The burning question - Macleans.ca
 

The burning question

Some firefighting experts think seven 24-hour shifts a month is best. Others say it makes it ‘a well-paid part-time job.’


 

 

The burning question

During the trial, Ottawa will have the 24-hour shift judged on objective merits, with specific performance targets, including response times and absenteeism | Frank Gunn/CP; Angela Deluce/CP

On Jan. 1, Ottawa firefighters will begin a trial of a new schedule that has them taking 24-hour shifts, working just seven days of every 28. If the change becomes permanent, as is expected, Ottawa will join other Eastern Canadian cities on the 24-hour system; it’s used in Toronto, Mississauga, Ont., Kingston, Ont., Windsor, Ont., London, Ont., Fredericton, and Halifax. Out west, however, the “10-14” schedule many of these fire departments have abandoned remains the norm: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg are all still on it.

The debate between the 24-hour and 10-14 systems isn’t just labour-relations minutiae. A firefighter’s shift schedule determines everything about the texture of his life; it defines where he can live, when he sees his family, and what kind of work he can do on the side to supplement his income. Under the 10-14 system, a typical 28-day period for a firefighter includes seven 10-hour daytime shifts and seven 14-hour night shifts. The 24-hour system breaks up the same amount of work into bigger chunks.

As a general rule, firefighters’ unions tend to favour the 24-hour system, but chiefs and administrators are somewhat resistant. Perhaps the biggest point in its favour is that it cuts commuting time in half. In Vancouver, says department spokesman Capt. Gabe Roder, the 24-hour system enjoys strong support even after “15 or 16 years” of resistance from the brass at the negotiating table. “We have members commuting 1½, two hours each way,” says Roder. “In fact, we have firefighters who live on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan Valley. Anybody in that situation would see a ton of benefit from a 24-hour system.”

Some bosses complain that the 24-hour system has a tendency to turn firefighting, in the words of Toronto airport fire Chief Mike Figliola, “into a well-paid part-time job.” The Globe and Mail’s glowing Dec. 9 profile of Firemen Movers, a successful Toronto business run almost entirely by off-duty fire personnel, will hardly reassure the chief, and other critics. The most obvious downside of the 24-hour shift, however, is that it lasts 24 hours. Studies of professions like emergency medicine and truck driving suggest that cognitive impairment starts to appear toward the end of a full 24-hour period without sleep, which a firefighter could easily face on a busy day. On the other hand, with back-to-back night shifts under the 10-14 system, the same problem exists in another form: a fireman has just 10 hours, minus commuting time, to get home, visit with his family, do household chores, and rest up.

The 24-hour shift has support from some sleep experts—notably Wisconsin researcher Linda Glazner, who consulted with Toronto when it made the change in 2006. But a discussion paper published by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs that same year noted that the evidence provided for the 24-hour system by mavens like Glazner is heavy on theory and awfully light on hard empirical data. Some Ontario departments have met with unintended consequences from the change. Older personnel can find the long shifts difficult, if only because they conflict with long-established habits; Oakville suffered a rash of retirements after introducing the 24-hour system in 2008. Kingston (2008) and Kitchener (2010) both experienced spikes in sick leave, which led, in turn, to high overtime costs (and readings of the riot act to the rank and file).

Ottawa is following Toronto’s lead in trying to avoid problems by having the 24-hour shift judged on objective merits, with specific targets for performance indicators like absenteeism, response times, and worker-compensation claims. Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association president Ed Kennedy says he was personally against the 24-hour shift when it was first tested in his city, but now he’s convinced it leads to better morale, better health and better home life. “When we began trials, the support for it among members was barely 50 per cent,” he says. “At the end of the three-year trial period, it was around 75 per cent; the last time we voted on it, I believe it was over 90 per cent.”

But why the geographic divide? It is probably attributable to a mix of factors. Commute times, though high on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, are less of a pressing concern on the Prairies. Labour unions are less militant out west, where departments tend to provide a broader array of services beyond mere fire suppression, making their workload too unrelenting for 24-hour shifts to be practical. Winnipeg has a merged fire-paramedic service, and 60 per cent of Vancouver Fire and Rescue’s workload consists of medical first response.

Kennedy notes that there’s a simple familiarity effect at work, too. “We see our Ontario colleagues a lot more at seminars and conferences, and there’s a constant exchange of information,” he says. “We might only see western colleagues every couple of years, but they are definitely starting to ask us about the 24-hour shift.”


 

The burning question

  1. There was a time when was important that municipal civil servants lived 24/7 in the municipality/city that payed their wages. I think it was called having a sense of community.

    • that was when thier wages made it possible

    • It was also when most people didn't insist on having a detached home with front and back yard and garage.

      • Ah yes, since homeowners in single family dwellings peaked fifty years ago…

  2. Others say it makes it ‘a well-paid part-time job.'

    Then those others can train and apply for it. It seems like we are slicing the same number of hours per 28-day month. Seven times twenty-four equals 168 hours per 28 days, or 42 hous per week. Part-time that, you others!

    What about rotating firefighters between intense stations and quiet stations? A bunch of 24-hour shifts at insanely busy stations will be murder for the firefighters, regardless of the number of days off in between. A bunch of 24-hour shifts at a small-ish airport would be fantastic.

    • Indeed. There may be convincing arguments for or against the adjustment, but total number of hours "worked" doesn't seem to be different.

    • That is where you are wrong. The 24 hour shift enables you to have proper rest in between shifts , where working 14's, back to back is very taxing especially at a busy hall. You should really know your facts before responding.

  3. One of my pet peeves. Here in North Vancouver some of the firefighters are making $100,000, most are at $70-80,000. Then you add 100% benifits, supeannuation, accumulated vacation and sick days, excellent pension, over-time, paid tuition/training plus uniforms are supplied including cleaning costs.

    So what do most of these guys do with their four days off? Scr_w the legitimate tradespeople out of work because they can. Every second person you talk to who is doing work on their home 'knows' a fireman who gave them a good 'deal'. Yes, firefighting can be a dangerous job but that should not make it OK to take someone elses. If professional long-haul truckers have to keep logs of time worked and time off for safety reasons so should firefighters. That way they will use their time off for what it is meant for – time off!

