The Disappearing Volunteer Firefighter

Article from the - AUG. 16, 2014

IN most places in America, when a fire breaks out, a volunteer shows up to put it out.

But the ranks of volunteers are dwindling. What was once an iconicpart of American life is losing its allure, in part because the work — some would say the calling — is a lot less fun than it used to be.

There are still more than twice as many volunteers as career firefighters. But the number of volunteers has dropped by around 11 percent since the mid-1980s, while the number of career firefighters has grown more than 50 percent, according to theNational Fire Protection Association. The allure has diminished because fund-raising now takes up roughly halfthe time most volunteers spend on duty. It’s also harder to fit in volunteer work. The rise in two-income households often means that there is no stay-at-home parent to run things so the other can dash off for an an emergency. Urbanization and the aging of the rural population are taking their toll as fewer young people are available to replace firefighters who retire.

Photo Credit: NY Times

Photo Credit: NY Times

“Benefits are important — yes, to compensate volunteers for their time, but also to show that the community values their service,” said David Finger, the government relations director for the National Volunteer Fire Council.

“Every time something goes wrong with that stuff, someone dials 911,” he said, “and guess who gets sent?”

Full article continued here….

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