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How to Become a Volunteer Firefighter
Becoming a volunteer firefighter is one of the most rewarding and selfless decisions you can make. Volunteer firefighters prevent and put out fires and administer first aid within their communities. Today, volunteers make up 55% of all active firefighters, making it a great first step on the ladder to becoming a paid firefighter. Keep reading to learn what it takes to fill this vital role and find out how you can get started making a difference today.
Last Updated: 08/14/2020
Are You Ready to Become a Volunteer Firefighter?
Before diving into an intensive training program with your local fire academy, it’s important you’re sure about becoming a volunteer firefighter. While some individuals may find battling fires, aiding in search and rescue efforts, and providing emergency medical services fulfilling and exciting, volunteer firefighting can be taxing and isn’t for everyone. To better understand if becoming a volunteer firefighter is for you, ask yourself the questions below.
- Are you willing to give up the occasional full night of rest or work unsocial hours to help others?
- Do you find it important to give back to the community in meaningful ways that pay it forward?
- Do you feel your mental health is robust and that you can perform responsibilities without experiencing undue stress and/or anxiety?
- Are you looking for a community of others who enjoy helping people in times of fear or loss?
- Do you meet all of the general and specific requirements for becoming a volunteer firefighter?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be an excellent fit for a career as a volunteer firefighter.
Program that might interest you:
Contact Your Local Fire Department
One of the first – and most important – things you learn about being a volunteer firefighter is that you can’t go it alone. Researching what volunteering entails and how you can get started is a great place to begin, but getting in touch with your local fire department is the best way to find out all the specifics. Try speaking with the fire chief or the volunteer coordinator and ask about current and future openings with the department. Some of the questions you may want to ask include:
- Are there residency restrictions?
- What’s involved in the screening process?
- Does the fire department have vacancy?
- How many hours do volunteers work on average?
- Does the department provide fire safety equipment or do I?
Understand the Duties of a Volunteer Firefighter
The duties of a volunteer firefighter span beyond putting out fires and rescuing animals from trees. In reality, volunteer firefighters perform a multitude of important tasks to keep others safe, maintain their equipment, and ensure the department can continue serving their community. Some of the most common duties include:
Benefits of Becoming a Volunteer Firefighter
Wondering about the perks of becoming a volunteer firefighter? While not all these benefits will be offered at every fire station, here are a few common perks you may find when becoming a volunteer firefighter:
Apply for a Position & Complete the Screening Process
After learning all you can about what a day-in-the-life looks like for a volunteer firefighter and reading up on some of the responsibilities and benefits of the role, it’s time to find out about the specific requirements to ensure you qualify. Because each department, town, county, and state set unique requirements for joining, they can vary widely. That being said, the general requirements highlighted in the following section will give you an idea of what to expect.
Get Your Volunteer Firefighter Training
Volunteer firefighter training equips recruits with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate emergency situations while also underscoring the immense amount of responsibility that comes along with protecting themselves, their fellow firefighters, the equipment they use, and the citizens they take a vow to serve and protect. Undergoing training can feel overwhelming when also juggling outside professional and personal responsibilities, but it helps safeguard everyone involved. Aside from initial training to join the force, even volunteer firefighters should undergo continuing education on a regular basis to stay informed on emerging best practices and procedures.
Consider Earning a Degree in Fire Science
While no fire station will turn down your application to volunteer simply because you don’t possess a degree in fire science, earning this qualification at any level can give you the opportunity to advance your career or even transition into paid firefighting roles down the line. Even if working as a full-time firefighter may not be your ultimate professional goal, this credential can help you qualify for several fascinating related jobs that may better fit your interests. Below we’ve reviewed some common jobs related to fire science, the education required to pursue them, and the average salary potential.
|Career||Degree Required||Average Salary|
|Firefighter||High School Diploma||$49,620|
|Fire Investigator||Associate or Bachelor’s in Fire Science||$60,200|
|Emergency Management Director||Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Preparedness||$74,420|
|EMT/Paramedic||High School Diploma||$34,320|
Volunteer Firefighter FAQs
Before taking the plunge and applying to work as a volunteer firefighter, you probably have some questions about the process and what to expect once you begin volunteering. The best way to find specific answers is to contact your local fire department, as your state’s requirements will likely be different from stations located elsewhere. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions by volunteer firefighter hopefuls.