

During World War II, members of the Bureau of Fire in the City of Wilmington, Delaware, were permitted to work in private employment when off duty. This was done especially to help the war effort and to help them somewhat financially as the salaries at that time were somewhat inadequate.

After the war was over a rule was enacted prohibiting outside employment, a penalty of which is dismissal from the service.

The prohibiting of this practice involves several principles :

According to the Pension Laws of the State of Delaware, after having served fifteen (15) years consecutive service, a man is eligible to retire at one-half his pay. Should this man become disabled in a private enterprise, and having 15 years service with the Fire Bureau, he would be eligible by law to receive onehalf his pay from the city.

A member of the Bureau of Fire, who would be permitted to work on the outside on his days off, in my opinion, cannot fulfill his job in the Bureau of Fire when he comes on duty as he had no rest previously and he is not available for recall in case of an emergency. Today the members of the Bureau of Fire are receiving $3,800.00 per annum, which at the time of World War II was $2,800.00 per annum, and I think they have been compensated enough, making outside employment unnecessary.

During World War II, an employee of the Bureau of Fire was employed at a plant in the Citv of Wilmington, at which place his leg was injured. When he returned to work he made no report of the injury but told his officer that he got hurt at a fire, slipping on a ladder. Upon further investigation of the case it was found that he had been treated at the plant dispensary for approximately two weeks previous to his notification, Charges were preferred and the member was dismissed from the service; hence, I do not approve of outside employment.

COLUMBUS, OHIO Walter G. Strickfaden, Chief

There are several large department stores in Columbus where firemen are hired on their day off to do fire prevention work. While so employed, we permit them to wear the uniform of the Columbus Fire Department.

Rule 50 of the Boak of Rules and Regulations of the Division of Fire prohibits a man from working on his day off. At times we hear that a man is working; however, unless there is a complaint made, we do nothing about it. When enforcement is necessary, application of Rule 50 suffices.

There is no doubt that the men in the department are working on their off day simply because they feel their salary is insufficient for their family needs. At such a time as salary adjustments are made substantia! enough to meet their financial requirements, the men will not be working on their off days.

The advantage of course is the supplementing of the salary so that they can stay in the department and continue with the fire work that they have made their career. The disadvantage would be in the fact that they might come to work in the department fatigued. When any sign of this occurs, officers in charge are held strictly responsible for having the man brought into the office, for we insist that the men be physically fit for their tour of duty.

ST. JOHN, N. B. Holland S. Knight, Chief

Our Local, #771, A. F. L. Committee asked for more time off in order to spend a greater amount of time at home with their families. This was granted and I believe that this agreement should be lived up to by this Local.

At the present time working at offtime jobs occurs, but I believe that as soon as the loopholes are plugged, rules banning the practice can be satisfactorily enforced.

It is my belief that the Department would, be the loser in permitting dual jobs. The old saying “You cannot serve two masters” would apply to this practice.

The practice breaks down Public Relations and takes employment from those who are less fortunate in not having a permanent job. Any Fire Department must have friendly public relations, and if you have this, a progressive department can attain improved salaries and working conditions. However, you must give, in order to receive, and to receive the improvements, you must give up extra employment.

TOLEDO, OHIO A. F. Papenhagen, Chief

We still have a section contained in our Rules and Regulations defining and prohibiting any outside employment, or interests.

Throughout World War II, and for many years thereafter, we completely overlooked this violation as the national defense program demanded peak production, and we felt that many industries, as well as smaller individual concerns, could not survive without part-time help.

In our particular area, however, the picture has changed. We are in a locality where unemployment has become a thing of great concern. We have appealed to the membership to give up any outside work so that other families might survive, and the response has been excellent. Occasionally we receive a complaint. When we do. the fireman is called in and requested to give up the other interest, and the willingness to comply and cooperate has been most gratifying. There are some which we will never hear about and, of course, nothing can, nor will, be done about these cases.

