So You Want to be a Volunteer Fire Fighter?

How many kids, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say they want to be a firefighter?

According to statistics, being a firefighter is the second-most wished-for career; a professional athlete was first.

Given the fact that volunteer firefighters are a large percentage of the nation’s total number of firefighters, many kids must actually pursue that dream.

What are the general requirements to be a volunteer firefighter?  The criteria to be a volunteer firefighter vary by department and/or by state.  The basic expectations generally include: You

  • Must be 18 years old or older;
  • Must have a high school diploma or equivalent;
  • Must successfully pass the written and physical exams;
  • Must pass the drug screening test;
  • Must pass a background check;
  • May be expected to be certified as an Emergency Medical Technician;
  • May be required to have a valid driver’s license;
  • May be required to live within the area supported by that fire station.

Competency skills include demonstrated decision-making skills, dependability, and bravery.  With people counting on volunteers to protect them and their property, personal dedication and integrity are highly valued, along with the commitment of the time necessary to function at the highest level.

Time commitment is a necessity, as approximately 110 hours of training is required.  In fact, training is a continual process for most firefighters. Initial training includes classroom and practical instruction.  Volunteers learn how to use fire fighting tools effectively and efficiently, such as ladders, hoses, extinguishers, axes, etc. They also receive instruction in fire prevention, hazardous materials, and performance of emergency medical techniques.  Emergency Medical Technician training includes experience in emergency room and ambulance techniques and the successful passing of written and practical tests administered by either a state-certified board or the National Registry of EMTs.

As with many positions, volunteer firefighters usually go through a probationary period, which may be up to four years.

Ready to volunteer?  The first steps to becoming a volunteer firefighter include:

  • Contacting a local volunteer fire department;
  • Submitting an application;
  • Participating in the training program.

According to, approximately 72% of North Carolina’s firefighters are volunteers.  On a national level, the National Fire Protection Association’s 2015 statistics indicated that there were 1.16 million firefighters in the US, with 70% of that number classified as volunteers.  In that same year, of the 29,727 fire departments nationwide, 19,762 were all-volunteer stations.  Since so many areas across the country depend solely on volunteers to support their communities, these dedicated volunteers provide a valued service to their friends and neighbors.

Volunteering is a critical component of many organizations.  Volunteering as a firefighter, dedicating the time to obtain the skills necessary, and the continued commitment to a community that relies on those skills for the protection of self and property, requires, at a minimum, our thanks and appreciation.  We honor your service and applaud your dedication to communities across the country!


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