Firefighting is one of those professions that will never go away and one that communities depend on, making it vital to the growth and continued care of a city, county, or state. What many may not realize is that the majority of the firefighters who come help you on your worst day are volunteers.
The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2018, 67 percent of all firefighters in the country were volunteer, and fifty percent were between 30 and 49 years old. With 67 percent of the profession not getting paid to do it, why are they stepping up to volunteer their time in a dangerous profession?
What are the reasons to become a volunteer firefighter?
- You gain tangible benefits.
- You have a flexible schedule.
- You gain real world experience and skills.
- You connect with like-minded people.
- You represent your community in a positive way.
- You help your community members in need.
- You gain a sense of pride.
Before you read on about the benefits of becoming a volunteer firefighter, it’s important to know exactly what a volunteer firefighter does.
What is a volunteer firefighter?
A volunteer firefighter is simply a firefighter who does not gain a paycheck from the work they do. They are expected to be on call just like a full-time employed firefighter and go through the trainings the same as a full-time firefighter.
The United States Department of Labor classifies volunteer firefighters as any firefighter who receives less than twenty percent of a full-time firefighter’s compensation.
While volunteer firefighters can be found anywhere in the nation, most are found in smaller, more rural communities like townships or counties.
As a volunteer firefighter, you can be expected to suppress fires, work with emergency medical services, respond to hazardous material calls, participate in search and rescues, assist in traffic incidents, help teach the public about fire and accident safety, conduct inspections, and attend public events, to name a few.
You gain tangible benefits.
While a volunteer firefighter typically does not get paid, many communities offer different incentives for people to become volunteers.
Depending on the local community, they may offer anything from property tax reductions to free insurance, college tuition reimbursement to state income tax benefits. Others will reimburse you for gas or meals, and many departments offer retailer discounts or uniforms.
Do Volunteer Firefighters get paid? Learn more here!
2. You have a flexible schedule.
Because it is a volunteer position, you will not be on call all year round. You can choose when you are available for service, so it is a volunteer position that you can have in concordance with your job and other commitments.
3. You gain real world experience and skills.
If you are considering a career in firefighting, becoming a volunteer firefighter is a perfect way to start building that skill set. When going into the firefighting field, many employers will consider your practical background, and those with hands-on experience will be considered more highly.
Other skills like specialized training that you would get as a volunteer firefighter are also prized in the job hunt and may help you get that firefighting position.
On the other hand, as a volunteer firefighter you will also learn other soft skills like teamwork and how to communicate during a crisis, which can be transferred to any other profession. Employers will also see your experience as a firefighter as a great explanation of your character, as it proves that you are community minded and wish to make a difference.
4.You connect with like-minded people.
Not only are you working in your community but becoming a volunteer firefighter can help you connect with other people who think the same way that you do. Creating that sort of family bond is something that not every job can boast, and if you want to eventually go into the firefighting field, having that network will only benefit you in the long run.
Making these connections isn’t limited to just longstanding residents of a community—if you’re new to the community and want to make both an impact and learn about the people, becoming a volunteer firefighter is a great way to do that. You’re not only helping the community you’ve joined, but you’re also meeting the people who make it great.
5. You represent your community in a positive way.
Because many communities do not have enough paid firefighters to fulfill their needs, volunteer firefighters are crucial to the survival of the community. Not only are you serving in a way that will help your fellow community members on their worst day, but you will always serve as an ambassador of your community.
Working with a fire department makes you incredibly visible, so you become a role model to children, whether you like it or not! Many will look up to you, regardless of whether you’re out and about in your community or helping them during a call.
6. You help your community members in need.
Volunteer firefighters are simply citizens who want to help their other community members on the worst day of their life. It is a way to give back to your community in a way that will help all of those around you, and you will have a sense of accomplishment when you learn how to save lives.
7. You gain a sense of pride.
Choosing to become a volunteer firefighter as your community service activity is not an easy one, but if you do, you will feel rewarded by how much you are truly giving back. Not only are you helping your community on their worst days, but you’re representing the values of your community and promoting camaraderie and goodwill in your day-to-day life.
Because the job is so dangerous and the risk of death or injury is so high, becoming a volunteer firefighter is not an easy decision, or one to take lightly, and while many of the benefits you may get are tangible, there’s nothing like knowing at the end of a call that you helped save lives.
Since almost 70 percent of the country’s firefighting force is volunteer, you will be among a likeminded group of people who all want the same thing as you do. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community, contact your local fire department and they can help set you on your path to fulfilling volunteer work.
Do I have to have training to become a volunteer firefighter?
No. You do not have to have prior first responder education or training to become a volunteer firefighter. Although each community is different, you will receive training upon joining. Most companies have a minimum age and require a background check.
How often do volunteer firefighters work?
The number is dependent on the community, but volunteer firefighters typically work around 24 to 72 hours per month. They do not have the same requirements as a paid firefighting position; it also depends on how often you sign up to be on call.
Is being a volunteer firefighter dangerous?
Being a volunteer firefighter has the same hazards of being a fully compensated firefighter. You will be facing life or death situations, along with requiring to lift heavy objects and work under harsh conditions.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.
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Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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