Frequently Asked Questions about Volunteering for a Fire Department
Volunteers consist of men and women, of every race and age.
What exactly is the definition of a Fire Department volunteer?
The term "volunteer" may be used in reference to a group of part-time or on-call members / firefighters who may have other occupations when not engaged in occasional firefighting or other service. Although they may have "volunteered" to become members, and to respond to the call for help, they are not compensated as employees during the time they are responding to or attending an emergency scene, and possibly even for training drills. Some fire departments provide a stipend to cover some expense related to “volunteering”. There is additional information included in these FAQs on volunteer payments. An on-call member / firefighter would probably be expected to volunteer time for other public service duties as well (training, fundraising, equipment maintenance, etc).
What are the qualifications for a volunteer member / firefighter?
In GENERAL, you have to be 18 years of age or older. High school graduate or equivalent is required. Valid Washington State driver’s license. Must pass a background check, physical exam and a drug screen. Must demonstrate use of good judgment and decision-making skills, good physical condition and have strong community and customer service orientation.
Fire Department Volunteer opportunities vary greatly from department to department. Most departments have a minimum age requirement, though some allow younger members to enroll as 'explorers' or junior volunteer firefighters. Physical testing procedures vary.
I am an older individual considering volunteer service. Is there an upper age limit given the physical demands of the job or for any other reason?
There isn’t an age restriction on the upper limit. We encourage all individuals, regardless of age, to consider a rewarding experience as a volunteer. There are many examples of individuals who begin volunteer service later in life and are very successful.
Do volunteers get paid?
Volunteers do not get paid, but they may be reimbursed; this is determined on a departmental basis. Reimbursement is usually a small amount for time spent on shifts, responding to calls, public service and training. The amount is usually at the discretion of the department.
Can a volunteer position lead to a career in fire service?
Yes. Volunteering is one of the best ways to get the necessary training and experience to be an attractive candidate for a career firefighting position. Other volunteer efforts can lead to a department career position (Public Education, Administrative Support, and Facilities Maintenance.)
How many hours do volunteer firefighters work?
Many departments require a minimum number of volunteer hours per month. This will depend on the department requirements.
How many hours does it take to train to become a volunteer firefighter?
The length of these programs varies, but all firefighters are required to have training that meets the States minimum requirements for emergency response. The length of the training varies between fire departments. Other support volunteer opportunities usually require less preparation.
Can I become a volunteer EMT at my local fire department?
Possibly. Some departments have volunteer EMS programs to supplement their public services.
Getting Started as a Volunteer Member / Firefighter
Make sure you are ready to commit. Making the decision to become a volunteer member / firefighter should not be taken lightly. Becoming a firefighter takes hundreds of hours of training and a strong commitment to the service. It is, however, a highly rewarding experience for most members. If you don’t feel you meet all the qualifications, you may still want to submit a request to find out if there are ‘non-combat’ opportunities at your local department. Many departments need and welcome support services.
You may or may not have a volunteer fire department in your area. Complete the form by clicking the "Volunteer" button and it will be sent to your local agency. If there are not opportunities in your area, you may be assigned to a department outside of your area.