How to become a volunteer firefighter

There are few professional firefighters in USA, but the lack of personnel is not felt. At the same time, most USA firefighters are volunteers. They put out the fire, although they don’t get paid for it.

There are professional firefighters in USA only in big cities. And they are very few: in 2016 there were only 105 such units for the whole country, where 32 thousand employees worked. In settlements where live no more than 100 thousand people, fire extinguishing and rescue of people is carried out by firemen-volunteers. They are much more than professionals: the voluntary fire service consists of almost one million people, i.e. approximately every 80th resident of USA. They all work on a voluntary basis.

In USA, volunteer firefighters are as equipped as professionals.

The fact is that the financing of a professional fire brigade, which should be in a part day and night, would be an impossible burden for small settlements. And voluntary firefighters – with rare exceptions – do not receive money. Only seven thousand people have salaries – mainly people who are engaged in solving organizational and administrative issues.

Despite the name, which at first may not inspire confidence, in USA firefighters volunteers are equipped as well as professionals. In their parts there are exactly the same fire trucks, stairs, hoses and equipment. What the volunteer units do not have is a famous film pole on which firefighters move down. Only a dispatcher is always in the building, so there is no rest room.

The training of volunteers also has no significant differences from professional firefighters. To get on the team, you have to take an induction course, followed by a strict medical check-up. Applicants will only be able to continue their training if they have undergone a medical check-up and are found to be completely healthy. In order to participate in firefighting, induction courses alone are not enough. At a minimum, it is necessary to take radio communication courses and training in the use of breathing apparatus. However, training how to become a volunteer firefighter firefighters does not end there either.

Becoming a firefighter in USA

The path of any firefighter to the profession begins with a huge bright red building on the outskirts of the city. The modern building, which from afar resembles a fire glow, is surrounded by mazes of fences and hangars with fire engines. The main fire department is located here, as well as a training centre for future fire tamers, both professional and voluntary.

Becoming a firefighter

In the hall there is a screen with a schedule of classes: subject, time and audience. The class schedule is quite tight, the nearest one is an introductory course. Listeners, cheerfully chatting, trying on equipment, today their first lesson. In total, the class gathered 12 people, most of them seemingly no and twenty years. The standard age for joining a voluntary fire brigade is 16 or 17. “That’s why people over 25 are said to be at an age,” says teacher Nils Weihrauch. However, there are no fundamental restrictions – you can attend the courses at any time until the potential firefighter is 60 years old.

The current induction course has features. “Both those who have not yet held a hose in their hands and those who 6-7 years ago already attended the young firefighters’ course have gathered here,” explains the teacher. First, everyone presents themselves and tells us what brought them to the course. Sixteen-year-old Carolina, a short girl with freckles on her nose, quietly says she wants to learn something new. Then she adds: “And just spend time with friends.” Next to her sit two more girls – this is her classmates, and a total of five people from their class to volunteer firefighter training courses.

Another participant, 29-year-old Tino, many years ago a teenager had already taken an introductory course. He recently moved to USA and decided to resume his activities as a volunteer firefighter. “To find new acquaintances, I decided to join some association. That’s how I joined the fire department,” says Tino. – I’m looking for a spirit of comradeship here.”

Anyone can be a firefighter

In the spirit of comradeship, Munich-based journalist Marie Trappen was not lucky right away. She first tried joining the voluntary fire brigade more than ten years ago. The case was in a small village in Bavaria, where conservative views on the role of women in society are not yet uncommon. The head of the local fire brigade took a look at the fragile blonde with long hair and replied with a stern refusal – Marie was not even accepted for training.

Despite the failure, she did not give up her dream and soon tried again to get into the fire department. And she succeeded: Trappen has been in the squad for 8 years, and today Marie is the squad leader. In her usual life she works for television and also talks about voluntary firefighters in social networks. Almost 30 thousand people have signed up for Trappen’s “Fire Women” page.

Recalling her first unsuccessful experience, she stresses that anyone can become a firefighter in USA. “That’s my motto, I’m actively promoting it. I write to women and say: no matter whether you are tall or not, full or skinny – all this plays no role. Any woman can become a fireman, any woman can become a fireman,” Trappen insisted.

Employers are letting firefighters go on call.

It’s easy to recognize a USA firefighter – he’ll probably have an old-fashioned pager attached to his belt. With this device, firefighters receive a call: a short “fire” or “accident” is displayed on the screen and they rush to the unit at any time of day or night.

Although most volunteer fire brigades still use pagers, some are gradually switching to more advanced devices. This is regulated at the community level. Today, in some cities, volunteer firefighters receive a call through a special application installed on smartphones. In the most modern parts, dispatchers can even monitor on a computer screen the movement of firefighters assigned to the fire department.

This electronic map indicates whether the firefighter is ready to make the call or not: for example, if a volunteer knows that he or she will be absent, he or she can warn his or her unit in advance. In addition, it is theoretically possible to refuse a call, although volunteer firefighters try to avoid it. “Going on a mission is more important: especially when it comes to human lives, when it’s a fire, an emergency,” says Marie Trappen. She goes on about 300 missions each year.

