Nearly 7 in 10 firefighters in the United States are volunteer firefighters. If you live in almost any small town in America, your local fire department is more than likely staffed with volunteers. Volunteer firefighters are crucial to emergency response capabilities for those communities but there is a growing shortage of volunteer firefighters that has many fire chiefs across the country scrambling to recruit new volunteers. So why is there a growing shortage of volunteer firefighters in the United States and what are local fire departments doing to combat the shortage. Here are some facts on the growing volunteer firefighter shortage in the United States.
A shrinking (and aging) pool of volunteers
The major contributing factor to the volunteer firefighter shortage is quite simple. It is hard to recruit candidates when the job will inevitably not pay them what their work is worth. Most volunteer firefighters have full-time jobs, so the idea of taking on another full-time job with little to no pay is a hurdle volunteer fire departments have had to deal with for years.
“In most communities, we’re not recruiting a lot of young people,” says Sohyda. “And so what you get is three 65-year-old men showing up on a fire truck and you think you have a fire department.”