"Volunteer Fire Department Recruitment and Retention"
May 15, 2003
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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The recruitment and retention problems in the volunteer fire department are
becoming more evident in today's society. There are many challenges facing these
issues. The physical demands and time demands associated with training, running
emergency calls, maintaining station equipment, fundraising, and operating a non-profit
organization are intense. Today, more than in past years it requires strong leadership and
coordination to make the fire service a place where people want to give their time.
(Bush, Schaenman, & Thiel, 1998)
History of the Volunteer Fire Service in America
The history of the United States volunteer fire service began in 1648 in New
Amsterdam, founded by Peter Stuyvesant. Recognizing the need to secure the city from
fire he appointed four fire wardens whose efforts in fire prevention and extinction
included chimney laws, bucket brigades, simple ladders, and hand-pumped engines, all
controlled by a loose organized group of volunteers.
Hose companies supplied the water
to the engines and applied it to the fires. Hook and ladder companies were responsible
for rescue, ventilation, and overhaul. Closely related to how it is today. By the mid-
nineteenth century the volunteer fire departments were for the most part well organized,
but at the same time extremely large, rowdy, and unwilling to adopt the new technology
of the steam engine. The resistance to this change, publicized fights, pressure from the
insurance companies and influential citizens along with politics, ethnic tension, greater
fire risks, increasing population, and a decline in the quality of membership led to the
eventual end of volunteer fire departments in large cities. Thus, a change occurred from
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volunteer to career firefighters. (www.nvfc.org/pdf/retention_and_recruitment.pdf)
Currently in the United States, both volunteer and career...