    • Those who critisize firefighters, their pay scale, and lifestyle clearly have never been inserted into a situation where they needed one to save their complaining ass from a car wreck or a burning house. Everyone complains about our hours of work, our benefits, etc. The truth of it all is that a firefighter exerts himself more at one single structure fire than mostly any other line of work might in a given month. We are rewarded with pay, and benefits because our job is dangerous. We not only risk our lives to protect you and your family, but while doing it we are exposed to chemicals and their bi-products which are most certain going to take us from our children and families because of the cancer they cause and the other serious health concerns we face. Yes most firefighters have some sort of work on the side…..alot of the time it is to fill the time so we don't drink ourselves to death because of the stuff we see.
      A fire fighter gets called to do side work usually through word of mouth. If a "tradesman" does quality work and delivers his product as promised then you would be too busy working, instead of complaining here on this forum.

    • Leo – your argument makes no sense. How is having a second job "illegltimate" or "taking someone else's" job? I know several people who work 2 jobs (soome firefighters, some not). I consider them motivated, hard workers – none of them are asking for a handout, they're too busy working! And paying taxes on both incomes…. Oh, and one of them owns a small business, employing several other people, paying fair wages and benefits. Gosh, what a bunch of freeloaders!

      And FYI, $70-80g is not an outrageous salary for a job that is almost guaranteed to shorten your life expectancy. I work in a hospital, and that wage is easily on par with nurses, various technicians, pharmacists, dieticians, etc…. I don't believe the work we do is harder than the work of a firefighter. But I know it is far less dangerous.

      • You could always compare it with the pay rates of Service personnel fighting abroad.
        Those guys do well with a greater guarantee of returning home each evening and they don't do it miles away from loved ones either.
        But soldiers sign on with an honest expectation of what their contract means.

  4. Comparing firefighting to other jobs is pointless. The only important question is does this provide the same or better service for the tax-payers' dollars. The experience of last 5 years in Toronto shows the answer is yes.

  5. Comments like JSW's really make me angry. Why are fire dept employees treated so differently than other city employees?
    I own an accounting firm across the street from a fire station. I can see into the kitchen, office and television lounge from my window. Every morning these city employees spend over an hour reading the paper and cooking breakfast, then another hour laughing and talking. I see them bring their personal vehicles and logo'd 'second job' vehicles into the hall for washing, many of these are new trucks and SUV's worth over $60,000. I see them bring in woodworking and plumbing projects, landscaping equipment and even their real estate signs for painting! After lunch, another hour long event, I look over and can see the tv on, with the fire dept employees kicked back in recliners for most of the afternoon.
    I understand there were over 3500 applications for the last hiring, why are we paying these city employees so much money to have a clubhouse where they can build their own business? I understand their job is 'difficult and dangerous', so what! I have 17 employees and hundreds of customers who rely on us to put out their 'financial fires' every day.
    Can someone explain why we have this many able bodied city workers doing nothing for so many hours every day?

    • Yeah……your business is exactly the same………you have no idea

    • Buddy – try stepping off a fire truck in the core lanes of the 401 any given day because some idiot was talking on thier cell phone, cut off a tractor trailer, and ended up underneath it.
      How often do you look out the window? Two three times a day? Four five? Are you keeping track after 7 o'clock at night?

    • Hey accountant, you have absolutely no clue what our job entails. I would love to see you work a day in our shoes, especially on a day when we have back to back 2 alarm fires, or even one fire for that matter. Let me tell you, you would never work harder in your life, I have personally have to deal with incidents where I have suffered from heat exhaustion. Who are you to say I don't earn my money. I myself do not have a consistent part time job but occationally have had to work on the side to support my family (not behind a desk but actual hard physical labour). Do I want to work a second job? The answer is no. Let me explain, you will never be rich being a firefighter, we make a modest living ( statistically we make an averege of all trades peopele) Currently I make aprox. $80,000 a year, my wife does not work because she wants to raise our children. We have been living paycheck to paycheck for the last 9 years. How dare you say the city should cut my salary my family would not survive. Does a firefighter not deserve a modest lifesyle for the work that we do?

      • (Cont. from above)
        Let me tell you that being a firefigher has changed the person I am. In some ways good in and some bad do to the experinces that I have had on the job. Any firefighter reading this would know what I mean, but you my friend will never know how this job will affect not only us but our families. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and what I do and that's only due to the fact that I will never forget why I wanted to become a firefighter, and that is to help peolpe in need. That's what makes my job worth while, not the comfortable salary

        • (cont. from above)
          My truck averages approx. 15-20 calls per shift, throw in training, and in-comany inspections, and other programs into the mix. How dare you say we are not busy and don't earn our money, my day is full. Even though I think your remarks are unjust, I hope the day will never come when you will need us. If it does, we'll be there to help you. Not because we're paid to, but because that's what we're trained to do.

          Regards,
          A firefighter earning an HONEST living.

    • Mr. Taxpaying Employer, let me ask you when was the last time you looked out your office window on Christmas day? Never. How about New Years Eve, or even New Years Day? No. How about any given Sunday? Mayby.

  6. It would seem that you have just as much time on your hands as the guys at the station if you can sit and watch everything that they do.

    You want to talk about dangerous? What do you worry about in your daily office life, getting a cold if the air conditioning is to high? Getting a nasty infection from a paper cut? Please. Why don't you come out from behind the safety of your computer screen and travel to Chicago tomorrow? Maybe you could pass along your sentiments to the two widows of our 2 brothers who died fighting a fire searching for homeless people in an abandoned building the other day. Or would you like to come and speak to one of my brothers who is battling cancer and doesn't have much time left to live because of all the chemicals and other crap he's ingested working fires over his career. Maybe his soon to be widow and children and grandchildren would love to hear you tell them about how he's over paid and and does nothing at work.

    All of you people who've posted your cowardly opinions make me sick. You want to come and post an uneducated ignorant opinion, why not use that time a little more wisely and do some research on the physical effects of shift work on emergency services workers? Or the long term effects of chemical exposures to firefighters.

    No you won't do that will you? No you'll sit and complain to who ever will listen about the high priced boys club accross the street, the same one that will be there in a minute when you call 911 some day because you need them.

    Oh and if any of you would like to post an e-mail address, I'll gladly e-mail you with the funeral notification when my brother firefighter finally succomes to his cancer so you can be there after the funeral to voice your disdain for the 24 hour shift to the hundreds of firefighters and families that will be there.

