volunteer firefighters

How to Recruit More Volunteer Firefighters

The first organized volunteer firefighting service has a rich history dating back to early Eighteenth century in Boston.  In 1711 the Mutual Fire Societies was formed to combat the ever growing presence of destructive fires in the fast growing English Colonies.  The early group of volunteers was described by Benjamin Franklin, a prominent volunteer firefighter, as “a club or society of active men belonging to each fire engine, whose business is to attend all fires with it whenever they happen.”  The premise was simple, when fire emerged from a member of the Mutual Fire Society’s dwelling, other members of the club mobilized into organized units to battle the blaze.  Each society had approximately twenty members and is credited with being the first volunteer brigade of firefighters. As residents sought further protection from fire, statesman such as Franklin took notice.  Franklin’s progressive thought aimed to provide whole communities the advantage of protecting all the property of the community. Formed in Philadelphia, each group of volunteers banded together in small groups of 30.  The demographics of group volunteers represented the diversity that the city was experiencing in the early 1700s, consisting of professionals, merchants, and trades people. The volunteer departments paid for their own equipment and placed it in advantageous places close to a source of water and other firefighting infrastructure.  All groups were aligned with protecting their collective interests in the community and staffing was adequate.

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What are the Different Ranks of Firefighters?

deputy fire chief

The fire service has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when New Amsterdam established the colonies’ first fire fighting system in 1647. During the early years, fire organizations were social groups within the community that sought to put out fires occurring in nearby metro areas. However, when fires ravaged cities like Chicago and New York, the lives of thousands of people were in danger. The public quickly demanded that fire service institutions be organized in cities and towns to protect life and property.

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Common Challenges Volunteer Firefighters and their Leaders Face

volunteer firefighter challenges

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.

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