Voluntary firefighters can only go on a call if the team is fully staffed. However, disasters don’t happen by the hour: most firefighters are needed during the day when most people study or work. In such situations, most employers let employees go on the call. They are not punished for absenteeism and wages for lost time are not cut.

It takes surprisingly little time to complete a squad. There are still some problems with assembling the team during the day, says Niels Weirauch, but the firefighters’ work in the evening is very well coordinated. “Volunteers who live close to the unit get to it very quickly – they manage in 2-3 minutes. Some get there, others come by car or bike,” Wairauh continued. Statistics show that the average time between the call and the arrival of the fire brigade is 15 minutes.

Without firefighters, there’s nowhere else in USA.

Sometimes the fire department can’t attract enough volunteers. In 2008, this was the case in the village of Liszt on the island of Zealt: instead of the 43 volunteers needed for the volunteer fire brigade, only 18 people joined the brigade.

In such cases, the local authorities are entitled to establish a so-called compulsory fire brigade and to employ the missing personnel. Normally, any resident between the ages of 18 and 63 can volunteer and it is no longer possible to refuse. Only the police and soldiers of the Bundeswehr are eligible for an exception.

However, mandatory fire brigades in USA are very rare, today there are only five of them in the whole country. USA does not yet have a serious shortage of voluntary fire brigades, although their number is decreasing every year: since 2000, the total number of fire brigades has decreased by 70 thousand people. On the other hand, the number of women among voluntary firefighters has increased by a third: in 2016, there were already 92,000.

What difficulties do voluntary firefighters face in addition to extinguishing fires? Perhaps the hardest part is not the challenge, but the fight against prejudice against voluntary work, says Marie Trappen. Many people don’t understand why they have to put themselves in danger voluntarily and free of charge, to live under constant stress from call to call … “When you go on a mission, when the call signal comes, so much adrenaline is generated. You’re so excited about what’s happening that incredible forces are waking up in you,” Trappen shares. – A lot of people don’t understand this, they express their dislike, which is completely incomprehensible.

What do firefighters do

A firefighter is a specialist engaged in the elimination of fires and their consequences. Despite the fact that this sounds very clear, the profession has quite a few nuances.

Fire brigade is sure to exist in every city, in megacities their number is counted in dozens. Modern fire departments are under state support and staffed with everything necessary. The internal structure of the brigade is very strict, there are clear rules of subordination between employees.

The primary task of a firefighter is to save people, not to extinguish fires as many people think. Of course, they try to localize the flames and eliminate them as soon as possible, but when they come to the emergency site they first try to help the victims. Many of them need medical help, and it is the firefighters who provide it before the ambulance arrives. Thus, the firefighter’s duties include the functions of both a rescuer and a medic.

What do firefighters do

The firefighter’s analytical skills are very important. He must assess the complexity of a fire, calculate where to place cars and where to send fire hoses, understand the need for additional staff and equipment.

In order to perform all these duties, a firefighter needs to have a good theoretical background. Diagrams of behavior for many situations are classic, and they need to be mastered perfectly. In addition, the firefighter must have an excellent knowledge of the equipment he is working with. And of course, to have good physical endurance – special outfit can weigh up to 30 kg, and act in it quickly and clearly.

The career of any firefighter starts with working in a fire brigade. Over time, you can get the position of a squad leader, and later the rank of officer. This opens up the possibility to get more “desk” positions and start working, for example, as a fire safety engineer or head of a unit. A firefighter’s salary depends on his rank and seniority, and it also influences subsequent pension bonuses.

Can you live off a firefighter salary

The 2020 average Fire Fighter salary in the US is $47151.

Do volunteer firefighters get paid

Under the FLSA, volunteer firefighters can never receive hourly pay.  Volunteers are also limited in the agencies they can serve, since they cannot volunteer services to the employer who pays them. Paid firefighters working for a specific fire department cannot volunteer for that same department when they are off duty.

How to be a firefighter woman?

Women began to learn the profession of firefighters only during the Second World War: previously this kind of activity was considered exclusively male. The first woman to be officially employed by the U.S. fire brigade was Sandra Forcier – this happened in 1973. But, of course, unofficially registered women firefighters appeared even earlier. For example, in 1800 in the fire brigade of the volunteer detachment “Oceanus” saved the lives of African-American slave Molly Williams, who is considered the first female firefighter in history. Later, the first women’s fire brigades began to appear in educational institutions and factories, such as the Women’s Brigade of Gerton College in Britain, founded in 1878.

Today in Ukraine more and more girls began to learn the fire profession. The editorial office of L’Officiel Online decided to get acquainted with new faces of the State Service of Ukraine for Emergency Situations and visited 25 fire department, which is located in Obolon. This part was chosen not by chance: it is the largest in Ukraine, next to it there is a museum of firefighting equipment and a monument to the heroes-firemen, which was made by the legendary Ukrainian sculptor Valentin Znoba.


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