    • Well I guess you could make generalisations about others.
      Me and the family have spent the last 3 generations wearing the uniform of our country. But you'll find that each and every one of us accepted the fact that we signed on voluntarily. Each of us also received an honourable discharge. The fact that some folk spit at us and talk crap is immaterial, freedom to do that is one of the things that separate us from those we joined up to fight against.
      In my day I've worked shift work as an iron worker working on a blast furnace again it was voluntary, I chose to do it. The smell of burning flesh is an uncommon thing but is a risk you accept if you want the pay.
      Last time I looked being a firefighter was also voluntary and you chose to do it. As with other city workers it was a career choice, as with service personnel it was dependent on opportunities for action. You signed on knowing that you'd have to fight fires and put your life on the line. You are paid well and the risks were well detailed up front. You don't like it then quit. You have that opportunity, those in DP don't, once war is declared you are in it for the duration.
      The number of folk I've seen off is huge, but that is not what it is about. It's about doing the job which we agreed to do until our contract is complete.
      That is your reward, good wages and benefits. You knew what you were getting into.
      Cut out the guilt trip BS a lot of us can do that but it demeans what it means to be a professional.

      • I knew all too well the dangers and responsibilities I was taking on when I applied for, tested for and eventually accepted when the position was offered to me. I also new the salary and benefits that came with the position that I accepted.

        What I do not accept is the negative attacks on my profession, my brothers and myself, from uneducated people who would appear to be miserable in their everyday lives. You said yourself you chose to do what you did and I applaud you for that, just as I have done. So does that mean that I should sit idly by with my tail between my legs when someone tells me that I don't deserve the compensation that I and my brothers before me have fought so hard for? As for the guilt trip BS, it's not a guilt trip its a reality check.

        • Any question about changes in conditions of service is a debate. Consequently there will be an opposition and a pro-group. The opposition group is not necessarily a bad-mouthing group. Every band of public servants gets questioned at one time or another about their level of recompense for doing their job. Social workers are constantly denigrated for their work, but I wouldn't do it for the earth. Does that mean they should be paid the earth and that nobody should be allowed to question if they are being paid too much or have massive holidays? No.
          Seven days on call out of every month does not seem like a full time job to many. Ok you are at the station, you have routine tasks and you could be called on anytime in that 24 hr period but it still seems a short time for a full-time salary and benefits. Compare that to a soldier on a 6 month tour of duty, 24 hours for 6 months with a brief R&R somewhere within that time. And the recompense isn't that great in comparison while the risks are much greater.
          We all chose to do what we do. Did we do it for the money or the experience or what is more likely a bit of both. Some professions are inherently more risk laden than others, but questioning how public money is spent is not a negative attack, it's a public duty.
          No the way you used the funerals of your fallen colleagues to stifle discussion was "guilt trip politics" at its worst. Most of us do not attend the funerals of any public servant killed while at work, but because we don't does not mean that it is wrong to question how public money is spent. Every death at work of a public worker, be they an electrician, firefighter or soldier is a sad sad occasion.
          And yes I would expect you to fight for what you have, that is your duty and right as well and good luck to you in that pursuit; I just think the way you went about preventing discussion was the wrong way.

          • How was my reply in any way stifling the conversation of how public money is spent? I don't see anything in the initial post discussing public money. The original post was from a disgruntled member of the public who is bashing members of my profession. I have every right in the world to voice my disdain for any statements that do not use fact as their basis. If the post had been about our compensation package and the poster used an intelligent argument I would have no problem discussing it as I have with another person who has posted on this aritcle. However that is not what happened here. The initial post that I commented on was fact less and baseless.

          • "Oh and if any of you would like to post an e-mail address, I'll gladly e-mail you with the funeral notification when my brother firefighter finally succomes to his cancer so you can be there after the funeral to voice your disdain for the 24 hour shift to the hundreds of firefighters and families that will be there."

            This is a put up or shut up notice. Any reasonable person can see that it is intended to make the other person retreat with an appeal to emotion.
            You could have detailed how your day goes, justified the work hours in terms of shown work practice performance benefits. You could have justified the money earned in terms of shortened working life due to illness or workplace injuries. You could have looked at the effects of changing systems and argued that it is just a reshuffling of personnel and would not cost more. You could have made a lot of points to clear up what was a very confused situation, but you went all captain angry and decided to use a veiled threat to stop the original complaints.
            I just don't think that that helps move the situation forward and it will alienate one more person who could have been educated as to the facts of the situation.

        • learn to spell

          • How 'bout you bring some real discussion to the table instead of picking on petty details you moron.

            Bottom line is that thanks to Human Rights and the freedom we have in this great Country, we are all able to pursue any career, lifestyle, and salary that we want. Whether you like Firefighters, and everything their job entails or not, nobody has the right to rag on them for doing what they do, or for getting paid what they do. 99% of the anti-firefighter comments on here are rooted in jealousy, bitterness, and greed. Take a look in the mirror people.

  7. Thanks itsnotahobby, u beat me to it. It’s unreal how some of the public views us. Unfortunately we are paid for protection not production. I worked the last 5 Xmas and couldn’t spend timewith my 3 young children. DId I call in sick….NO!!! worked them all and it’s an honor to serve. Spent Xmas looking at pics my wife sent of the kids opening gifts. Tried to help a vsa(dead) baby in mothers arms one Xmas. What were u doing Xmas tax payer? Eating and drinking with ur family….good I’m glad cause that’s what Xmas is all about, but don’t ever knock the FD!!!!!

  8. Can anybody tell me what's wrong with standard 8 hour shifts that pretty much everybody else works throughout life?

    I mean, it makes sense to me in that maintaining peak alertness for 8 hours shouldn't be difficult.
    It makes sense because it means more frequent shifts, thus making it more likely that in the event of a massive fire, there are less fire-fighters who've taken advantage of long time off periods to go camping or something.

    It gives the firefighters plenty of time to spend with family, and if you're worried about commute, just make sure the shifts are staggered from normal working hours so they don't have to deal with rush-hour traffic.