I am of the opinion that firemen should not compete with the skilled trades, or building crafts in particular, because the competition which the fireman presents is extremely unfair. With a guaranteed monthly wage and not having the expenses involved in maintenance. overhead, and equipment, the fireman is able to offer a price which the legitimate contractor could not possibly meet.

Generally, the wages paid the municipal employees are less than those paid in private industry, but the assurance of full employment should compensate for time lost through labor trouble, sickness, etc., in other fields.

A factor that cannot be ignored is the possibility of a fireman being injured and disabled while employed elsewhere. In a case such as this, the fire department is faced with the loss of this individual’s services, his salary is paid while he is incapacitated, and, if death should occur from the injury, the city is burdened with additional pension expenditures.

In conclusion, I would say that outside employment should be tolerated only where there is a recognized shortage of labor.

CHATTANOOGA, TENN. R. R. Gouldy, Chief

We do allow our firemen to work on their off days, as long as they do not contract work or jobs. We feel this practice is all right, as long as it does not interfere with their fire fighting jobs.

In my opinion, the advantage is that it gives a fireman a better livelihood for his family and himself. The disadvantages are that it is sometimes difficult to get in touch with the men when there is a major, or third alarm, fire, and that the man might be fatigued when he is called on to report to a major fire.

CINCINNATI, OHIO Barney J. Houston, Chief

We permit men to work on their off days.

We believe there is justification for this where cities underpay their firemen.

There is one disadvantage, however, in that it is difficult to recall the offshift. if needed.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. G. R. McAlpine, Chief

A policy was adopted by the City Council, during World War II, permitting firemen or other city employees to work at other employment during their time off] and this policy is still in effect. Up until a year ago, when there was a general salary increase, firemen’s salaries did not come up to the salaries paid by private industry. At present, firemen in this department draw salaries comparable to those paid by private industry. Then, too, unemployment is greater in this community than it has been for several years.

Salary adjustments and unemployment conditions have had no effect on firemen working on other jobs during their off time.

It is a problem that affects the efficiency of this fire department, and should be stopped for the benefit of people that are out of work. I can see no justification in permitting firemen to hold outside jobs while others have no jobs at all.

The Oklahoma City Fire Department works on a 24-hour on and 24-hour off system, with two working periods off monthly. These off-periods are 72 hours. The rules provide for changing shifts at 8 a.m., but we have granted the men the privilege of changing at 7 a.m., if their relief is there ready to rifle.

We have had some trouble with this system from men wanting to get away at 7 a.m., so that they can get home and have breakfast and get to their other jobs by 8 a.m., when their relief men do not come in on time.

This is our responsibility, however, and we have handled it in our own way, but it goes to show that some men think more of their off-time jobs than their regular jobs as firemen.

We also find that, in many instances, men report for duty tired from working on their off-time jobs and are not as alert as they should be. In some instances, they let station work go undone while they rest up from their jobs.

We also find, in some instances, that the men receive minor injuries or sickness while on their off-time job, and this injury or sickness will show up as being service-connected where there are provisions for sick leave, hospitalization and time off with pay for injuries that are service-connected. This is a form of cheating, but nevertheless, it has happened.

I am of the opinion that firemen should be paid a salary comparable to that paid by private industry and then they should not be permitted to work on part-time jobs. This would give the men time to rest at home and would also make more jobs for others.

SASKATOON, SASK. T. G. Lennon, Chief

We do not permit fire department personnel to take other employment while off shift, but the ban is a very difficult one to enforce.

Regardless of the salary differences, I feel there is no justification in permitting firemen to hold down outside jobs.

It is a well-known fact that firemen are subject to recall twenty-four hours a day, if necessary, and I am sure that every fireman is told of this and is therefore aware of his condition of employment at all times.

I am a strong believer in the International Association of Fire Fighters, and if the men who are at the head of the various locals through the country would seek salary adjustments only, and keep clear of making foolish demands upon their hire Chiefs and municipal authorities, which many times are only for the benefit of a few, I believe the salaries of fire department personnel would not lag behind those of private industry.

