Become a Volunteer Firefighter

The volunteer fire and emergency medical service is a challenging, exciting and rewarding experience, conveniently condensed into one package. It offers several viable options which you can pursue as a volunteer or for a career position.

If you volunteer, you can pursue a degree and expand your horizon to a career status, if you so choose. Very few things can be a vocation and an avocation at the same time, but you have that option as a firefighter.
In most areas of the country, you can be fully trained and state certified at no expense to you. There is no difference in certification between career and volunteer firefighter. The same goes for volunteer emergency medical services. Obviously, there are specialties that are branches of emergency services such as arson investigation, fire inspector and fire official. Emergency medical services specialties can expand to include Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) and other related specialties. However, FIRE and EMS are often combined into one operation.
Volunteer emergency services is a grassroots operation.  For hundreds of years, volunteer firefighters did what they had to do to provide service to the community. When they needed something, they had a bake sale or a fundraiser within the community to obtain the funding. It was this very thing that made them so visible, respected and appreciated in the community.

Where do these volunteers come from? They come from your community, if you don't live in a large city. They vary in age and are both men and women.
Where does the leadership come from to organize and direct this unselfish effort? It comes from within the ranks. The Chief, who is almost always elected by peers, has the total responsibility for the safety of lives and the preservation of property within his or her jurisdiction.

It's likely that the average person in your community doesn't know that volunteers are indeed providing their emergency fire and medical services. We influence outcomes that directly affect people's lives by responding at a moments notice, whether it's day or night, to put that fire out, to rescue that person in harm's way or sometimes, just to give the assurance that, in fact, nothing is wrong. In 75% of the communities in this country, volunteers provide the only organized force to do this work.

Why is this special type of volunteerism so critical at this time? In the past ten years, the ranks of emergency services volunteers have declined by 100,000 people. Conversely, the workload has practically doubled.

There are only three options for communities to maintain viable emergency services:

1. Recruit and retain volunteer EMT's and firefighters
2. Maintain a combination volunteer and career fire   
3. Hire entirely career fire department

Recruiting and retaining volunteers is obviously the most cost effective source of maintaining this service on behalf of all residents.

Volunteering allows us to give something back to our community. Today, there are so many demands on our time, and firefighting or emergency services require specialized training in addition to the presence of a warm body. There are probably tons of reasons not to volunteer. However if you have a sense of civic pride, if you want to see immediate results of a job well done or if you have the heart and spirit to make your community a better place, consider volunteering with your local fire department. You may find meaning previously lacking in your life, and you may also find a career.

Provided by Al Musicant,  NVFC New Jersey Director