    • Mr Thwim,

      Having 3 or 2 shifts on duty per day versus a 24 hr shift triples the likelyhood and amount of overtime that would be billed to the city, resulting ai a new round of complaints regarding the cost of the department. In Toronto, we have a "Gentleman's agreement", with due respect to our female members, that we will change shift and relieve the outgoing crews earlier than the stated changeover time. Take my word for it that this results in almost no overtime billed to the City compared to our comerades in Police and EMS. The calls do not fall within certain windows of time, so it's more than likely that we will be active on several calls at changeover time, resulting in increased costs to the taxpayer. we also do not get the prescribed and legislated lunch and break times that shift workers are entitled to. On a busy truck over the old 4 nights, believe me when I say that you are definitely feeling less than 100% on taht last night. With the 24, you are in your own bed the next night.

      • Ah, thanks.. that makes more sense then the fellow below. However, I have to admit, I'm concerned about the 24 hour shift simply because, as they say, you hit about the 20th hour or so, and it doesn't matter how well rested you were before you started the shift, your reflexes and awareness are definitely going to be affected — more so, I'd imagine, than on hour 4 of the 5th day where you've had a break in between each day. So a fire at that point could be seriously bad news unless you've got staggered shifts going.

        Personally, I'm more concerned about the safety of you folks and your ability to respond than the cost of overtime.

    • There is a tonne of material on why an 8 hour shift doesn't work. The main reason being is the chance of exposure increases more the number of days you are at work……….in reality there is 24hrs in a day, and a fire service gives coverage for each one of these hours. So in your little world you would rather us rotate onto three different shifts to cover this 24hr period…..the studies which you clearly haven't read show that everything from sick time, to long term illness, and even something as morale is dramatically lowered in these instances. And the time home with your family would be reduced. Try and keep in mind when covering a 24/7 schedule, the dynamics are different then opening your office for the day….if it is even open everyday.

      • I was asking a simple question. If your hostility is any measure of the typical response, I find it little wonder that people think you guys are more interested in bilking the folks paying your wages than actually giving a damn. And who said anything about rotating into different shifts? Have you never heard of a steady night job? Trust me, they exist. A lot of the world is in them.

        Also, perhaps you should try to keep in mind that there are many services open 24/7, with the primary difference in those services being that the people employed in them are expected to be working their full 8 hours. Really a fire-fighters job is more like an on-call job than a regular service. And while I've done those, and they suck, you haven't presented any good reason why a regular 8 hour day would not work beyond the "rotating shift" idea, which I'll agree is the worst-case scenario. To say the chance of exposure increases the more days you're at work is nonsense. The chance of exposure increases the more hours you're at work. Whether that work is over several days or over the course of one shouldn't matter one whit so long as mathematics works.

  9. It's more like talking to a biker gang than city employees. I want value for my money. YOU WORK FOR ME, you take tax dollars home, hundreds of thousands of them, and yet you treat me, YOUR EMPLOYER, with disdain when I question your daily work habits. You want my email address? So you can terrorize me, threaten me, burn me down? You even have the gall to compare your 'missed Christmas' with all the late nights I worked holding this company together during a recession – one that didn't really affect you in your secure fear-based empire of intimidation.
    How I would love to sleep in a dorm at work, eat meals with my buddies for 7 days, and then have 21 days off to build a business!
    Go Fire Department, leave the building of the country to someone else! Cancer is right, you're a cancer on the taxpayers, with your staffing levels tied to outmoded insurance standards. Your wages should be cut by 1/3 immediately, I can see an enormous motorhome pulling into the fire station lot as I type this . . …. no surprise, it's parked next to a freshly washed Caddy Escalade. What a great system I'm supporting with my hard work!

    • If you spent ONE day walking in the shoes of a firefighter, i'm sure you would change your tune in a hurry. You chose to spend your life behind a desk pushing a pencil, there's nothing wrong with that. Firefighters have chosen to give their life for yours at any given second, no questions asked, and you should have some respect for that. Every job has its perks. Maybe if you spent more time doing your job than staring out the window envying somebody else's job, you'd be able to enjoy more of the perks your job has to offer, like being home every night, holiday, and weekend.

      Your words have absolutely no importance or relevance until you've taken the time to see what the life of a firefighter entails, and not just what you see from the confines of your depressive job.

    • Here's a thought – if your work life is such a struggle & you believe that fire fighters have such an "easy" life, then why not close/sell your business & become a fire fighter.
      The "cancer on taxpayers" are bitter ranters like yourself who lash out at others in a vain attempt to make themselves feel better about their own less-than-satisfactory lives.

    • You have no right to question staffing levels. You wouldn't know the first thing about how many of us it takes to save your life………..this will be your template until you need us, and then you will complain that we weren't able to do enough once manpower is cut by a third. Why don't you walk over to the fire house and ask them to include you in a fire attack training scenario…..no fire required. Don our gear, our breathing apparatus, then drag our fully charged hose line up a couple of flights of stairs, and on your way back down toss even the smallest firefighter over your shoulder. Aferwards imagine all of that, if you can cut it, in 600 degrees.

    • I don't understand how the bitterness you feel towards your chosen business has anything to do with the 24 hour argument. Second of all they don't work for you, you may contribute to their wages, but buying a Snikers bar from a gas station has the same effect for the employee working there, and they don't work for you either.

      Just because your a pompous ass, doesn't mean everyone else is wrong.

    • Wow what a waste of skin you are mr taxpaing employer. Hmmm I guess I don't pay taxes. I'm sure I pay more than you do since you are an"employer". Wierd that you have the kind of time to watch guys in the firehall. I do hope you never watch us work a fire at your house, pull a member from your family out of a car wreck,try to save a member of your family's life. The funny thing about firefighters, if we knew it was you, we would do our best to save you and your family. And terroize you? boy you don't know what terror means, hope you never do. I have been doing this job for over 18 yrs. I love it and no matter what people like you say, I will always show up,because I have someting you will never have… PRIDE in me and my crew.