Firemen working at outside jobs on their off-time cannot be contacted for duty in an emergency, and are therefore subject to dismissal. Holding outside jobs also takes their minds off fire fighting and holds back promotion in the fire department.

PORTLAND, MAINE Harry W. Marr, Chief

During World Dar II, when there was a shortage of personnel in defense industries, this department, like many other fire departments, granted permission to the men to take employment during their off-duty hours to aid the war effort.

Today, due to the increase in the cost of living, the firemen in this city are allowed to take private employment when off duty. I presume this situation prevails in many other cities.

There is little doubt but that the salaries of firemen have lagged behind those paid in private industry. In this respect there is probably some justification in allowing firemen to work outside to bring their earnings up to par with those working in private industry.

In my opinion there is certainly no advantage as far as the fire department is concerned. In fact, the disadvantages arc many. After working several hours on their off-shift or day off, the men are apt to report for duty in a somewhat tired condition. In the event of a large fire, it is quite improbable that they could expend their best efforts in fighting same. This also tends to promote absenteeism, which puts the fire department at a disadvantage in keeping their companies at the required strength.

The firemen’s job is to protect life and property, and by working on the outside and tiring themselves, they cannot give their best efforts to the city, the fire department, and to the citizens whom they are duty-bound to protect.

To sum up the situation, I believe the firemen should be paid salaries commensurate with those paid in private industry so that there would be no need of outside work, and they would thereby be in the best of condition to meet any situation.

GREAT FALLS, MONT. Charles E. Lane, Chief

During World War II, we were allowed to accept outside employment, despite our city ordinance. The City Council has not enforced this ordinance since then. A lot of arguments have been had on this question. We still have men taking odd jobs now.

The advantage of the men working on the outside is that they have a little more money to spend for their families, and this makes for more contented homes.

On the other hand, a man may be tired when he reports to work, his senses are dulled, and he does not respond as quickly as he should.

Firemen holding jobs outside of the department is not in the best interests of fire protection.

PETERBOROUGH, ONT. W. D. Sorrie, Chief

There are no restrictions on any member of this department accepting employment while off duty. Due to the present high unemployment figure now prevailing in the country there is little demand for part time work. However, quite a few of the members accept work on a contract basis. This work usually includes painting, cement work, carpentry work, electric wiring and sometimes auto repair work.

There is justification in most cases where firemen accept employment in their spare time, not from the point of view of the differential of wages existing between industry and firemen, but because it is an indication that the man possesses initiative and is trying to improve his living standards and provide for the future.

In 1947, during Arbitration Board sitting between the local fire fighters and the City Council on wages, the City Council had used the argument that firemen were allowed to work in their spare time. The judge had ruled that there were no existing laws which forbids a man from working in his spare time.

Men who work on their off-duty time are usually more practical and possess more initiative and stamina than most men who do not work part-time or who have no hobbies, or who do not engage in athletic activities.

On the other hand, where men have worked too hard or too long while off duty, they become too fatigued to perform their duties with any degree of efficiency. Others become so involved in their part-time work that their employment by the department becomes a secondary employment, or a resting place. However, if any evidence of the above conditions are noted, corrective steps are taken.

In summing up, I would say the advantages outweigh the disadvantages: that men should be free to accept employment while off duty, providing it does not interfere with their jobs as fire fighters or lower their efficiency.

AUGUSTA, GA. J. C. Wilkerson, Chief

Members of the Augusta Fire Department are permitted to work at private jobs on their off time, provided that it will in no way interfere with their jobs on the fire department.

In most cases, I do agree that firemen are justified in working on their off time.

In my opinion, no man can give his best to any job when he is hopelessly in debt. Many times this is caused by sickness in his family, and with hospital and doctor’s bills to pay, it is often necessary to earn some extra money to meet these bills.

The disadvantage, as I see it, is that sometimes a fireman lets his outside job take precedence over his job on the fire department. This should never be permitted.

HALIFAX, N. S. F. C. MacGillivray, Chief

The members of our Department are forbidden to take private employment when off duty by order of City Council.

Even though forbidden the ban is difficult to enforce.

