In many volunteer fire companies everyone jokes that the fire house is a second home. But in some communities it really is home for the volunteers. These communities have live-in crews, many times these young people are members just starting out after graduating from high school, college students and those who are employed locally. In a number of towns in states like Minnesota, Maryland, and Florida to name a few, quarters have been provided at the fire station, or near the fire station to allow these members to move out of their parent’s homes into their own small apartment. In some cases they live rent free under a program that is designed to recruit and retain young firefighters. It has been a benefit in many areas for both the department and for these young people allowing them to go to college, or build a nest egg and perform a useful service. Many places have reported faster responses to 911 calls and those participating say it’s nice to have their own place and never miss the first due apparatus. Your own community and department have decided to look into this and see if the program would work for them. You have been tasked with the job of looking into how this can be done, and perhaps proposing some regulations to ensure that this will work. Two issues your community is concerned with are who should be allowed to be part of this program and what will the pay back for the community?
This topic is an interesting one for me. I was a member of a volunteer department both before and after the induction of a live-in program. Prior to this program, all calls were handled by home responses to the station. Many times calls would either have a delay in response (i.e. more than 5 minutes) or they were completely unanswered resulting in the next due department having to take the call. This was mainly due to most members working away from town or living some distance from the station.
When the suggestion of a live-in program was suggested at a regular membership meeting to begin the process, it was met with mixed feelings. Some were for it, some were against it, and some thought it would cause a decline in membership. The first thing that had to be addressed would be where the living quarters would be. The station at the time only had two small bunkrooms that slept 2 people each. It also only had one kitchen which was in the banquet hall. Needless to say, the station wasn’t very accommodating for a crew to stay overnight let alone support a live-in program. Thankfully a very large open space existed over the rear of the bays which was used for storage. Much of this area was framed in and the necessary plumbing for a kitchen and male and female restrooms with showers. It also had 6 bunkrooms able to house 2 to 3 live ins comfortably.
The program was setup to assist those going to the nearby university. They would live at the station free of charge in return for answering all calls that came in. It took a little time before this program was able to be fully functional because new live ins had to be certified firefighters and had to be cleared on apparatus before they were able to respond on calls by themselves. The program is still going and has been a huge benefit to the community and the department. In conjunction with running calls live ins are also required to work a certain number of fund raisers as well. They are also allowed to have part-time jobs as well. This program actually has helped attract more volunteers and in return reduce response times dramatically.
This is very interesting subject since I have heard something about live-in programs through friends when I was stationed in Florida. I remember my friend telling me that after high school they will live in a building next to a fire station. They will just be working for free and answering calls while they learned how to a volunteer fire fighter. They will be going to work as well and when they got out of work they will come back and stay in the building next to the fire station. There they will do some chores and help with the volunteer fire fighters. I think this was in the beginning stages of the live-in program before they started giving out new directions and rules to follow. I remember my friend telling me that they did this for about six months before joining the Navy. They where just trying to see what it is like being a fire fighter and also to not live at home anymore. I believe if more states will have programs like these for seniors who are about to graduate high school this can work out fine. The requirements should be that they finish high school and have an apprentice job where they don’t get paid but have a place to stay. This can give them an freedom from their parents and also something to work for. For adults this can work too if they are looking for a good job where they want to be a fire fighter and just need some help with having a roof over there head. Something that can work where you now have less stress on thinking about how to pay your bills or where to sleep. If you are willing to put in the work and help out any station then why not help them with a place to sleep.