  10. Dear taxpaying employer please share with us this magical firehall of millionaires,I would like to warn the brothers there is a peeping Tom about.Are you sure you were not confusing the motor home with a command unit? I have dealt with biker gangs before they dont even come remotley close to us.Thank you for the recession jab it was very enlightening we had no idea there was one.We do not buy the extras with your dollars.I can assure you there are far more guys that dont have side jobs than do. I dont work for you I work for thousands like you and since I pay taxes in my district I guess that makes me self employed,better talk to my accountant about that at tax time….are you taking clients on? Carry on with the diatribe because regardless of your opinion we will come put out your fire,rescue your wife(or equvilent) or child and for good measure we will get your puddycat out of a tree at your insistance.Your comment re cancer is well out of order,and it shows your true makeup.A spineless whiner who likely got picked on in high school….i so wanted to take the high road but again your comment about cancer was as low as you can get.I hope you never have to wartch a loved one go through it!!

    • Do you really want your employer to control where you are allowed to live?

      • ABSOLUTLEY NOT !!

  11. In response to Taxpaying Employer: You want "someone to explain why we have this many able bodied city workers doing nothing for so many hours every day?" You'd think you were talking about most city councillors, not firefighters.

    Your issue appears to have nothing to do with the article and the 24 hour shift. You simply resent firefighters regardless of the shift that they work. You paint us all with one brush as if we all have second jobs, fancy cars and are living high in the hog when you couldn't be further from the truth. I don't beleive it's possible to change your mind, but I will write a rebuttal.

  12. Typical day on the 24 shift where we apparently "Do Nothing"
    6:15am: Arrive 45 minutes early for 7:00 shift. Upon arrival remove the persons bunker gear you are relieving and place yours on the truck. Check your SCBA and medical equipment on the truck. The next hour is generally spent around the kitchen table enjoying coffee, reading the paper and enjoying each others conversations. However, during this time we also converse with the previous shift with work related issues involving the truck, equipment, the hall, etc.
    8:00am The next hour is spent cleaning/mopping/dusting the washrooms, floors, counters within the hall. The drivers of the truck will do a thorough inspection of the firetruck (and equipment) including an air brake test and pump test to ensure everything is working properly. Often the apparatus floors are washed and scrubbed at this time. Any fire hoses used from a previous nights fire are washed and hung to dry at his time as well.
    8-11am or 1-4pm: Training is often conducted in these timeslots. Anything from annual re-certification on CPR/Defibrilation, SCBA, new techniques/equipment, the list is endless. Although not every shift, it's more frequent than you think.

  13. Lunches and dinners are OFTEN…and let me repeat OFTEN, interupted with running medical calls, alarm calls, fires, vehicle collisions, etc. Sometimes numerous time. I'm not complaining…It's our job.
    Within the 24 hour shift we do go to sleep in the evening (just like firefighters that work the other shift do on their night shifts). However, it's not as if it's in our own warm bed at home. To wrap your head around it, think of sleeping in a hotel room and someone set the alram clock…but the kicker is they didn't tell you what time it's going to go off, or how many times. It's not uncommon to be woken up 2..3…4…plus times an evening on occasion. Not what anyone would call a good nights sleep.

  14. I'll certainly admit our job does have down time where we can sit back and relax….watch TV, exercise, perhaps work on a hobby. but we hardly spend the whole 24 hours doing this. The other 24 is often filled with making the worse possible day of someone's life just a little bit better. Sometimes it's performing CPR and actually bringing someone back to life, or perhaps cutting open a car after a high speed colision to pull someone out, maybe rescuing a person trapped in a trench, a ravine, a body of water, or it could be fighting a fire to save someone's house and cherished possessions at 2am in -23 degree weather. Perhaps you'd prefer to conduct a search and rescue in the smoke filled home with intense heat, hoping and praying you make it alive.
    Do those events occur every single shift to every single firefighter?? Of course not….BUT, those events do occur in many cities every single day. And THAT, is what we are paid for. We are paid for what we are trained, prepared and WILLING to do without question or complaint. I belong to a long honered and respected profession and am grateful that you are in a tiny minority with your sentiments.

  15. p.s. Taxpaying Employer……perhaps if you spent less time peering into the firehall across the street and more time actually working, then you wouldn't have been required to work late nights holding your company together during a recession.

  16. Mr. Taxpaying employer, I think you need to understand that we do not work for you, and you are not our employer. This is a typical CEO mindset that most white-collar, recession-causing pricks have. Keep in mind that your entire job is built around finding loopholes, tricks, and cheats to keep as much of the governments(our employer)’s money out of their hands and into the pockets of you and your clients, who you also charge large amounts of money to. Yet you have the gall to come down on hard-working, selfless individuals, who are protecting your life, property, and environment while you get rich on the backs of the taxpayers, whose books you are ‘balancing’.

    Most firefighters spend an average of 5-7 years trying to get this job, and on average invest over $20,000 each on fitness testing, aptitude testing, interviewing, training, traveling, childcare, accommodations, etc., all just for a CHANCE of being hired, and all for a job that will shorten their lifespan, disrupt their family life, and asks them to give their life if duty calls of them to do so whilst trying to save disgruntled people like yourself from a raging inferno which you caused after you had too many pops at a Christmas party, came home, and passed out on the couch after you left the stove on or forgot to put your cigarette out.

    I would never wish any of this on you, and can only hope that I live long enough to enjoy some of the fruits of my labour. If you knew what this job entailed, and the duties and responsibilities that we hold, many of which are not known to the public, you would see that we are underpaid and fighting to maintain fair and equitable compensation. As for benefits? How short-sighted and shallow are you not to recognize that we get injured daily at our job, and that it’s our bodies being sacrificed everytime someone picks up the phone and calls 911. Our departments do the best they can to provide us with the best equipment possible for us to do our job safely, but thanks to people like you who are screwing the government out of what they are truly owed, and screwing our economy by buying cheap from china, there have been budget cuts and we have been forced to do more with less, and a direct result of that is more guys getting hurt on the job, and therefore NEEDING those benefits to stay healthy and provide for their families while they are down and out.

    Tell you what, next time you have a heart attack from all that ‘stressful’ paperwork that you do, and we come and bring you back to life, and ride with you to the hospital, whilst comforting your family, we’ll send you the bill for running the call, and the medical and therapy bills that resulted from one of our guys blowing out his back while lifting your thick head off the floor and onto the stretcher after wailing on your chest doing CPR for 20 minutes straight. And since you’re a numbers guy, I can tell you that just the bill for running the call would have three, maybe four zeroes on it, and you can imagine what the medical bills would be.

