Welcome back, today I am going over an issue that very seldom people know and most of the time fail to realize. This is the fact that most Fire Departments are actually Volunteer departments. I have always known that people my age, would never understand right away what I meant until I explained what Volunteer Firefighting is, and still some of them don’t quite understand. But I realized Monday morning, that many people in the older generations didn’t understand or know about Volunteer Firefighting either. So lets just dive into some information about this, and caution near the end, the inner salesman might kick in.
So to start off your understanding, we have to first figure out what a Volunteer Firefighter is. A simple definition is that we are Firefighters that are not Full-time Firefighters. But a better definition can be expressed by what kind of department a Firefighter is on. To do this we break all the Departments into 4 groups, Volunteer, Mostly Volunteer, Mostly Career, or Career. Now Career or Mostly Career are departments, usually in “bigger cities” that can afford to pay at least 5 people or more 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. According to a study by the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, that was released in 2010, out of the 30,165 total Fire Departments, only 1,752 are mostly career, and only 2,457 are all career. Now some Firefighters on the mostly career departments could be Volunteer Firefighters, but most are not. Mostly Volunteer departments, which is what we would be if the Fire Department and the EMS Department would combine, staff some people but not 5 or more people 24/7/365. These mostly volunteer departments either staff maybe a squad crew of 2, 24/7, or maybe their chief works full-time, but there are to many different systems to list because each department has a plan for them. But the main thing is these departments still rely on their Volunteers to respond to emergencies. And Volunteer Departments are obviously departments where every single person in a volunteer and no person gets paid to sit at the station.
Are you still with me? It is clear as mud, right? But I could keep going with the different types of volunteers, but I will tell you something simple, some get paid for showing up and some don’t. But the best way to find out what your local firefighters are is to go down and talk to them when you see them. You will get a better answer than I can ever give you because there are so many different systems because as I said, every department makes their own system work. Also just to throw more stats at you, 20,857 departments are all volunteer, while 5,099 are mostly volunteer.
Now, okay, what is the difference between Volunteer Firefighters and Career Firefighters, some Career Firefighters would like to say that they are better trained, more fit for the job, and have seen more stuff than a volunteer ever has. Now most of the Career Firefighters saying that probably aren’t or haven’t, but as a Volunteer Firefighter there are a lot Career Firefighters that are really good at the job, but then there are Volunteer Firefighters that I have seen that are better in all aspects. It truly depends on the person but in general both train similarly and continually train similarly. We are held to the same standards they are and its a battle that seems to bring out the superiority in everyone.
Now why have I explained this difference, what caused me to do this? Early Monday morning we were called to a house fire at 2:48 am, and 24 people awoke from a dead sleep through on the first clothes they found(one guy forgot socks) hurried down to the station, ran to our bunker gear, put it on real quick and ran to the trucks, filled up the trucks and the first engine on scene was there within 10 minutes at 2:58 am. For a nighttime call for us that is about an average response time, if not a bit quicker, but a neighbor of the house that was on fire asked our chief what took us so long? The chief explained how we are at home sleeping and hear a loud beep beep beep beep beep!! And we start the process of getting to the station and getting to the call. This guy was then astonished that we got there so quickly, and asked why we didn’t have people on station? My chief responded that our operating budget is around a total of $140,000 for a city of 6,600 people, but not only that, but we have a contract with the township next to us for us to supply Emergency Services to people in that part out of the city as well. He explained that if our budget would increase to about 700,000, then we could put 4 people on 24/7 365, but the money just isn’t there. He then thanked us and I truly hope he will vote yes on our next tax levy in 4 years.
So I hope that you gained something from this, and I hope you might want to become a volunteer firefighter, because we can always use more. Here is a link to a nice article on volunteer firefighting over the years.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”