Volunteer fire department
See also the Firefighter
Firefighters are rescuers extensively trained primarily to put out hazardous fires that threaten civilian populations and property, to rescue people from car incidents, collapsed and burning buildings and other such situations...

 article and its respective sections regarding VFDs in other countries.

A volunteer fire department (VFD) is a fire department
Fire department
A fire department or fire brigade is a public or private organization that provides fire protection for a certain jurisdiction, which typically is a municipality, county, or fire protection district...

 composed of volunteers who perform fire suppression and other related emergency services
Emergency service
Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities...

 for a local jurisdiction.

The first organized force of firefighters was the Corps of Vigiles in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


The term "volunteer" contrasts with career firefighters who are full-time/professional firefighters, working organized shifts, usually based in a centrally located firehouse
Fire station
A fire station is a structure or other area set aside for storage of firefighting apparatus , personal protective equipment, fire hose, fire extinguishers, and other fire extinguishing equipment...

. Some volunteer departments may operate as part of a combination system
Combination fire department
A combination fire department is a type of fire department which consists of both career and volunteer firefighters. In the United States, combination fire departments are typically tax-supported in some fashion, and generally have an annual call volume larger than purely volunteer departments...

, where paid firefighters also provide emergency services. In this way, a station can be regularly staffed for rapid response with apparatus, and the volunteers provide supplementary staffing and/or staffed apparatus before, during, and after an incident, or while the career staff are out of service doing training.

The term "volunteer" may also be used in reference to a group of part-time or on-call firefighters who may have other occupations when not engaged in occasional firefighting. Although they may have "volunteered" to become members, and to respond to the call for help
Call for Help
Call for Help, also known as CFH, was a computer-themed television program that first aired exclusively on TechTV , a cable and satellite television network focused on technology, and then aired on G4techTV Canada and the HOW TO Channel in Australia...

, they are not compensated as employees during the time they are responding to or attending an emergency scene, and possibly even for training drills. An on-call firefighter would probably be expected to volunteer time for other non-emergency duties as well (training, fundraising, equipment maintenance, etc.).


Volunteer fire departments are providing the majority of Germany's and Austria's civil protection services, alongside other volunteer organizations like Technisches Hilfswerk
Technisches Hilfswerk
The Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk is a civil protection organisation controlled by the German federal government...

, voluntary ambulance services and emergency medical or rescue services. In most rural fire departments, the staff consists only of volunteers. The members of these departments are usually on-call 24/7 and working in other professions.

In medium-sized cities and communities, fire departments will often be partially staffed by career firefighters. They ensure the rapid availability of some of the department's fire apparatus, with the remaining apparatus staffed and brought to the scene of the emergency by volunteers as soon as they arrive at the department.

Larger cities, typically those with 100,000 inhabitants or more, will operate fire departments staffed completely by career firefighters. However, they also typically have several volunteer fire departments, who are called upon in case of larger emergencies.

United States

According to the National Fire Protection Association
National Fire Protection Association
The National Fire Protection Association is a United States trade association that creates and maintains private, copywrited, standards and codes for usage and adoption by local governments...

, 71 percent of firefighters in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 are volunteers. The National Volunteer Fire Council
National Volunteer Fire Council
National Volunteer Fire Council is the leading 501 nonprofit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, EMS, and rescue services...

 represents the fire and emergency services on a national level, providing advocacy, information, resources, and programs to support volunteer first responders. The Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) provides information, education and training for the volunteer fire and emergency medical services throughout New York State.

Republic of Ireland

The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 is a branch of the national civil defence
Civil Defence Ireland
Civil Defence Ireland is the national civil defence organisation of the Republic of Ireland. It is operated at local authority level in conjunction with the Department of Defence....

 organisation. The service is usually only called upon for flooding incidents, emergency water supply and large-scale incidents where the resources of front-line fire brigades are stretched.


In Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 the firefighting in the countryside mostly depends on volunteer fire departments, nearly always with a contract with the regional emergency authorities (or, formerly and in Åland, the municipality). There are volunteer fire departments also in cities, but there with a minor role.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 there are three volunteer fire departments. The Auxiliary Fire Service
Auxiliary Fire Service
The Auxiliary Fire Service was first formed in 1938 in Great Britain as part of Civil Defence Air raid precautions. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by the incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades - most...

 is now disbanded, but part-time members of fire brigades who man smaller, often rural, stations are known as retained firefighters. Retained firefighters are fully trained personnel who provide cover on top of their regular jobs and live in the vicinity of a fire station.
The only volunteer fire stations can be found at Gordonstoun
Gordonstoun School is a co-educational independent school for boarding and day pupils in Moray in North East Scotland. Named after the estate originally owned by Sir Robert Gordon in the 1600s, the school now uses this estate as its campus...

 School in the Grampian
Grampian was a local government region of Scotland from 1975 to 1996. It is now divided into the unitary council areas of:*Moray*Aberdeenshire*City of AberdeenThe region had five districts:*Aberdeen*Banff and Buchan...

 area of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, and pupils over the age of 16 may train to become firefighters and respond to calls within the vicinity (although they are not paid). Another volunteer fire station is in Peterborough
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of in June 2007. For ceremonial purposes it is in the county of Cambridgeshire. Situated north of London, the city stands on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, this is manned by the Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade
Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade
In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, the use of retained firefighters rather than volunteers is standard. The Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade, formed in 1884, is the only one of its kind remaining...

. This fire station whilst operating like a Retained unit is contrated to provide a service to the Cambridgeshire Fire Service. There is also Borth Volunteer Fire Station, near Aberystwyth, Wales.


In Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

 there are three different groups of firefighters, two are ruled by the Direccion General de Bomberos which has government support and the other one is ruled by the Federación de Cuerpos de Bomberos de Nicaragua which are Benemeritos who are volunteers firefighters like Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Masaya
Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Masaya
Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Masaya is the fire department of Masaya, Nicaragua. It was founded in 1963 by Dr. Oscar Perez Noguera and is a part of the Federation of Fire Corps Nicaragua. It is registered as the "Fire Department Meritorious Masaya"....


Throughout Australia there are many volunteer firefighting departments which are set up by the individual states or territories. New South Wales is serviced by two statutory firefighting authorities. These are the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS
New South Wales Rural Fire Service
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is a volunteer-based firefighting agency and statutory body of the NSW Government. The NSW RFS is responsible for the general administration of rural fire management affairs including administration of the Rural Fire Fighting Fund, co-ordination with local...

) and Fire and Rescue NSW. Fire and Rescue NSW has firefighting responsibilities for the major cities, metropolitan areas and several other towns in NSW. The NSWRFS is the volunteer firefighting service in NSW and consists of over 70,000 volunteers and has responsibility for over 90% of the land area in NSW. Although most of this is bush and grass land, the NSWRFS also serve smaller and regional communities that are not covered by Fire and Rescue NSW.

In Victoria, there are three main fire fighting organisations, Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB
Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Melbourne)
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade , also known as the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, provides firefighting, rescue, and hazardous material incident response services to the metropolitan area of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia...

), Country Fire Authority (CFA
Country Fire Authority
Country Fire Authority, or CFA, is the name of the fire service that provides firefighting and other emergency services to all of the country areas and regional townships within the state of Victoria, Australia, as well as large portions of the outer suburban areas and growth corridors of Melbourne...

) and The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). The CFA is a volunteer and community based fire and emergency services organisation that is made up of around 61,000 members. Of these members, some 59,000 are volunteers See CFA Website. Their roles range from fire and rescue, to non-operational support roles.

Financial support

A VFD may be financially supported by taxes raised in a city, town, county, fire district, or other governmental entity, as well as corporate and other private donations, federal grants, and other assistance from auxiliary members, or firefighters' associations.

With these funds the VFD acquires and operates the firefighting apparatus, equips and trains the firefighters, maintains the firehouse, and possibly also covers insurance, worker's compensation, and other post-injury or retirement benefits. A VFD (or its governing entity) may also contract with other nearby departments to cover each other in a mutual aid
Mutual aid (emergency services)
In emergency services, mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries. This may occur due to an emergency response that exceeds local resources, such as a disaster or a multiple-alarm fire. Mutual aid may be ad hoc, requested only when...

 (or automatic aid) pact as a means for assisting each other with equipment and manpower, when necessary.

