How Do I Become a Volunteer Firefighter?

K. Testa

There are several basic steps to follow when you want to become a volunteer firefighter. First, you should assess your personal qualifications and professional interests. Next, you could seek information about available jobs in your area. You can then apply for a position and complete any necessary tests and a background check. You can also demonstrate that you're committed to the position by completing a training program and actively volunteering your time.

Physical strength and good health is required to become a volunteer firefighter.
Physical strength and good health is required to become a volunteer firefighter.

As a rule, physical strength and good health are needed to become a volunteer firefighter. This includes the ability to carry ladders, fire hoses, and other equipment — as well as people or animals — when rescuing them from an emergency. Fire departments often administer a physical fitness test prior to letting someone become a volunteer firefighter, and they usually expect their personnel to maintain their physical fitness while on the job.

Firefighters must possess excellent vision and hearing.
Firefighters must possess excellent vision and hearing.

In addition to assessing your current physical and medical condition, you should evaluate your mental and emotional capacity for the job. When considering your willingness to commit to the training involved, it helps to be honest in assessing your interests and limitations. For instance, you could ask yourself how volunteering for the fire department fits in with your other responsibilities, including family life and other professional commitments.

When preparing to become a volunteer firefighter, you will probably learn that fire service is not only about fighting fires. For example, when not dealing with fires, some fire departments specialize in attending to broken gas lines or following storms. Fire fighter duties also frequently require responding to motor vehicle accidents and other emergencies.

Not all local fire departments offer volunteer opportunities, so you should research your particular area for information. Often, you can visit the department, and you might even be allowed to accompany the fire fighters on a call. At this stage, you can also ask questions about the job duties and the number of volunteer hours you should expect to complete each month.

Once you submit an application to become a volunteer firefighter and undergo a background check, you will probably participate in a training program, which covers everything from fighting fires and emergency medical techniques to using equipment and understanding building codes. Your responsibilities, in addition to responding to emergency calls, could include maintaining the interior and exterior areas of the fire station, performing housekeeping tasks or cooking meals, and completing miscellaneous administrative duties. Since it is a volunteer position, you should also be willing to commit to fundraising activities for the fire department.

Volunteer firefighters may help out during times of crisis.
Volunteer firefighters may help out during times of crisis.

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