Video: Worst Fire Department in the United States?

This article is also found at Daily Fire Fix

Probably Not.


Daily Fire Fix ran across this video with the interesting title and had to see what was going on.  It’s actually a compilation of videos of the Grant’s Pass Rural Fire Department in Josephine County Oregon which is in southwest OR along I-5 and the California border. 

Grant’s Pass Rural Fire Department is one of three private fire departments competing for fire protection “contracts” for properties in the county. See if you share the myriad of emotions that others have when you see these “firefighters” in action at a residential structure fire.

One you are past the “Oh my God’s” and the “What the &%^#’s”, I’d like to challenge you to watch it a second time.  Only this time, I want you to ask yourself, “if I’m watching this fire department floundering on video, how many other fire departments in the United States operate in similar ways, with no command structure, old equipment, no PPE, no money, and no clue?” 

My guess is that there are quite a few.

Now, let’s take this a step further.

I’d like to pose a challenge to you, the firefighter:  Put yourself into each of the following roles and think about what actions you would take based solely upon the information in the videos and what I have provided you in this article.

  1. You have just been appointed as fire chief of the GPVF and you have just seen this video.
  2. You are the fire chief of the Rural/Metro Fire Department, a neighboring combination department and you have just seen this video..
  3. You are a resident considering with which department to contract your fire protection services: GPVFD at a very, very low cost (45 cents per thousand) , GPFR at a cost five times that of GPVFD, or elect to opt out entirely from any fire contract and you have just seen this video.

If you’d like to, leave a brief comment to this article, or call in and leave a voicemail with your input.  I’ll report back later here on Daily Fire Fix with your ideas.

It's easy to identify the problems.  Got any solutions?  888-887-8718

Stay stoked!





  • watcher362 says:

    I understand that this is a private FD so it raises so many other issues, but on the other hand there are a lot of little departments around the country that operate like this. Each one may have its own special situations, but it almost always comes down to two basic issues: 1. Funding  2. Leadership.
    In both cases it falls on the shoulder of the elected officals. They can pass laws that provide Fire protection but they have to make sure they can secure a funding source. Which in turn also places the responsibility on the population that votes it those areas. We are all so quick to lay blame on elected officals but refuse to stand up.

    If the residents in this area are happy with type of fire protection then let it be, if not they need to stand up and be heard. They have to be willing to pay the taxes that fund proper fire protection.

    • John says:

      Thanks for taking the time to reply.  I agree with every word you say.  We are beginning to see the results of our investments (or lack of) in our locally-delivered emergency services.  Should we be surprised at their quality? 

  • Mick Mayers says:

    Well, that was certainly interesting.  I’ll answer question number one for you quickly: Punt.

    • John says:

      Not surprisingly, your punt was blocked.  Now what?  Mick, is this a group which can be built up or are we just spinning our wheels?

  • guest says:


    Good thing we’re wearing traffic vests and construction hats on a structure fire.

  • Hilinda says:

    SO many issues.
    First, I want to know why this department is in the shape it’s in.
    Is it a lack of leadership? Is there little training available- or do the members not take advantage of what’s there? Why does this department exist? Why does anyone contract with them? Why do they have the quality of equipment that they have- no funds, or misuse of funds? What is going on behind and underneath what we see in the video?
    Unfortunately, the general public seems unaware of much of anything about the fire service. They don’t know what is high quality coverage, and what is not. There are people who would watch that video and say “the fire dept did the best they could, the heroes, they’re only volunteers…etc” and make every possible excuse.
    The quality of a fire department goes well beyond the age of the equipment. Without good leadership, not much else will be any good, either. If the “leadership” does not value training, neither will the members.
    To attempt to answer your questions:
    1. If I was the newly-appointed chief, I wouldn’t need to see the video to know we’re in trouble. It would be obvious in everything that the department does. We need help, from somewhere. If we can’t afford to bring in good instructors, I’d talk to nearby departments to see if we can train with them. I know the video says that the departments don’t work together, and I can well understand why someone who knows how things should be would be reluctant to work with this group, but I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, I’d be out there building as many bridges as I could. I’d go to as much training as I could, and encourage my crew to come with me. I’d talk to them about how they view the department, and show them examples of well trained departments. If they WANT to be better, we can get there. If they don’t, if they are satisfied with the status quo, they need to find someplace else to be, and something else to do. I’d rather have a few people who want to do whatever is necessary to do the job, than a bunch of people who don’t care enough to learn what they need to learn, and do what they need to do. It’s better to have a few good people, than a lot of people you can’t count on. I would make this clear to any neighboring chief I was hoping to work with.
    Is this group salvageable? I can’t tell from the video. A lot depends on why they are the way they are, whose lead they are following, and whether or not they can recognize the situation they are in and want to change it. It can be tremendously frustrating to be a willing worker in an organization that values cronyism more than hard work, and if that is the situation some of the department members are in, they may be more than happy to work towards change. I’m not holding my breath, though. If I had to guess, it would be that the addition of a good leader would cause most of the department to quit, and I’d be recruiting and building it up from only a handful of people.
    2. If I was the neighboring chief, first, I’d be thrilled that the department just got that newly appointed chief, because clearly, the previous one wasn’t doing the job. Since most rural departments these days need mutual aid agreements to get the job done, I know what we need is for this dept to get up to speed, and I’d want to help and encourage them to do that. At the very least, I wouldn’t want them endangering my people if we were on a scene together! The first thing I’d do is invite them to training- and then see who shows up. I can work with people who want to work, even if their skill level is low to start out. Once I know who, specifically, in that department wants to BE a firefighter, rather than pretend, I’d have a better idea of how to work with them- and who I’d be willing to work with. I would not want anything to do with anyone I had never seen train.
    3. If I was a homeowner… I’d probably have no idea how to evaluate what I saw. I wouldn’t even know what I needed to know, or what I needed to ask- or even that the different fire departments aren’t connected to each other. I’d probably contract with whichever one the previous homeowner contracted with.
    If I found out that there IS a considerable difference- and I’d probably find that out the hard way- I’d be pissed off.
    If I were myself, with the knowledge I have, and looking to buy a home in that area, I’d be willing to pay a lot more for better fire protection. It’s like insurance. Having had a home fire myself, I know that the cost of a fire is tremendous, and much more than any insurance payments or taxes I’ve ever seen. I would not buy a home in a place that had a poorly trained, poorly led fire department.

