Volunteer firefighters are the backbone of the firefighting industry, and it is evident from the statistics of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which states that approximately 70% of the firefighters in the United States serve in a volunteer role, and becoming a volunteer firefighter is a big commitment.
The lives of volunteer firefighters are gratifying as they get an opportunity to contribute to society, but at the same time, it’s challenging as well. Though they have to serve the minimum required hours, these hours are decided by the fire department based on emergencies. They can be called out during weekends, holidays, and at any time of the day or night. Sometimes, these professionals have to spend an extended period in inclement weather. While working during emergencies, they perform physically exhausting activities too.
Want to know other aspects of becoming a volunteer firefighter? Read on!
How to Join Volunteer Fire Department?
1. Touch Base with your Local Fire Department
Each state in the United States has its fire department, but all fire departments may not necessarily have their website. You can also visit the nearest fire station or the National Volunteer Firefighter Council and put across your interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter. If the fire department of your state has its website, spend some time in searching for addresses and finding email contacts on the internet, call them or write an email expressing your interest in volunteer firefighting. While contacting the fire department, ensure that you call on the non-emergency number because the emergency number is generally reserved for fires. A non-urgent call would not be appreciated on that number.
2. Enquire if the Fire Department has Vacancy
Not all fire stations/departments have the vacancy for volunteer firefighters. Therefore, ask if they have firefighting roles. If there is no vacancy, enquire if they have any waiting list. You can ask them to contact you when they need volunteer firefighters.
3. Meet All the Requirements and Apply
Each fire department has its own set of requirements that every aspirant needs to fulfill. Check your local fire station requirements and apply by filling out their application form if you fit in their criteria.
4. Clear the Interview
The fire station takes some time to review your application. If your application gets accepted, you will be called for an interview. If you clear the interview, you will have to pass a physical exam to appear for training.
How Long is Volunteer Firefighter Training?
All volunteer firefighters are supposed to complete a minimum of 110 hours of training from a program accredited by the National Fire Protection Association. You can take up additional training if you want to stay updated with the latest technologies.
Volunteer Firefighter Requirements
Below are some basic requirements that aspirants must fulfill to become a volunteer firefighter:
- The age of the aspirant must not be less than 18 years
- The candidate should hold a high school diploma or equivalent
- Pass background checks, drug screenings, physical and written examination
- The candidate must have a valid driver’s license
- Some fire agencies require aspirants to have EMT certification
- Strong physical stamina is another essential requisite
- Complete at least 110 hours of firefighting training from the NFPA certified program
- Strong decision making
- Problem solving
- Interpersonal skills
- Analytical skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Emotional stability
- Team player
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Integrity and tolerance
Volunteer Firefighter Training
Newly recruited volunteer firefighters undergo training sessions conducted by the fire department. The training program introduces you with the in and outs of becoming a firefighter and also pushes you physically and mentally.
The training program consists of in-class instructions and practical application. During training, trainees learn to operate axes, fire extinguishers, and other rescue tools. They are also trained to perform emergency medical procedures, handle hazardous material, and prevent fires. The hands-on practical training is supervised by skilled and experienced fire protection professionals. You learn to deal with various situations, including wildland fire, structural fire, fire attack, emergency medical responses, etc.
Duties of a Volunteer Firefighter
A volunteer firefighter carries out the same functions as performed by a career firefighter; however, some responsibilities may vary from town to town and state to state. The tasks performed by volunteer firefighters are challenging and require a thorough understanding of first aid methods, operational techniques, and firefighting procedures. The job description of volunteer firemen includes both emergency and non-emergency tasks.
- Carrying fire hoses up ladders or stairs
- Driving fire trucks to the scene
- Responding to hazardous materials incidents
- Dragging water lines and suppressing the fire
- Rescuing victims from buildings or cars
- Providing first aid, including wound care, mouth-to-mouth breathing, and CPR
- Giving firehouse tours
- Maintaining emergency vehicles and building facilities
- Cleaning up the accident or fire scene to prevent further damage
- Assisting the career staff in updating the map book for new complexes, additions, and streets for use in emergencies
- Supporting the career staff in organizing education classes to generate awareness about fire safety
- Submitting a replacement request for damaged equipment
- Attending weekly/monthly training sessions
Perks of Becoming a Volunteer Firefighter
Wondering what the benefits of rendering volunteer fire services are? Get to know here!
1. Rigorous Training
If you opt to work as a volunteer firefighter, you get extensive training that helps you succeed not only in your career but also in your personal life. Some of the areas in which training is provided include fire investigation, hazardous materials, firefighting and rescue skills, wildland fire awareness, operating the fire apparatus, conflict resolution, etc.
2. Valuable Experience
Working in the role of volunteer firefighter at a local fire department gives you tremendous exposure and work experience, and serve as a stepping stone to become a career firefighter. You get the opportunity to perform almost all the duties and responsibilities of a career firefighter.
3. Career Growth
While hiring career firefighters, most of the fire stations give preference to those candidates who have rendered services as volunteer firefighters and performed well as a contributor and team member in the situations of fires and emergencies.
4. Work-Life Balance
As a volunteer firefighter, you are expected to complete minimum monthly hour requirements set by the fire station. Since you have control over your level of commitment and involvement, you can better strike a balance between your personal and professional life. However, you can take on extra shifts if you want.
5. Strong Professional Networks
Volunteer firefighting gives you an opportunity to expand and strengthen your professional network. This helps you seek a career recommendation or a professional reference whenever required.
6. Sense of Pride
You earn respect from the members of your community as you work for their welfare and safety. Moreover, you bring a difference in the lives of the people with your volunteer fire services, and this accomplishment gives you a sense of satisfaction and pride.
Do Volunteer Firefighters Get Paid?
What is the volunteer firefighter pay in California, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and other states of the US? This is the big question that comes to mind before joining the volunteer fire department near you. It is important to know that most of the fire stations/departments do not pay for the services of a volunteer firefighter. However, they may get reimbursed for attending training and meetings, responding to fires and emergencies, and time spent on shifts. The amount of reimbursement is generally at the discretion of the fire department. Some fire service departments provide insurance programs, tax deductions, and education assistance to volunteer firefighters.
Jobs and Career Prospects
Volunteer firefighters play an essential role in the fire industry and are in demand to deal with the increasing cases of fires and medical emergencies. The job prospects for these professionals seem to be good; however, physically fit candidates with some firefighter education will be the first preference of the employers.
On the basis of the performance, volunteer firefighters can be recruited as a career firefighter. Volunteer firefighters can gain higher education and apply for career firefighter in the same fire department in which they are working, or in another fire department of a different state.