    So, in conclusion, shut yer yap, and be thankful that this great government whom we work for and who you screw on a daily basis doesn’t jack your taxes up more to continue to provide you with the level of protection you have. You going to start bitching at the troops too, because they get paid to do things that you can’t tangibly see? I dare you to even try to go down that road you selfish prick. I have a strong feeling that you’re going to be needing us soon, thanks to Murphys law. We’ll see how you feel after that.

  17. I haven't met a firefighter yet who was not an immature, semi-illiterate, wannabe thug. The alleged firefighters' comments here demonstrate their typical personalities nicely.

    • Sorry, I am a fully literate mature guy.However I was a thug before becoming a firefighter…. firefighter is much better. If we are as bad as you and the previous poster claim why are we constantly the number one trusted profession?

    • You apparently haven't met too many firefighters. Why don't you head over to youtube, google, or any search engine for that reason, and look up some Line of Duty Death funeral footage, or emergency scene footage, and point out to me the immaturity that you speak of. Keep in mind that immaturity can only be measured subjectively.

      I think you may be mistaking immaturity for genuine happiness and a love for life, which most firefighters have.

      You'll also be interested to know that over 90% of firefighters hired within the last 15 years have some form of post-secondary education, most with diplomas and degrees in fields ranging from Business to Medical, Biology to Philosophy, and everything in between.

      It takes a certain personality type to be able to handle what this job throws at you. The comments by firefighters here demonstrate only one thing: That we only wish you knew what this job was really about, and that you truly understood what it takes to hop on that truck day after day.

    • "The alleged firefighters' comments here"

      You mean the ones such as those from City Employee? They seem perfectly polite and reasonable to me. So what's with the pointless ad hominem? I really don't understand all this resentment towards fire fighters that's showing up here. Even if they were the scum of the earth, which the evidence you suggest actively argues against, then don't hang around them. Even if they were, it has nothing to do with the 24 hr shift argument.

  18. How do you know there's a fireman at a party? He'll tell you.

    • you know who we are we are the ones hanging our cape at the door

    • Now that is funny and SO True! by the way I am a firefighter lol!!

  19. Well I have to give my 5 cents worth, To those of you who think the grass is greener being a firefighter have some serious issues. You think we (firefighters) have it made. I have been a firefighter for 22 years now. Wouldn't do anything else and love my job, yes I do some part time work at a local outdoor sports shop once in a while this money is needed to put my kids though university I would love to make 100g's I don't know what department that is but sign me up.. Lets look at government workers most have cars to take home run around doing personal things and taking the vehicle home while us firefighters have to drive our own cars to and from work.

    • http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/highlight/x
      "Officials seek answers – It is no wonder that the firefighter job that O'Brien has been trying to secure since August 2009 is such a coveted position. Besides the glory of saving people for a living, firefighters enjoy yearly compensation that last year ranged from $57,000 to $96,000, and the job security that comes with union membership."

      • Hate to break it to you, but $75,000-$80,000/yr (avg. 1st Class FF wage), really isn't a whole lot these days anymore. Have you looked at the cost of living and housing in places like Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver lately?

        Also, I urge you to try to find a single firefighter who is doing what they do for the "glory of saving people". I guarantee you will not find a single person who got into this career for that reason.

  20. How many (day workers) have missed being home with there families on holiday's Christmas, New Years, Easter, Labour day, ALL the holidays due to YOU working. NOT MANY if ANY at all. While us firefighters, are on duty missing out on family reunions and family time over the holidays. I have personally missed some of my kid's school plays when they were younger because I could not leave the station….don't see any government or private sector employees missing their kids school functions. What about kids calling you at work from school telling you they are sick, YOU leave work go pick them up and some stay home with them, While most of us firefighters have to call family members or a friend to do it because we can not just leave the station, we must have someone cover for us…we start calling co-works trying to find someone sometimes you do and sometimes you don't…..

  21. wow!!! semi-illiterate must mean we can barely read your civic address when we are called……if it wasn't for the smoke we'd be lost for sure moron.

  22. How is it that fire fighters continue to sleep at night, when other emergency services like police & nurses are awake and working?
    Security, roadworks and many other service personnel remain awake all night WORKING, rather than being paid to sleep.
    Rather that looking at changing fireman shifting patterns, shouldn't we be looking for some USEFUL WORK they could be doing when they're not spraying water on something?
    Modern cities are big, busy places: there must be all kinds of work that needs to be done when there's nothing burning.
    As for lunch & dinner, how come they don't 'brown bag' it like the rest of us?

    • I think you're forgetting the basic function of the Fire Department – to come help you IMMEDIATELY when life, property, or the environment are in danger. We are priviliged to live in a country where there are thousands of different career paths for us to choose, and endless services for us to benefit from. Questions like yours have been asked countless times before, and once common sense kicks in, you'll realize how foolish you sound.

      The police deparment is a busy gig, and requires a completely different skillset than firefighting, nursing, roadworks, etc.(using your examples). A police officer is required to stay awake their entire shift because they are out on patrol, providing PROACTIVE as well as REACTIVE protection to the community. Pretty hard for a cop to catch a speeder or pull over a drunk driver if he's sleeping, eh? They work shorter shifts (usually 8 hours), which is why there is little need for them to sleep.

    • Fire stations are located at strategic locations in the city so that a fire crew can respond to your emergency within a few minutes at any given time. The fire department is largely a REACTIVE service(Fire Prevention division is a different story, and works straght days). They do not know about a situation until it has already happened, and they can't exactly 'patrol' for fires or medical emergencies.

      Your comment regarding "useful work" is simply laughable. Define "useful work". When you get t-boned by a drunk driver and both of your legs are crushed beyond repair, and you're pinned in your vehicle, just hold on, we have to finish putting a coat of paint on this here fire-hydrant, then pick-up some garbage in the park before we come get you out of that car….. geez.

    • Firefighters are expected to maintian a constant state of readiness, and best accomplish this by maintaining proper nutrition, fitness, and rest levels. During a shift, the adrenalin associated with a call alone has a huge affect on a firefighter, and the complexity of incidents that they respond to simply cannot be compared to any other job in the world. When they are not responding to a call, the best thing for them to do is try to relax, drink lots of water, and keep themselves properly fed, which best prepares them for the next call. This is how firefighting has been done since firefighting began. Sleeping on shift is not a new idea, and is not unique to any shift pattern. The job description of a firefighter really hasn't changed all that much, and there are good reasons for that.