  • Zeener1986 says:

    training and team work need to be forced there or some one will get killed either in the fire or fighting the fire!!

  • Courtney Ellis says:

    Given the opportunity these folks would take training anyway they could get it.  I say if there are any larger fire departments in the vicinity; maybe they should come together and give a hand in training them.  You’d be surprised with what you get!!

  • Retired says:

    Alabama passed a Minimum Standards law back in the 70’s. All FD’s both paid and volunteer must have training by Certified Instructors. Maybe Oregon needs to look into that. It will save injuries, deaths and property.

  • says:

    Ok, the review of the film showed many problems, but also
    showed that certain question must be asked.

    1 – to solve the problem, one must ask what is the Grant’s
    Pass Rural Fire Department budget, and its balance sheet.

    2- The department is a corporation, it has a board of
    directors, these basic questions then becomes – does it have the money to fix
    the problems. If not then its time to close up shop, turn over the contract to
    the two other departments.

    3- If there is money, then the first item becomes a training
    issue, in doing so you will setup a command structure, and an incident command
    system. The company will need to hire a person who will be willing to be the
    fire chief, the training officer, and the record officer. The corporate will
    have to be able to fill in for all of the budget related items. The person
    hired will not have the time. To fill in at that spot

    You will have to use existing employees first, in the
    training, each employee will be reevaluated. Those that do not meet basic NFPA
    standard will be replaced.

    4- The corporate board will also have to purchase new
    equipment, this does not mean brand new, but decent used equipment, everything
    from new fire trucks, to personal protection. In the film, I did not see one
    SCBA in use.

    5- Most important, a safety policy must be implemented, this
    will be started with the necessary training needed.


    This is just some of the basics, everything here comes down
    to a money issue, if the corporation has no money to invest in this fire
    department, again then close it down, give everything over to the volunteer
    fire department. They will have to meet the NFPA standards to VFD’s. From what
    I can see in the film, the paid department is not meeting any type of NFPA

  • Randy Allard says:

    there are more of these departments out there than you will ever know or see on youtube

  • Xterrasaint says:

     I am amazed. Not so much at the video, but by the title of the video and of the “hater” comments the people are posting. This is an example of how LEADERSHIP has failed the fire department. I don’t just mean the leadership of the fire department, but leadership from the community as well. Taxpayers MUST realize that without funding then emergency services will suffer. When there is not support from the community then the emergency agencies cannot provide an adequate service. Say what you want…I for one applaud the individuals on these departments ( on the operations side) for trying to get the job done. Even though it is not being done right, they are still making the attempt. EVERY FIRE DEPARTMENT IN THE WORLD faces opposition when it comes time to pay the bills. For equipment, training and staffing. Now more than ever. Most of you reading this are my friends and brother firefighters.For all of those of you reading my post, ask yourself this question. Would your department function any better than this one if leadership had failed you this badly? Almost all of us have had YEARS of ADVANCED TRAINING. So much so, that most of us would choose not to be part of this kind of “madness”. In most departments that I have been part of, it has always been the operations level folks that get the job done, while leadership is floundering, and sinking into the proverbial quicksand. The bottom line is this: There is a need. When people call out for help, the fire department responds. Of course, we always try to do it right. It doesn’t always go according to plan. I have NEVER seen an emergency scene where everything has gone right, or been done “by the book”. The problem with this department is, there is no book. Bear in mind that 100 years ago, volunteer fire departments in the US were in no better shape. Many fire brigades were funded solely by it’s members, were understaffed, and had shoddy equipment. Perhaps this area of the country needs to re-evaluate how to fix this problem at its source. Additionally, these folks could use some help from other departments in the form of equipment ( PPE and apparatus) donations of unused or retired gear. There are so many departments that are more fortunate than this one. Why let this stuff go to waste when it can be useful again. To close this; I don’t know the correct answer. I seldom do. But, instead of bashing these folks, step up and help to support them.

  • Rob Pendle says:

    Wow.  I’ve worked on small departments with no money.  At least the people have heart.  With that and some leadership, things can be improved.  First, I would get a command structure in place and concurrently get some training going. 
    Resources and capabilities need to be scrutinized as well as sources of income existing and potential.  Start writing grants…lots of them…every single one that can be found.  We got a grant once by simply stating the condition of our gear vs the quality of our training: we trained hard with current and new techniques, but our PPE’s were so old, we were actually doing field repairs on scene.
    Some kind of mutual aid agreement.contract needs to be explored from what I can see; simply from the lack of equipment.
    I cannot say more or less because I do not know any more than what I saw: a department of good-intentioned, brave folks struggling with a very difficult scene, secondary and tertiary hazards as well as a total lack of required PPE and gear and an apparent lack of training/command support.
    As a retied ISO, if I lived in the area, I would be more than happy to help out.  Unfortunately, I live a couple states away. 

    Perhaps, we as a group of brother firefighters can pool together some intellectual resources to help these folks on an advisory/consultant basis.

    I’d be happy to do so at any rate. If anyone decides to try to help and wants to, feel free to contact me via

  • WAHEID says:

    The video was, we hope, an extreme example. But how many built-up areas of the country don’t have hydrants because the residents are unwilling to pay for them? How many FD’s are cutting back on apparatus purchase and maintenance, communications equipment, PPE, training, overtime, etc. because elected officials can’t — or won’t — find the necessary funds. Truth is: you can’t have a champagne class FD with a beer budget.

  • Baddog78 says:

    This in nothing new I am on two small departments one with only 6 members and equipment from 1971 amd no money to operate grants only go so far and no tax base to pull from all repairs and upkeep is out of pocket the county that i live in is wanting to close this department and let one that is over 20min away take the area. The other department is larger but money is not there the bigger departments in the area want to take this one over too but only to get the tax money thay dont seem to care about responce time or public saftey I do this job to help people and save lives not for the newest truck in the shed or or brightest lights on the truck I think that there are departments out there that have lost sight of whats important and we are all one big famly we are brothers we should be helping each other not pointing out the faults and failers of others we all need to help sacrefise is what we do so to all the volunteer firefighters that dont get payed when the call goes out dont give up remember you are not alone there are more of us out there than you know and if we dont show up who will

  • I’m not a professional FF, but I have served as a volunteer. If there are other agencies in the area (The video showed their “competition”) why is this department up and running? With the old equipment and lack of PPE and training, this is a department that is one major disaster away from…well, disaster. I can understand that you train with what you have, but at the same time they need to understand that they cannot run a “family owned” fire department when they cannot afford the equipment or training necessary to properly run it. I’m not here to bash on the men and women with this agency, but maybe it’s time that they hang it up and let someone with better equipment and training take over the fire protection. I’m concerned for the safety of the crew working there. Is the family running this agency because they care about the community? Or are they treating it like a business where they can make money? Fires are pretty rare. Bill them for protection services they may never use and collect the checks? It’s just terrifying and the risk of loos of life for the firefighters in that video was unbelievable.

  • Taillonmario says:

    40 years ago you put men on the moon, and today you can not afford a resonable fire departement…take care of your economy or you also will have lost the cold war…

  • Chefbeth12 says:

    Grant’s Pass Rural Fire Department should not be allowed to have contracts with anyone. Nobody but an idiot would have sent away the other fire dept when they have run out of water! If I were that home/property owner I’d be beyond pissed!!!!!

