Should You Become a Volunteer Firefighter? What Does it Entail?

Firefighting is one of the most important responsibilities that exists in a society. Ever since humans banded together and created communities, outbreaks of fire have been a devastating risk. Did you know that even Ancient Rome had firefighters? You would be surprised at some of the ingenious methods that they used to fight fires.

Even today, with all the advancements we have, fires are still a serious danger that forces us to invest in firefighting infrastructure. 

Unfortunately, America is currently facing a serious shortage of firefighters, and volunteer firemen can make a big difference until the shortage is remedied. If you feel inspired to become one, it’s worth knowing both the pros and cons of the commitment. Let’s explore. 

What You Might Not Be Prepared for as a Firefighter

People who have a rose-tinted view of firefighting might be surprised at what your duties might include. Contrary to what you see on TV, firefighting isn’t as simple as standing outside a burning building with a hose. It will involve some not-so-pleasant moments.

1. The Training is Rigorous

Firefighting is inherently challenging and requires individuals to respond to life-threatening emergencies and protect communities from the destructive force of fires. It demands exceptional physical fitness and endurance to perform strenuous tasks in high-stress environments. 

Training programs include rigorous physical conditioning exercises, such as running, climbing stairs, carrying heavy equipment, and performing simulated firefighting drills. 

These activities seek to build muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, and stamina, that are needed during prolonged firefighting operations. This is a responsibility that will test your physical limits. Even active individuals who exercise regularly will find it hard to get used to the requirements, but that’s a challenge that some enjoy.

2. The Health Risks Can Be Serious

Something you should be aware of is that firefighting isn’t the most risk-free occupation. Even if you aren’t going into it as a career, there are many hazards that you will have to face, some of them from unexpected areas. 

Look at the AFFF lawsuit situation, where firefighters are filing lawsuits because exposure to certain firefighting materials led to cancer. Indeed, as a volunteer firefighter, you will have to face a number of situations that aren’t going to be the ‘safest.’ Are you fine with that? Even if there’s a potential for long-term health risks?

According to TruLaw, AFFF stands for aqueous film-forming foam, a fire-fighting substance that is often used to deal with liquid fires. Unfortunately, exposure to it causes severe side effects, most commonly cancer. 

The risk of getting hurt during active firefighting is also obvious, and it’s not just from fire. A burning building is dangerous, with hazards around every corner. Becoming a volunteer firefighter means that you understand and accept these risks.

The Benefits of Becoming a Volunteer Firefighter

Despite the physical strain and danger to health, there are a number of interesting benefits that come with becoming a volunteer firefighter. For people who wish to volunteer because they truly care about firefighting, these benefits can be a surprising bonus. 

1. You Learn New, Practical Skills

While the primary goal of firefighting is to protect lives and property during emergencies, the role also offers numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth through the acquisition of new skills.

Training in fire suppression techniques, rescue operations, and emergency medical procedures enhances preparedness and ensures that firefighters can safely navigate hazardous situations.

Many of the skills you learn are valuable even outside of a firefighting context. For instance, firefighters learn search and rescue techniques to locate and extricate individuals trapped in burning buildings or other hazardous environments. 

Likewise, basic emergency medical procedures, such as CPR, first aid, and patient assessment are skills crucial for providing immediate medical assistance. They are great to know and can prove useful one day. More importantly, the experience teaches you how to work in a team, which is incredibly important in today’s world, regardless of your occupation. 

2. The Networking Opportunities are Many

Fire stations are hubs of camaraderie, where individuals from diverse backgrounds come together with a shared commitment to public service. Volunteer firefighters often interact with community leaders, elected officials, and government agencies in the course of their duties. 

Whether it’s attending public events, participating in fire prevention programs, or collaborating on emergency response plans, firefighters have opportunities to engage with key stakeholders.

Many volunteer firefighters are members of professional associations and organizations that provide networking opportunities and resources for career development. 

These associations may include statewide fire chiefs’ associations, national firefighter organizations, and specialized groups focusing on areas such as wildland firefighting, technical rescue, or emergency medical services.

The people you meet are diverse enough that you gain a strong networking advantage, regardless of what line of work you are in.

In conclusion, becoming a firefighter, volunteer or not, is a serious commitment to make. If you think this is going to be something simple, like volunteering at a dog shelter, think again. It can almost feel like a second job that doesn’t pay. 

It’s a responsibility that works best for people who are truly passionate about serving the firefighting cause. If you count yourself in that group, then the experience can be rewarding beyond a financial perspective.

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