The National Fire Department Registry (NFDR) published a report in April 2017 detailing the number and type of personnel who man the firehouses throughout the US. The NFDR published that there are 27,192 fire departments that staff about 1,215,300 firefighting personnel. One striking and surprising result of the NFDR study is that of the active firefighting personnel, 32 percent were career firefighters, 56 percent were volunteer firefighters, and 12 percent were paid-per-call firefighters.
The statistics compiled by the NFDR highlight a challenge faced by fire departments and the cities, towns, and municipalities they are sworn to protect. The fact is that when you call for help or have an emergency, five out of ten firefighters who show up to render aid are volunteering. Volunteer fire departments cover vast sections of the country that are not serviced by paid fire services. Traditionally these departments existed primarily to respond mainly to structure and wildland fires. However, as funding for EMS services is reduced, volunteers are finding themselves responding to accidents, technical rescue, and other life-threatening emergencies. The new administration’s unprecedented cuts have also befallen onto volunteer fire station budgets. The budget cuts and reduced funding are raising concerns about the state of department readiness and the ability to respond with near obsolete equipment. In order for the volunteer agencies to succeed they must keep up with the needs, growth, and changes of their community and society. Simply put, you simply cannot use 1960 technologies to service 2018 problems.