Volunteer firefighters are found in small and large communities across the US. People like you and me count on volunteers to fulfill essential duties. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that near 70-percent of firefighters take on this responsibility in a volunteer role. A volunteer firefighter puts out structure fires, responds to accidents, natural disasters, and other emergencies too.

Where are Volunteer Firefighters Located?

Volunteer fire departments are established in communities with less than 25,000 people. Nearly half of the volunteer departments across the country service communities with less than 2,500 people. What we can tell from these numbers is volunteer firefighters are needed most in small, rural communities.

What does a Volunteer Firefighter do?

Just like paid firefighters, volunteers fight fires. Whether it’s a business, residence, or other structure, volunteers do what they can to extinguish fires. Means available to volunteer fire departments include laying water lines, creating ventilation, entering properties, and putting up ladders when necessary.

Volunteer firefighters also respond to many other emergencies as back up. They will help rescue victims, provide first aid when needed, can perform CPR, and even on-site wound care. Due to the unknown expectations, a volunteer may face in the field; firefighters are required to obtain EMS certification.

Before administering any first aid, a volunteer firefighter will attempt to talk to victims and witnesses. It’s necessary to get as much information as possible before providing any care to determine what the best course of action is. During conversations, volunteer firefighters will need to know if a victim has any medical issues that could affect their care in an emergency situation.

How do Volunteer Firefighters get to Scenes?

One of the most stressful situations volunteer firefighters have to overcome when an emergency occurs is time. Due to most locations being rural, time is usually of the essence and can be the difference between a good or bad outcome. If time allows, volunteers will report to the fire hall or station to receive instructions. When allowable, firefighters will drive trucks to the scene. If time isn’t on their side, a volunteer firefighter may drive their vehicle, often called a POV-personal operating vehicle- to the site of a fire or accident, and in most instances are allowed to use emergency vehicle lights and siren.

In some states, volunteer firefighters can install emergency vehicle lights on their POVs to help them get to scenes as quickly as possible. State statutes regarding whether lighting can be installed on personally owned vehicles and what color lights can be used varies significantly. It’s a volunteer’s responsibility to use the appropriate equipment and get the proper permissions before installing anything aftermarket to their vehicles.

Volunteer Firefighters are Responsible for Fire Truck and Equipment Maintenance

Most volunteer fire departments are run on a shoestring budget, which requires the volunteers to handle most matters involving maintenance. Firefighters are responsible for the care of all equipment and fire vehicles. Maintenance responsibilities include carrying for the vehicles and equipment, and moving the lawn, cleaning the fire hall, and landscaping. At an accident or structure fire scene, volunteers will do their best to clean up any debris. Debris cleanup is done to prove any additional damage after the site has been cleared.

Any Person Wanting to be a Volunteer Firefighter Needs a Physical

Being a volunteer firefighter is physically demanding. For this reason, any candidate must be in good shape, and able to pass a physical abilities test as well as a medical examination. Physical fitness is necessary due to the possible need of kicking down a door, moving large debris, or having to pick up and carry victims. A volunteer firefighter may also have to crawl through hazardous conditions and must have the lung capacity and physical strength to withstand these types of tasks.

With Great Sacrifice Comes Great Rewards

What we haven’t talked about yet is the rewards of being a volunteer. Any time a person makes great sacrifices, they can expect great rewards. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer firefighter, you should contact your local department. Most agencies are always looking for able bodied volunteers that are willing to put in the effort to train and serve.