The majority of firefighters serving in the U.S. battle the blazes on a volunteer basis, according to the National Fire Protection Association. As of 2018, some 745,000 volunteer firefighters made up 67% of the field.
This line of work poses an unusual level of risk compared to other volunteering opportunities, with an average of 5,330 non-fatal injuries impacting volunteers on the fireground each year. Despite the dangers, what attracts people to these roles? Let’s explore some of the top benefits of being a volunteer firefighter.
Giving back to the community
People who volunteer in any capacity often choose to do so as a way to serve their community and make a meaningful difference.
“The fabric of our nation is strengthened by the service of its volunteers,” CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Barbara Stewart, explained in a press release announcing record-high volunteering numbers. “Each and every day, ordinary Americans are stepping up to support their fellow citizens to help with needs both great and small because they understand the power service has to change communities and lives for the better.”
In that regard, volunteer firefighting offers a unique chance to step in where help is needed most, and impact lives by keep community members, homes and businesses safe.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment
Working as a volunteer firefighter offers a tangible sense of achievement, pride and accomplishment. Not only does this happen through serving others in a volunteer capacity, but volunteers can also take pride in working as part of a team, developing new skills, protecting lives and property and successfully diffusing emergency situations.
Gaining skills and real-world experience
Volunteer roles have a special attraction for aspiring career firefighters. When it comes time to apply for full-time jobs, employers often favor applicants who have hands-on experience working on the fireground. The technical skills and specialized training gained from a volunteer position will certainly help prepare emerging professionals for a career in firefighting.
However, critical soft skills in areas like communication and collaboration can be transferrable skills in any career context. Professional development training programs available through these types of roles can help volunteers bolster their leadership and incident response skills as well.
Connecting with like-minded people
Someone seeking a volunteer firefighter position will be welcomed by a community of passionate, like-minded individuals when they join a local department. This can be an exciting way to make lifelong friends and enjoy camaraderie and fellowship while also growing one’s professional network.
Volunteering on a flexible schedule
Volunteer firefighters aren’t on call around the clock or every day of the year. Instead, they have the opportunity to choose how much time they dedicate to serving with the department. This means they can balance other personal and professional commitments while still having many opportunities to participate in the rewarding work of a firefighter.
Receiving some form of compensation
Just because it’s volunteer work doesn’t mean it’s devoid of any compensation. In fact, the National Volunteer Fire Council notes that fire departments offer tangible benefits to acknowledge the time and money volunteer firefighters spend serving their communities. While each department offers a different set of benefits, possible forms of compensation include:
- Reimbursements for gas or meals.
- Payment for time spent on a call.
- Subsidized insurance.
- Scholarships or tuition assistance.
- Lodging for students.
- Retailer discounts.
- Tax deductions.
- Seasonal bonuses.
- Uniforms and other accessories.
Anyone interested in getting involved and reaping the benefits of being a volunteer firefighter can contact their local fire department to learn more about available opportunities.