Why Are So Many Firefighters Volunteers?

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Imagine a group of everyday heroes who rush to the rescue whenever there’s a fire, even without earning a salary. These are the volunteer firefighters who willingly put their lives on the line to keep us safe. But why do they choose to do this?

There’s lots of reasons that Firefighters are Volunteers. Let’s take a look at the Backbone of Community protection, the volunteer firefighter, and their motives for step up to protect the places we love most. 

Simply Put, Volunteers do it because They Have To

The number one reason we have so many volunteer firefighters is the lack of Pay. Or the lack of fund, as some places actually don’t have the money to support firefighters (though many places could find it if it was important to them)

 There are lots of locations that need support, but don’t have paid positions to cover the need. 

So many Volunteer Firefighters are stepping up to fill the gaps, because if they don’t… who will?

Lots of people see it as a way to protect their family, their property, their friends and acquaintances nearby. If there are not enough trained First Responders when a call goes out, the people in need could loose many important minutes- so that’s where the Volunteers Step up to cover their community. They are there to help when there is a Fire, they are there to help with everything after the Fire… it makes a big difference to have trained personnel on scene.

Fire chief walking in front of fire during firefighting exercise

Sometimes, Volunteers get paid per call, so many might pick up this ‘Side Hustle’

Now, it’s not a side hustle I’d recommend for that casual viewer, because Volunteer Firefighters are putting their life at risk. But if you have the training (or would like the training), the time, or they are already a career Firefighter with some gaps in their schedule, it makes sense to pick up calls that they can get paid for. 

Paying per call helps the community paying for the services to not have to pay for Firefighters to be on call.

There’s some downsides to this though, namely that there might not be many able to answer the call, depending on the time of day and year. There’s also the risk that the Firefighters that show up aren’t trained very well, especially since they aren’t paid for their training (since they aren’t full time) and you also have people who might want to earn more thinking this is an easy option (when it’s not). 

Volunteer Firefighters get to Help others

 Having a sense of purpose, especially one that makes a huge and immediate impact in people’s lives, is a big reason for Volunteer firefighters. 

Sure, they get to help their community in a meaningful way, but they can also ensure that their friends and family have support if they ever needed it. Volunteer Firefighters are they in case they are needed, and they may help to save lives, prevent property damage, or provide comfort to those in need.

Some people would call this a ‘Hero Complex’, others would say they just ‘like the attention’, and even a few want their ‘10 minutes of fame’.

But most of the time, it’s coming from a genuine place and desire to help people. It can be very rewarding to train as a Volunteer Firefighter, especially when there’s a local need.

It’s a great way for Learning New Skills

In most places, Volunteer firefighters receive extensive training in firefighting, emergency response, and first aid. This training can be valuable for both personal and professional development.

It’s also nice to have something they can do! Some of the folks who volunteer will also use their skills when going through Fire College/Fire Academy to help them become a Licensed or Paid Firefighter. This is common with younger recruits who would like to test out a possible future career. 

And for some, it can be a way to climb the career ladder. A Young Backwards Firefighter whose learning the Career World, could volunteer as a Lieutenant at a local station, and learn a lot of valuable skills (plus pad their resume for future career jumps!) 

Also, a Helpful way to make New Friends

 In this Hyper-Online world, it’s nice to have opportunities to get together and help people, while also making friends. Volunteer firefighters often become close friends with their fellow firefighters, or at least, they know who they can call if they are in a bind. 

And for those of us who know what Small Town living is like, there’s not like there’s a lot of other things going on for us to do! Volunteering gives us a way to do something alittle out of the ordinary (and the excuse to travel to Conferences in Big Cities!) 

Plus, its a reason to Stay Active

 Volunteer firefighting can be a great way to stay active and fit. Firefighters must be physically and mentally fit to perform their duties, and they often participate in regular training exercises.

While Fitness Standards differ based on the Department (and some Volunteer Stations may have very few requirements) it’s an incentive to be a better person.

A Volunteer doesn’t want to show up to a Scene and not be able to preform, wether that’s pulling hose for a fire, or helping to secure a vehicle extraction. Taking pride in your physical ability is a big reason that people Volunteer to run Emergency Calls. 

Can be Tax Deductible

Last, and certainly not least, there are tax benefits, as well as other benefits depending on your State or Area. Some Volunteers benefit from free Schooling, other’s get access to Health Care or discount Insurance Rates that might not be available otherwise.

Many Single Filers find that their time, gym fees, equipment and training expenses can be a helpful deduction to reduce tax burdens!

And some locations offer a Retirement option that can be a very healthy way to save for the future without extra tax burdens. 


Overall, there’s lots of reasons for Volunteer Firefighters, and even several we didn’t touch on in this article!

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