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Resources for the Volunteer Fire Service

Almost 70% of U.S. firefighters are volunteers. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is working with our partners to help keep volunteers healthy and safe, and to keep the volunteer fire service strong now and in the future.

Health and safety

See also: USFA resources on firefighter health, safety and wellness

The volunteer fire service has its own distinct issues related to health and safety. This report identifies resources, provides references, suggests tools, illustrates best practices, and establishes goals and objectives for each issue to help departments improve firefighter safety, well-being and survival.

As a nation, we rely on the volunteer fire service every day to save lives and protect property in times of danger and disaster. In order to do so, volunteers must first be healthy, safe and able to respond.

Focus areas include:

  • Aging of the volunteer fire service.
  • Declining number of volunteers.
  • Funding.
  • Rural operations.
  • Time constraints.

Project sponsors: National Volunteer Fire Council and USFA.

Recruitment and retention

Many fire departments are experiencing more difficulty with recruiting and retaining members than ever before. Can the trend in declining volunteerism be reversed? Information collected reveals that departments that have taken steps to deal with the problems have seen a resurgence in volunteerism.

If your volunteer department is looking for ideas and proven successful practices in recruitment and retention, download our publication “Retention and Recruitment for the Volunteer Emergency Services: Challenges and Solutions PDF.”

We're updating this guide to provide volunteer fire departments with proven, successful strategies for recruitment and retention of personnel. In addition, the guide will address underrepresented populations in the volunteer fire service, including women and minorities. Estimated release date: March 2023


Volunteer Incentive Program

The National Fire Academy's (NFA's) Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) is a free, intensive 6-day educational opportunity for volunteer and combination department emergency services personnel. Students meet and exchange ideas and information with colleagues from across the country.

VIP courses, offered during a “VIP Week” 3 times a year on the NFA campus, are accredited through the American Council on Education. Learn more about the VIP.

Off-campus and online training opportunities

The NFA has many other courses that volunteers can take close to or at home to help meet professional development goals and reduce all-hazards risks to communities. Learn about NFA courses.