Expanded duties

Depending upon the location and availability of other services, a VFD may be responsible for controlling structure fire
Structure fire
A structure fire is a fire involving the structural components of various residential buildings ranging from single-family detached homes and townhouses to apartments and tower blocks, or various commercial buildings ranging from offices to shopping malls...

s as well as forest fires. Because it may be the only emergency services department for some distance, a rural VFD may also be fortunate to include first responders, emergency medical technician
Emergency medical technician
Emergency Medical Technician or Ambulance Technician are terms used in some countries to denote a healthcare provider of emergency medical services...

s, Hazardous Materials response, and other specially qualified rescue personnel. Law enforcement officers may also be trained in these related duties and overlap with the VFD. The VFD may also have duties as the local fire inspectors, arson investigators, and as fire safety
Fire safety
Fire safety refers to precautions that are taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire that may result in death, injury, or property damage, alert those in a structure to the presence of a fire in the event one occurs, better enable those threatened by a fire to survive, or to reduce the...

 and prevention
Fire prevention
Fire Prevention is a function of many fire departments. The goal of fire prevention is to educate the public to take precautions to prevent fires, and be educated about surviving them. It is a proactive method of reducing emergencies and the damage caused by them. Many fire departments have a Fire...

 education, in addition to being the local civil defense
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

 or disaster relief liaison.

Emergency response

A Volunteer Fire Department is normally reached the same way as other emergency services, such as by calling 9-1-1
9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan .It is one of eight N11 codes.The use of this number is for emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose can be a crime.-History:In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the...

 or 1-1-2
112 is the principal emergency telephone number that can be dialed free of charge from any telephone or any mobile phone in order to reach emergency services in the European Union , its candidates for accession, members of the EEA agreement, as well as several other countries in the world...

. A central dispatcher then calls out the VFD, often through equipment such as pager
A pager is a simple personal telecommunications device for short messages. A one-way numeric pager can only receive a message consisting of a few digits, typically a phone number that the user is then requested to call...

s, radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

s, or loud signals, such as a fire siren. Average response times may be longer than with full-time services because the members must come from different distances to the station or to the incident. However, there is a possibility that more firefighters may arrive at an incident with a volunteer department, as compared to paid departments. Such departments often have a fixed number of firefighters on staff at any given point in time, which sometimes equals the minimal numbers recommended. Some states allow the use of Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAPS)
Length of service award program
Length of Service Award Programs are pension-like programs increasingly used across the United States to assist communities in recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel...

 to provide these volunteer departments with a tool to assist in recruiting and retaining members. LOSAPS are simple programs that can be implemented with minimal taxpayer expense.

Some volunteer fire departments allow the use of Courtesy lights
Courtesy lights
Courtesy Lights are used by volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians to expedite their drive, in their privately owned vehicles, to their firehouse or EMS Base...

 or emergency lights and sirens by its members. In most states that allow both lights and sirens, this is a red light and siren that gives the responding member the same privileges as other emergency vehicles. In other jurisdictions, this may be a green or blue light without a siren (Courtesy lights), that only requests the right of way, and does not give the responding member any privileges to break traditional traffic laws. The use of such equipment varies from fire district to fire district based on need for fast response, distance that members live from the fire station, the size and amount of other traffic in the fire district as well as local and state law. Some departments restrict or prohibit use of such emergency lights, even when allowed by state law, due to the increased risk of traffic accidents involving volunteers responding in emergency mode. In some states, volunteer firefighters and EMTs are eligible to receive specialty license plates for personal vehicles that identify them as trained emergency services personnel.


All operational volunteer fire department members receive some form of training, either in a formal or informal setting; This depends on the state and regulatory authority. The level and type of basic and specialty training varies across the country. Many volunteer fire departments have training programs equal to that of paid departments. New members are referred to as "recruits," "rookies," "probies" (short for "probationary"), or even "red hats" in some departments that require the recruit to wear special gear or markings (such as a red helmet in some departments) to denote their ranking. Some departments allow (or even require) new recruits to ride along on fire apparatus as observers before undergoing the rigors of further fire training.

Specialty training can include wildland firefighting, technical rescue, swift water rescue, hazardous materials response, vehicle extrication, FAST team
Firefighter Assist and Search Team
A Firefighter Assist and Search Team , also known as a Rapid Intervention Team/Crew , is a team of two or more firefighters dedicated solely to search and rescue of other firefighters in distress. FAST shall have no other operational assignment during an incident...

, and others.

External links

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