(NAPSM)—When an emergency strikes, firefighters are there to answer the call. What people may not realize is that the majority of these firefighters are volunteers, donating their time and energy to be there for those in need.
“It really is neighbors helping neighbors,” said Steve Hirsch, volunteer firefighter and chair of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “There is nothing more rewarding than being a volunteer firefighter—we are there for our neighbors when they are having their worst possible day.”
The need for volunteer firefighters and EMS providers is stronger than ever. While the number of emergency calls to fire departments has tripled in the last 30 years, the number of volunteers has decreased. This trend has become especially noticeable in the last few years. According to NFPA data, there were 682,600 volunteer firefighters in 2017, down from 814,850 in 2015.
Despite the decline, volunteers play a critical role in the nation’s emergency services, particularly in small and rural communities. Of the nearly 30,000 fire departments in the U.S., 83 percent are either entirely or mostly volunteer. These volunteers respond to nearly every type of emergency—structure fires, wildfires, medical emergencies, natural disasters, vehicle crashes, hazardous materials spills, search and rescue, active shooter threats, and more.
“We need more people to step up and serve so that we can continue to provide critical life-saving services in our local communities,” said Hirsch. “Anyone can be a firefighter. The biggest requirement is the desire to help others. The rest can be taught.”
For those who want to help but aren’t able to commit to becoming a firefighter or EMS provider, volunteers are also needed to fill non-operational roles. Community members can join a department’s auxiliary program to provide support services such as fire prevention education, disaster planning, fundraising, administration, and more.
Volunteering in the fire service provides a unique way to give back to the community while developing skills and experience that can greatly benefit many aspects of a person’s personal and professional life. It also provides a sense of camaraderie, purpose, and community impact to those who serve.
“We come from all backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all part of this extraordinary fire service family,” said Hirsch. “I strongly encourage anyone looking for a way make a difference to consider joining their local volunteer fire department.”
Find a local fire service volunteer opportunity at www.MakeMeAFirefighter.org.
On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)