  • Jamiehall4226 says:

    From what I seen in the video I would say they are lacking training. I was Fire Chief in Missouri and trust my we did not get along with a neighboring fire district, but we put that aside to provide the best possible service. We would never turn away an agency helping us (personal differences must be set aside.)
    I am moving to seaside Oregon in two weeks I would be willing to try to help them out go down on a weekend and get some training going. Also if they would contact Fire Departments in CA alot of times they will give used equipment away. They gave our department bunker gear and helmets. Get the community involved chili supper, just fund raising in general. Get a good positive image going.

    If anyone else is trying to help them out contact me and I will see what I can do

  • Shawley93 says:

    I am a FF/EMT/BVRT in Pennsylvania. I am currently an active member of the Saltlick Township VFD. To be honest, I think people need to think a little different about the fire department in general. The people we help everyday whine and complain that the sirens are to loud, or the lights are to bright, or we aren’t fast enough. They need to realize that those lights and sirens are for theirs and our protection, and that we have lives also. But, on a different note, this company is obviously having financial difficulty, and cannot get help from their mutual aid companies most of the time. People need to realize that they are doing the best they can with what they have. When a crew pulls on scene of an incident the lives of the crew and the individual come above all. If we cannot save your home, you better believe we will do what we can with what we have to save as much as possible. These guys aren’t the greatest company, but neither is any other company. They are doing what they can with what they have. Nobody should have the right to bash another company because of their methods of putting a fire out or rescuing a person from a dangerous situation. Honestly, I commend these brothers and sisters for trying their best, they need all the support they can get.

  • Canada Son says:

    I have been a Fireman for 25 years and currently hold the rank of Captain. My heart goes out to small Departments like these because they truly do wish to do a good job, but lack training, funding and apparent leadership. Again, one could pick apart their attack, safety issues and the like, but it would serve them better if other Departments, even those in completly different areas, could provide them with the tools they need to improve. I know it may seem far fetched, but if professionals and volunteers from active departments could pull together for these smaller groups, we wouldn’t be considering who was the worst, but rather, who is MOST IMPROVED. Remember friends, lives, not reputations depend on it.
    -Captain Mike McAllister
    Washington State

  • lulzfunny says:

    To all of you with sympothy for Grants Pass Rural, It is a FOR PROFIT family owned department competing with the 2 other Contracted departments in the area, Clearly GPRural turned away the help from Rural Metro because they are a competing contract dept, GPRural has no intention of using Mutual aid, They are a family who just wants money. The 2 other contract departments actually do work together with Mutual aid situations. So yes there are volly depts that run like this, THEY deserve the help/support. I refuse to stand behind any FOR PROFIT dept that is FAMILY OWNED and WONT accept Mutual Aid when its offered. They put them selfs in this predicament.

    • Andrew Sutherland says:

      Have used the video as a part of “this is what happens if you don’t train..don;t follow SOP’s..”basically everything that is wrong.Shame you guys dont have what we have.. ’state supported, state backed cohesive firefighting. It is down to having one or two state funded organisations providing the fire fighting.  My neighbouring brigade is part of the same organisation. Same equipment, same funding, same SOPS. What I saw on this video, and how it has been explained to something we had over a lifetime ago. You just wouldn’t see it.

  • Phil Miller says:

    Ughh, has OSHA seen this video. They would be shut down and fined to where they would not be part of the “competition”. competition should not even exist in any dept. vocabulary when ti comes to being on the scene to a fire. OSHA does NOT investigate a scene of a fire. They WILL investigate the training logs, FIT programs , equipment certifications and a departments’ Operating procedures. They will levy big fines if a department is not compliant and is really out of touch. This Department is a risk to the few who are trying to serve it it should be put out of business and the “family” owners should be tarred and feathered in the center of town. I have worked for a “family” EMS service. Any EMS/Fire service that would endanger it’s employees and customers for a buck, deserves a special place in hell.

  • Steve Vest says:

    I personally liked the video. This is a prime example of great cost cutting measures in our country today. Just to point out a few of the highlights in this video, 1. The young fellow looking at the camera all the time (‘ I wonder if someone will make a movie out of this”?) 2. The girl (sister?) telling the two younger guys “Get your ass over there and help your daddy”. 3. The white helmet showing up ” Dammit Bobby”! They have better firefighters in Mexico than these are. I guess the guy who’s house this is wishes he had took the $39.95 per month plan instead of the $19.95 plan. The higher plan included extra water. I think that this might be part of the “Obama Plan” for these United States. If so, I recommend to all to put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye. If this is what these people are getting from a private service, that charges them for this service, I believe that I would ask for my money back. Why? Cause nothing from nothing leaves NOTHING! Please send more of these videos. I had rather watch this than Lizard Lick Towing.

  • I did a web search and found a link to an article by a local tv station KDRV that stated Grants Pass Rural FD went out of business in October of 2012. It also spoke about forming a public fire district to better serve and protect ALL of the residents in this rural area.

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