I feel there is justification in Fire Department members taking outside jobs if their salaries are not sufficient to live on.

There are no advantages to my mind, but the main disadvantage is that they come to the station fatigued from the outside work and use the station for a place to rest.

To sum up I would say that it is up to the municipalities to provide adequate salaries for the firemen. When this is done the ban could, and should, be enforced.

LAWTON, OKLA. H. V. Hancock, Chief

The policy of allowing firemen to hold outside jobs was started here during the war and has continued to the present time.

Personally I don’t think it would be hard to discontinue it if the salaries were sufficient for the personnel to make a living in the fire service.

We feel that when a man holds two jobs, he is not doing justice to either one, and the fire department becomes secondary to the other job because he has a tendency to want to rest up for the off-duty job.

EDMONTON, ALTA. A. J. G. Lauder, Chief

No encouragement is given to any fireman front this Department to engage in private occupation other than his duties on the Department.

To enforce the rule governing this particular practice is very difficult, owing tc the fact that many employees in other branches of the City Services engage in other types of private occupation.

In my opinion there is little justification in permitting firemen to engage in private occupation, except for a higher standard of living, comparable to other trades in private industry. By increasing the wages in comparison to other trades, there would be little, if any, incentive for firemen to engage in other occupations, and rules governing working at other occupations could be rigidly enforced.

PUEBLO, COLO. E. G. Colglazier, Chief

Members of the Pueblo Fire Department are permitted to hold part-time jobs on their off-shift, and as yet, this practice has never interfered with their efficient performance as firemen.

It is my opinion that as long as private industry permits its employees to work on part-time jobs, municipality employees should be extended the same right.

Inasmuch as his salary is not commensurate with that paid in private industry, I feel the practice of allowing the fireman to hold a part-time job is entirely justified.

Our experience has been that the fireman who holds outside employment is just as efficient a fireman as the one who does not work part-time and for this reason I can see no disadvantage to allowing this practice from the standpoint of the Department.

The following replies refer to the symposium on shortage of manpower.

EAST PROVIDENCE, R. I. John A. Laughlin, Chief

This Department is perhaps among the unusual, as we are a growing Department and we are putting on additional men each year. We are still in need of manpower, but we are gradually building it up. Just how long this will last, is questionable. However, I am going to use the approach of increased manpower for rescue units. We made a pretty good name for ourselves during the recent hurricanes from the rescue standpoint, and I intend to use this as bait for more men. As all our men receive the same training, it makes little difference if we ask for rescue men.

HUTCHINSON, KAN. F. R. Dimond, Chief

There are several things other than salary that have a bearing on employing men for the Fire Services.

  1. Longer hours than an 8 hour day in the fire service.
  2. Building up time on a job that is a dead trade or profession. By that I mean one in which his experience will not qualify him for a like position on another Fire Department. Most Departments cannot or will not hire experienced men as they have to be residents for one (1) year, or a bona fide voter. Civil Service rules also tie them to one City.
  3. The rule that most Cities have that a man must live in the incorporated City limits.
  4. Not being able to leave town without permission.
  5. That the time he builds up on one Department is wasted as tar as his pension or retirement plan is concerned, as he cannot take it with him. So if he would leave, transfer or be discharged he has trouble getting a like job.
  6. There are too many personal restrictions on this type of job for the money they receive.

These are just a few of the things I have encountered while interviewing men that are above average who are seeking employment in the Department and not just another job.

KNOXVILLE, TENN. James P. Warwick, Chief

Here are the steps Knoxville has taken to meet the manpower situation:

  1. For some time our Department has been engaged in the training of fire brigades in industrial plants. We hope this program will be successful in reducing the number of fires in such plants.
  2. We now have a reserve of 150 men trained in Civil Defense work, and believe that eventually we will have about a thousand such firemen.

Of course, we all know that the only realistic approach to the problem is for each city to arrange its budget so that it may build up its personnel to the required strength. There is no substitute for a fully trained, full-paid fireman on duty and ready to answer the fire alarm; and no other type of fireman will equal his services.

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