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Transitioning from an all-volunteer fire department to a combination fire department is difficult. The volunteers’ personal investment within the fire department is significant with regular contributions of 20 or more hours per week and significant recognition within the community. They fear displacement by career firefighters. Conversely, volunteers can be perceived as a threat to a career firefighter’s job security. Reaching the goal of forming a combination department can be complicated with worries and personal conflict (International City/County Management Association [ICMA], 2000). Riverside County in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States had a multidimensional combination fire and EMS system of volunteer organizations where approximately half had paid day shift firefighters. There was a director of the county government bureau that worked with an eight-member commission that represented the volunteer organizations. The bureau director provided training and placement of career personnel in the organizations only at their request (ICMA, 2000). Conflict began when the bureau director left and someone else was hired. The new bureau director did not understand the previously established power, trust and respect between the two entities and isolated the volunteers when he gave himself the title of chief and subsequently required the career personnel to wear their uniforms during training. Both sides perceived a forced separation of the two sides. The volunteers feared the minimization of their power and influence, and career firefighters were unsure of their future under the new director and did not want to alienate the volunteers. Both groups began to withdraw and become isolated and the county government saw a collapsing system.
What could have been done differently?
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