Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a career fire fighter? Do volunteer fire fighters get paid?
A: Career fire fighters have full-time paid benefited jobs as fire fighters. Volunteers are any other people who fight fires. They may receive no pay at all, be paid on an hourly, or a per-cal/basis. Volunteer fire fighters typically have jobs and careers outside of fire fighting. Also, many volunteer departments offer incentives such as property tax abatement and length of service (pension) award programs.
Q: Who oversees fire fighters in the state?
A: Fire protection, and the people who provide it, are local issues in the same way that street cleaning is a local issue. In other words, there is no legislatively mandated state director of street cleaners. Localities decide on their own fire protection services. The Legislature does regulate fire fighters’ pensions, worker compensation, voluntary training standards, etc.
Q: How many fire fighters are there in the U.S.? (How many career, how many volunteer?)
A: According to estimates based on the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2002 National Fire Experience Survey (released January 2004); there were approximately 1,108,240 fire fighters in the U.S. in 2002, an increase of 2.8% from the previous year.
The information comes from the annual survey sent out to fire departments and a weighting formula used by NFPA in their estimate equation. In this survey, career fire fighters were defined to include full-time fire fighters regardless of assignments (e.g. suppression, prevention/inspection, administrative).
This survey defined career fire fighters who work for public municipal fire departments; it does not include career fire fighters who work for private fire brigades.
Most career fire fighters (76% of the 291,650) work in communities that protect 25,000 or more people.
The survey defined volunteer fire fighters as any active part-time (on-call or volunteer) fire fighters. Active volunteers were defined as being involved in fire fighting. Of the total number of fire fighters, 74%, or 816,600 were volunteers.
Most of the volunteers (95% of the 816,600) are in departments that protect fewer than 25,000 people. More than half of the volunteers protect fewer than 2,500 people.
Q. How many fire departments are there in the U.S.?
A: According to NFPA’s 2002 National Fire Experience Survey, there are an estimated 30,310 fire departments in the U.S. 12% of all departments are all career or mostly career but protect 60% of the U.S. population, while 88% of the departments are mostly volunteer or all volunteer and protect 40% of the population.
• 2,044 departments (6.7%) are all career
• 1,480 departments (4.9%) are mostly career
• 4,886 departments (16.1%) are mostly volunteer
• 21,900 departments (72.3%) are all volunteer