Volunteer Fire Department Recruitment & Retention

Larry Curl and Tim Wall suggest there is a “myth” surrounding the issue of recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters in this country.


There seems to be a myth about the recruitment of volunteer firefighters in this country. Many would lead you to believe that we – the volunteer fire service of America – are having a difficult time recruiting members. We contend, however, that this is just a myth. Oh, you say you...


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  • Three to five members of your department, who can be elected by the membership or appointed by officers

Here are some interesting facts that can be found in the “Blue Ribbon Report” by the Volunteer and Combinations Officers Section (VCOS) of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC):

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are close to 800,000 volunteer firefighters across the United States, and the majority of this nation’s geographical area is protected by volunteer fire departments. Of all the fire departments in America, 73% are all-volunteer departments. It is estimated that volunteer firefighters save American taxpayers $37 billion per year.

  • Total emergency calls in the United States have increased by an estimated 61% since 1983 to nearly 18 million responses per year.

Now, the commercial. As the chairman and vice chairman of VCOS, we welcome your suggestions, comments, input, thoughts and membership. We offer the “21st Century Leadership Course” to help you manage your department. If you wish additional information on membership or the educational opportunities offered by VCOS or read our “Blue Ribbon Report,” please visit us at www.vcos.org.

We do not claim to have all the answers, or even all the questions, but we can offer suggestions that have worked and are working for us and for many others.


Tim Wall is vice chairman of the Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS) of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and chief of the North Farms Volunteer Fire Department in Wallingford, CT. Larry Curl is chairman of VCOS and deputy chief of Hillman Firefighters Inc. in Montezuma, IN. This article is based on their presentation, “Recruitment and Retention in a Volunteer Fire Department” at Firehouse Expo 2004 in Baltimore.