How to Become a Volunteer Firefighter
Anthony Cosentino is an social studies educator who has taught at Woonsocket High School in Rhode Island for the last 22 years. He also holds an MA in history from Providence College. Alongside teaching, Anthony Cosentino is a volunteer firefighter for the Putnam Fire Department. Through Putnam, he has received certifications in Level 1 and Level 2 firefighting as well as hazmat operations.
Volunteer firefighters make up a substantial chunk of the firefighting workforce in the US; according to the US National Fire Protection Association, 70 percent of US firefighters are volunteers. Since volunteering is both a rewarding way to be a reliable emergency responder and is a flexible enough arrangement to pursue other work or interests, signing up to be one can be an attractive prospect, especially for one with a childhood passion for the vocation.
While being a volunteer firefighter is not a full-time job, a prospective responder still needs to undergo extensive training, and ensure that their lifestyle allows them to deal with emergencies on a regular basis. The minimum requirements to apply are being over the age of 18 to join the local fire department, holding a valid driver’s license, passing a background check and physical evaluation, and showing proof of residence in the area to guarantee their availability.
The first place to get this process started is to contact the local fire department. They will inform applicants on what the state-specific or area-specific requirements are, and guide them through the process. The department also provides certification paths in a variety of essential skills as well as regular firefighting, such as emergency medical response, hazmat operations and awareness, paramedic training, and wildland firefighting. Once they earn their certificates, the volunteer’s responsibilities will depend on the specializations they have studied, as well as the kind of support the department needs.