Could Reserve Firefighters Be The Replacement For Volunteer Personnel For Firefighting Or EMS ?

With declining memberships in many independent volunteer emergency services around the country in small cities and towns and counties and where governments are taking control of volunteer emergency services, would creating reserve personnel ranks be a coming trend to work with career personnel when needed?

Some of the sites on the internet say that most cities and counties that have reserve emergency personnel, the personnel must meet requirements to be in the reserves and take required training and keep their training updated to stay in the reserves. They can also fill in where needed when career personnel are absent.

They can be paid for their service or volunteer. If new career personnel are needed they can be drawn from the reserves to take a position as a career member of a fire service.


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Sounds like a combination department to me, just classify non-career personnel either volunteer or reserve.


In many cases, this is already occurring, you see more depts transitioning from all volunteer to some FT members, to more FT members, to combination, to less volunteers and eventually all FT. The factors determining this essentially stem from increased call volume, changing demographics, fewer jobs enabling response of volunteer FF employees, further travel from home/work, increased training requirements and so forth.


Does classifying as a reserve really end up replacing the volunteer, or is it more of a matter of trying to keep hold of something that is slipping by because the dept is not able to maintain? Personally, I just don't see such a change other than how the position is termed. Either the dept is able to meet the needs of the community, or they can't. As it is, there are very, very few "true" volunteer fire departments. Most depts today are paid on call or part time, etc as it is, it is just the dept still calls itself and members "volunteers".

In case some of you may not have noticed, approximately 75% of all Firefighters in this country are Volunteers. This is because many, many city's and townships  do not have the tax revenue to support a paid department.

Or the call volume to support it. We run 50-60 calls a year, Fire and EMS, in a 60sq. mile area. I don't see volunteer departments going anywhere, at least around here.

I would have to say you may find some areas maybe seeing a change from volunteers to need for more career personnel. There are volunteers that feel that they are being push out or the government has seen reasons to have more career to fill responses.                . Some independent volunteer companies have some recruiting problems. Most people that ask to join most likely are looking for a way to get paid as a volunteer.

In my department you don't get any money until you meet LOSAP requirements and by that time you may not want to ride fire or ems apparatus. 

Some  people that are joining burnout or move onto other areas before they get enough years in the service.

I have seen some volunteer companies taken over by a local or county government when problems a raise in the leadership or financial holdings of the organization and to see the vol. company closed.

There maybe some strong vol. organizations and others failing so the government has to do something to protect the citizens in area.

I think that  those that want to volunteer could be part of a government need for pay by call personnel as reserves for a local government to backup a career force when called up.

Maybe this would only be seen in metropolitan areas where the suburbs were protected by volunteer fire and ems organizations which are having  lose of members to jobs or lack of interest by the citizens in their areas and it continues to spread out as suburbs move farther out to areas which were rural are now becoming part of the surrounding metro areas where a hour or more drive to work is normal.



I'm not sure where you are getting your figures from, but they are a little outdated. As of 2012, only an estimated 66% of departments in the US are all volunteer. The estimates for volunteer firefighters has dropped to under 70%. This trend will continue to decline.


While your particular department may be doing ok, According to PA Fire Commissioner Edward Mann, a recent report stated there were over 300,000 volunteer firefighters in 1976. Today the number is closer to 50,000. That is a serious decrease.


I'm not exactly sure what a "reserve" firefighter would be, at least in Texas. There are reserve law enforcement officers here, but state law requires an agency to hold the commission of the officer. They are like volunteers in law enforcement. Most are required by their respective departments to put in x number of hrs each month, and no compensation. Commissioned firefighters, (career) may hold their own commission, and as long as they keep up with the CEs every year, they retain it, even if they are not affiliated with a department. Volunteers have no requirements to submit CEs yet, but they don't lose their training hours they have already acquired.

The volunteer fire curriculum has pretty much come into alignment with NFPA FF1 & 2 recommendations, and that in itself has caused a decrease in volunteer firefighters here. Add many of the other factors that John cited, and you have my department. We were one of the first departments in the county to start transitioning to a combination department, and there is a real probability that we may eventually become totally career. So whether you call them volunteer, or reserve, with the trends I am seeing, I'm not that optimistic about the future of many small departments across the country. 

I haven't seen much movement toward "reserve" members per say, but what's happening locally here is an increase in internship positions. The thoughts for interns is that the agency has greater control of interns vs volunteers. I would suspect the same for reserve firefighters vs volunteers. Although in the grandest reflection, an agency has the same level of control over it's volunteers as well.

The thoughts for interns is that the agency has greater control of interns vs volunteers. I would suspect the same for reserve firefighters vs volunteers. Although in the grandest reflection, an agency has the same level of control over it's volunteers as well.

Not sure with the wording, any dept worth a darn will be able to have a strong leadership presence and professional personnel, regardless of what their status is. Saying by having interns there is more "control" alludes to the fact that the other personnel tend to freelance. I doubt that is how you mean it, but how I picked up on it.


Now when it comes to interns, I would agree that you tend to see more and more depts going to this. It benefits those interning with experience and the dept benefits by having people always ready to respond, as well as personnel around to take care of rigs and equipment. How a dept operates and treats their interns and program would make the difference. Where I interned it was known by the regular membership that interns were not to be expected to do all the cleaning etc after calls. Interns were not just the "gophers" but were an intergral part of the dept. Interns received the latest training and often asked to reflect that back to the membership and so forth. 

Yeah, it was a short statement, but you about got it. Your opening statement covers what I intended for a conclusion. Doesn't matter the status or title you carry. It's about the expectation. I guess it's better explained by greater investment (either wage, tuition, etc) means you can hold a greater expectation.

There is a article on line in the Washington Post about the volunteers of Prince George's County MD are felling threaten by the hiring of more career personnel.

The article says that many volunteers feel they are being pushed out and that they have been working on a creating a union like group that would negotiate and bargain for the volunteers. Tis means that the 30 some vol. corps would have to pay dues for their members.

Also some vol. corps have had disputes with career personnel in their stations and there have been threats to not run ambulances and vol. officers to be suspended by the county fire chief. Some stations shut down at night after the career crews leave for the day.

Now if volunteers were made to be reserve emergency personnel with the require training and to staff stations with career personnel and come under county fire chief and his staff maybe people would work together.  

One thing I have seen in our county fire service is that you will find a lot rebel attitude in some volunteer fire houses which makes it hard for the career and volunteers to work together. Our union has also had attitude against volunteers because many volunteers are or were union members in career depts. around our county and seem to treat union members working in our county like maids in their volunteer houses.

One reason for attitudes on both sides.

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