In many communities, the need for firefighters exceeds the available budget for employees. Thus, stations rely on support from volunteer firefighters who get the required training, which includes first aid and CPR, as well as emergency rescue. Despite not being paid, being a volunteer firefighter can provide a number of benefits.
Though you technically don't get paid, volunteer firefighters normally do receive some assistance or reimbursements to cover their costs for volunteering. As a volunteer, you may have to take time away from other jobs and you also have transportation costs to get to the station or in responding to calls. Actual reimbursement varies, but you normally receive amounts of non-taxable money based on shift time or call responses.
Some smaller fire departments are largely staffed by volunteer firefighters. However, in larger communities, volunteering at your local fire station is a common step toward becoming a career firefighter. In comparing candidates for a full-time job, a fire chief would likely give weight to a person who has already completed the station's mandatory training and proven herself as a valuable team member and contributor in fire and rescue situations.
When you volunteer, you typically have greater control over your level of involvement and commitment. Fire stations do normally have minimum monthly hour requirements for volunteers for consistency in operations and scheduling. However, it is up to you whether you want to work the minimum time or take on extra shifts or calls. This makes it easier to volunteer around other jobs and family responsibilities.
Volunteer firefighters also receive several indirect or intangible benefits. First, you get paid training in safety and rescue procedures that you can use outside of firefighting. You also get the thrill and excitement of putting out fires and helping with emergency response rescues. While the level of involvement for volunteers varies, you may get the chance to help in diverse situations, including fires, flood relief, accident response, water rescues and airplane crashes.
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