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Volunteer or Paid Fireman - A REQUIREMENT Every Time

Rickey Stokes

Viewed: 3759

Posted by: RStokes
Date: Apr 14 2019 9:01 PM

DOTHAN:    While this article features Dothan Fire Department, it is a requirement of ALL fire departments. No matter is they are a paid department or a volunteer fire department.

Dothan Fire fought the fire on Glennhaven Drive this afternoon. It was a working structure fire on the arrival of the first engine.

The Dothan Fireman aggressively performed an offensive attack on this fire and got it under control.


The 175 plus paid Dothan Fireman and the 17 Houston County Volunteer Fire attempt to manage structure fires the same. However the nature of paid, full time fireman verses volunteers make it difficult.

Not because of the individuals but because of the situation of who will be on the scene.


A fire engine is dispatched. If reports of a structure fire multiple fire engines are dispatched, the Battalion Chief is dispatched, Rehab truck is dispatched, ambulance is dispatched, police is dispatched.

The first fire unit to arrive is required to (1) Give a BIR - brief incident report - which describes " Engine 9 arriving on the scene of a single family dwelling, smoke visible from the "B" corner of the house, other arriving units go to Level 1 staging. Now Level 1 staging is stand by at fire hyrdrant before you lay a fire hose water line into the scene. Everyone is evacuated from the residence (2) the first fire engine then reports Engine 9 is now Glennhaven Command ( Name of Street of Fire ).

As units arrive they know Fire Engine 9 is in Command.

As soon as the Battalion Chief arrives he usually takes over command, Each fire unit has what is called a "passport". A square leather pouch with velcro with the name of every fireman on the fire truck. It is the responsibility of someone pre-designated on that fire truck to take that passport to command. So the on scene commander will know without a doubt who is on what fire equipment by name. It is then the fire commander's responsibility to make sure each fireman is accounted for.

LOOKING AT THE STRUCTURE and normally the front section is the A ( Alpha Side ). My description from their is use your marriage to make you remember. You wear your wedding ring on your left hand, so going that direction the first side to your left is B       ( Bravo ), back is C ( Charlie ) and the right side is D (Delta, ).

Then someone is appointed almost immediately as SAFETY OFFICER. They do not fight the fire but do what is called a quick 360. That means go completely around the structure looking for anything that is not safe and make sure the fireman know of that danger. ( Power lines, propane gas tanks, etc. ).

The safety and other assigned fireman are looking for is everyone out, etc.

FIGHTING THE FIRE as this is developing the decisions are quickly being made if this is an "offensive attack" or a "defensive attack". Do we fight this with aggresiveness because it can be saved or do we fight this to stop from spreading to other areas.

Unless someone is inside, there is absolutely no reason to place a fireman in the danger of injuries or death for a place you can not save anyway.

THE PAID VERSES VOLUNTEERS is the paid fireman get into the correct firetruck and ride to the scene. All persons responding are on salary and paid to fight the fire.

The volunteers, even if paid some, are coming from their homes, church, jobs, in order to respond. Some call on the radio "enroute to the scene pov ( person on vehicle )". some going to the station and getting Engine 9, and on.

When the volunteers arrive they "attempt" to follow the same protocol. But often times there is no command vehicle on the scene, during the day often times not even enough people to fight the fire on the scene. So the volunteers struggle with the Incident Command just because people come from all over the county and often times on their own vehicles to fight the fire.

DOTHAN vs. VOLUNTEERS  The City of Dothan makes about 15,000 ( plus or minus ) fire and EMS calls per year.  The 17 Volunteer fire departments across Houston County, 5 Volunteer EMS across Houston County, Pilcher Ambulance and Headland Rescue make a little over 7,200 fire and EMS calls outside the city limits of Dothan but in the county. 

That equals about 49% of the volume of Dothan.

Pilcher Ambulance Service has assigned territory in Houston County outside the corporate City Limits of Dothan where the volunteer EMS does not cover. 

Combined, the 5 Volunteer EMS, Pilcher and Headland make about 4,600 EMS calls per year in Houston County outside the corporate city limits of Dothan.

A 2002 agreement entered into by the Houston County Commission is that Pilcher Ambulance serves as a back up in the county and has an assigned territory. There has been a on-going debate over if it is "mandatory" that Pilcher Ambulance is the only one who can back up a Volunteer EMS or can another volunteer EMS back one up.

This is nothing to do with Pilcher Ambulance Service in their quality of service, treatment or performance.

But has 100% in the immediate service to the patient which is closer to the patient. And those making the decisions have about as much knowledge on the EMS as they do building a rocket.

AGAIN - this is not a statement about Pilcher Ambulance but only a statement about the nearest EMS provider.

$ 14 million, 175 Employees plus, Support Staff  is how the Dothan Fire Department handles their calls.

LESS THAN $ 1 MILLION COMBINED TO 17 VOLUNTEER FIRE AND EMS IN HOUSTON COUNTY  There is a $ 30 fire fee. A lot opt out of it because of age. There is tobacco tax but SARCOA gets some of the tobacco tax fee. Both of those funds are split by the 17 Volunteer Fire Departments across Houston County.

EMS gets $ 26,000.00 per year from the Houston County General Fund. That is paid out in quarters which equals about $ 6,750.00 every three months.

EMS gets to bill for services. But 911 calls where no one is transported, free. Lift Assists when someone has fallen, free. Some who go do not have insurance but they get the ride anyway.

It is difficult, nearly impossible, to find people to donate their time. If you figure two people to handle calls, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, that cost is around $ 174,000.00 a year. That is before you ever roll a tire on a ambulance for insurance, equipment, etc.


The fire truck has to have the fire hoses clean, stacked, truck filled with water, fuel, fire suits cleaned, and air tanks filled and stacked back in the truck. Any equipment used has to be replaced.

Because the call that "has not happened yet" may be seconds away from happening.


Cottonwood Rescue had a ambulance totaled. The finance company said for the two ambulances we could finance with zero down payment. It was discussed two ways $ 20,000.00 down and -0- down. So we were going to go with -0- down and use that money to get some equipment paid off. 

We paid the equipment off. Then the finance company wanted $ 37,000.00 down payment. Cottonwood Rescue Building is paid for. But so far have not been able to get the $ 37,000.00 down payment. And if it was not for the Ozark City Council being gracious and loaning us a ambulance they were selling then Cottonwood Rescue would not be able to make their runs. And they made 600 calls last year.

THAT GIVES YOU A GOOD IDEA of how things work and some issues involved.

All of the paid and volunteer do a wonderful job.

The number one main issue - and I talk about it and everyone shoots the messenger and never listens to the message... Southeast Health AKA Southeast Alabama Medical  Center is almost always on diversion in that they can not accept patients. That creates major issues for EMS.

And Rick Sutton is to much of a coward to sit down with me and talk about it and other issues. Really he thinks he is above it and to good. And no one on the Board of Directors like Don Owens, Tony Strickland, Bob Thenue and others have the backbone to make him.


Volunteer or Paid Fireman - A REQUIREMENT Every Time

Volunteer or Paid Fireman - A REQUIREMENT Every Time

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Volunteer or Paid Fireman - A REQUIREMENT Every Time

Volunteer or Paid Fireman - A REQUIREMENT Every Time

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