    • Why don't we 'Brown Bag' it like the rest of you? You'd be surprised to know that many guys do bring in their own lunch in brown bags, tupperware, ziploc bags, and juiceboxes "just like the rest of you". Other guys choose to pitch in a few bucks, do some groceries, and cook a good healthy meal. It's part of the firefighting lifestyle, and sharing meals together is all part of the team-building atmosphere that is absolutely necessary in the fire department, as it is in any other corporation. There isn't a person on this planet who could argue the fact that teamwork, trust, and camraderie make for safe, efficient, and productive workplaces. You'd better hope that the team of guys that shows up to cut you out of your car is on their A-game.

    • I think the root behind all of the negative comments being made about firefigters and other public servants is that the naysayers are selfish, envious, and aren't happy with their current state of life. We all had the choice to pursue a career, chase our dreams, make something of ourselves, and reach for the top. Firefighters all have their reasons for choosing this career, but at the end of the day, it's a job that anybody could have worked towards, and if you sold yourself out and "settled" for an easy job, or something that required little education or effort, than that's your problem. If you're not happy with the amount of money you're making – find another job that will give you what you want. If you think you have the cajones to do what a firefighter does, and think it's a dream job, then get in line and apply.

    • You can't blame firefighters for doing what they're asked, or accepting the job that they've been offered. You all chose the professions that you're in, as did we. So quit your whining, finger-pointing, and uneducated accusations and get on with your life. I don't hear you complaining how a pro sports athlete makes millions of dollars a year….. Why pick on a firefighter?

    • In our department we are doing useful work when "not spraying water". This includes daily training, high occupancy building familiarization tours, inspecting buildings for fire code violations, as well as providing public education programs. A lot of people are uninformed as to what services the fire department actually provides. I constantly meet people who are unaware that firefighters respond to medical emergencies in addition to motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material emergencies, and rescue situations.

    • Paramedics sleep at night AND they have lovely long naps in the daytime refuse to do any station maintainance.I know that not all paramedic services run calls all day and night,there are still many places that are slow enough to carry on that practice…which is not condoned by MGT,the daytime that is.Nurse will all take turns going for a nap on nights sloww night some can get up to 2 hours,again not permitted by the employer,coppers do too they are just more crafty about it. At least we have permission and rules ast o when we can sleep.Daytime is not one of them.

      Dont kid yourself there are plenty of city workers everywhere that get a good sleep at work.Whis that everyone thinks we are the only ones?

  23. Well Ive been on Hamilton FD for close to 30 yrs … we've buried 3 Active Ham Fire guys since September 2010 , all under 55 ..
    Im sure these Ham Fire guys widows … would disagree with most of you ,,,, Hamilton Generals Burn Unit was completely built and paid for by Hamilton Fire Guys doing Toll Plazas …
    We protect lives and property and also assist the community in many fund raising events …
    If you have never stepped foot in a firehall .. then you cant speak up …

    • m sure these Ham Fire guys widows … would disagree with most of you

      ***

      Quite possibly. But what arguments would they use?

  24. You wil find the same situation in most police departments. No one seems to make enough money or maybe its just the boredom created by the amount of time off. The fire fighters in our community were deeply involved in many local activities and sports and would never refuse a challenge to raise money for some sort of charity. The shifts comprised of 4 day shifts followed by 4 days off then 4 night shifts followed by 4 days off and the cycle continued that averaged 42 hrs per week. This ystem indicates that the firefighter worked 1/2 of a year and was off for 1/2 of the year. A fire fighter wil 5 weeks holidays and 11 lieu days could get an addtional 83 days off depending on how those holidays and lieu days are spread out.
    Those are the good parts of the job which comes with tension, pressure, disease and recognition only when flames are shooting out the top of a large building. All this time off and part time work did not help the fire fighters that were killed last week in Chicago.
    Let them do their job. They do it well and that is all that matters.

  25. I am interested in the merged paramedic fire/fighting service and wonder if it could be adapted elsewhere.

    I can certainly see why a firefighter might wish to adopt a 24 hour schedule, but at the same time I would be concerned if someone awake for 22 hours was responding to a burning house.

    While commute times are unfortunate, they are faced by any shiftworker, anywhere.

    Lastly, I am pleased to see so many firefighers with first hand knowledge of the situation in the comments, but I wish they would keep their replies more on topic. I am open to convincing about why the 24 shifts are better from an objective point of view, but pointing to the acknowledged dangers of the job isn't exactly making the case.

  26. You should ask the two firefighters at the latest fire in Toronto who fell through the floor, trapped! Or maybe before speaking, you may want to look into line of duty deaths in Canada and the USA. (You will fall off your chair.)

    It makes me sick listening the petty nature of these people. (ie the above accountant). These men and women put there lives on the line every day! Who are these petty people going to call when they have a love one trapped in a burning building or trapped in a auto collision when its -20.

    Enough said!

  27. For all of you complainers out there….I would like you to try doing the job of a firefighter for one day and then come back and comment. My husband is a firefighter and let me let you he has worked harder than any other full time 9-5 job he has worked in the past.
    Firefighters can be taken for granted until you need one. What if your child (or you for that matter) was in a burning building and a firefighter saved his (or your) life…would you come back with the same ignorant comments. I think probably not.

    • I am a senior officer with the FD and have 20yrs on the job. A firefighters off time is their own and how they chose to spend it is up to them. We are on the 24 and I notice that my crew is more rested and ready to go when the alarm rings. The debate is not about our work conditions it is about our shift and it works very well. There are not those successive days and the fatigue factor is diminished. The fact of the matter is you want the best prepared FF for your needs and the 24 helps to provide that FF. So cut the BS and concentrate on the issue.

  28. It's as ridiculous as office workers demanding two-day-twenty-four hour working schedules a week.

  29. Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with fire hoses. Whose gonna do it? You? You, "taxpaying employer"? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for your tax dollars, and you curse the firefighters. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That your money that was used to pay my salary, while tragic, probably saved a few cat's lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you dont talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent working part-time, sleeping on the job, playing poker and watching movies. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the fire protection I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a hose, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

    • A few good men, very nice. As a firefighter and former infantry soldier with the PPCLI and 2 UN tours under my belt. The people who like to disrespect those in uniform are normally jealous of what everyone else has and what they are doing. They should look in the mirror and be thankful that these men and women would help them out in any time of need regardless of what stupidity led them into trouble in the first place. It's the cost of doing business in a free society.

  30. Im not in any emergency services, but I was under the understanding that Paramedics actually treated the patients. Do firemen actually save lives and have extensive medical training?

    • Yes Grocery Bagger, Firefighters are highly trained medical professionals and do save lives. Just look at the stats. How many times do the Fire Department make it to these medical calls before ambulance and administer Oxygen. I mean do you know how many minutes of training it took to learn how to use a Non Rebreather Mask? Without the FD rolling on all these medicals, there would be chaos. There wouldn't be enough run numbers for the FD to justify their current staff levels, Taxes would be saved, more funding would go to the ambulance services. Just look at all the travesty that would happen!

  31. Hillarious! Fire Fighting is not what it used to be. Fire prevention has decreased call volume drastically. So lets take over EMS….that way they won't cut us….. Wow. How bout you realize that your hose monkey circus like boys club is coming to an end. LONG LIVE THE SPRINKLER!!!!!

    • Its too bad we have idiots on here that dont have a clue if they are punched or bored.

  32. A Firefighters job is not for everyone. Unfortunatly, the cities are being forced by the provincial govt to hire many who cannot do the job. The standards have been lowered quite a bit so that these other representatives of the community can meet the standards. If one is to look south of the border, its not the same. Lately it has become common place for many to slag the Firefighters because they sleep while on duty. Well this isnt something new. The fact is that it saves the cities a lot of money. If they were not allowed to sleep, then there would be "normal" 8 hours shifts which would mean hiring more firefighters. Firefighters in cities that do not have the 24 hours shift should be happy that they dont. Many are looking to move to that shift but more stats are showing that the 24 hours shift is less healthy than many have been lead to believe

    • . Linda Glazner who was hired by the city of Toronto to do a study prior to and during the trial period for the Toronto Fire Department going on the 24 hours shift is biased and is being hired by different deptartments to show that the 24 hours shift is a healthier one when it is not. Those deptartments that are looking to go to a 24 hours shift should think twice and do their du diligence before voting for something that will take years off of your life on top of the cancers that already reduce the life expectancy of firefighters. The grass always seems brighter on the other side.

  33. Hey accountant boy, maybe the firefighters know how to manage their money better than you! If you're nice then maybe they will share some of their wealth management tips pro bono.

  34. Why 24 hour shifts? Because it actually SAVES tax dollars. If we worked 8 hour shifts, like some have suggested, more firefighters would be needed to cover all the extra shifts.

    Most depts. have 4 platoons. It's easy with 24 hour shifts, or 10/14 hour shifts to have a 4 platoon rotation. Switching to 8 hour shifts would blow through 3 platoons in one day, after 5 days (monday-friday) those 3 platoons have worked their 40 hours. Now you've got 1 platoon left to cover 48 hours, the weekend, how are they going to work 48 hours straight? So MORE firefighters will need to be hired, MORE benefits will need to be paid out, MORE vacation time will need to be given.

    Some people might not like us working 24 hour shifts, but it is the cheapest and most cost effective way to provide this vital service.

  35. when was the last time you cracked someones ribs doing cpr, removed a person with a gunshotwound to the head, saw the last breaths of a 20 year old in a car accident, gone into feces and pee infested apartment to provide cpr, picked someone off the ceiling who has hung themselves, seen a fully cooked human, gone into a housefire completly blind not knowing if your coming out again to see your family, seen someone crushed by a street car and pulled the jumbled mess of bones out from underneath, have a building explode right in front of you and escape by the slightest of margins, get your self exposed to a variety of chemicals over your career with known longterm effects (cancer),seen a subway jumper without their head, picked up bodyparts at a go train accident, have someone throw up on you doing cpr, seen a face rotted black with maggots coming out of their eyes…….etc etc……firefighters do not live normal lives………make of that what you will, enough said.

  36. You could argue that on an a most day basis, firefighters do get paid for more than they should for what they do. But then I would argue this, ONCE…..at least ONCE a year and let's really think about this. This number is much higher than ONE. I do something that should pay ALL my salary in one single day if not one single hour.

    I go into a fire, gritting my teeth because the skin on the back of my neck is burning. I do this because there is a report that someone "may" be inside.

    I cut a 7 year old girl out of a car who is screaming, not because both her legs are broke, but because her mother is dead beside her in the front seat.

    I bring "the accountant" back to life with CPR at 4am in the morning while just before yes I could have been getting paid to sleep.

    How much are these scenarios worth to you? How much would you pay for your life? How much would you pay not to see some of these quite graphic and disturbing things.

  37. Way off the 24 hr topic I know. (which I am completely for) I just really get offended when people like the "accountant" knock the FD.

    Note to the accountant, I want you to really picture some of those calls. I mean REALLY picture them….Are they in your head? Now actually imagine that you're there.

  38. No doubt about it….there are good days and bad days for being a firefighter. People who don't "really" know the profession can get really jealous. People are ignorant if they don't research before making uneducated comments. If you are envious of a firefighter job, I suggest you change your career path and sign up. Go do the training for a rewarding career. If firefighting is not for you I suggest you honor the people that do the job. I have the greatest respect for all emergency personnel and glad to know they are there in the time of need.

    24 hour shift is ideal for slower halls but can be taxing on busier halls. Firefighters need to look at providing the best service to their community and employees and wage a decision from there. Until you research the point extensively, please don't post a useless comment.

  39. Believe me brother when I tell you that the 24 hour shift will kill you more than the shift you are now on.

  40. I have been on the job for twenty five years in Toronto. When the 24 shift was proposed, I was dead set against it. However, after working it for one month I was sold on it. Compared to the the 10 and 14 shift the 24 is superior for my health and family life. The old 14 hour night shifts were the real killer (54 hours in 4 nights) and the 72 hour split shift was ridiculous (six days). As a veteren firefighter, I certainly would not want to regress back to the old shift. Sure the 24 can be a tough go, but resting at home for the next two days is therapuetic and beneficial. The 24 is hands down the superior way to go.