TIL that 67% of all fire departments in the United States are entirely or mostly staffed by volunteers

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This is leading to a huge problem in most community fire department as staffing is a real problem, and the volunteers they do have are greying.


I was astounded when I learned this. All of the fire departments around me where I grew up (town of 35,000) were full time professional departments. I had two uncles that were career firefighters and one was the chief. I just thought that’s how it was everywhere.


I live in a small town that has volunteer everything. Everyone knows we rely on them. Same with the small towns in the surrounding area. The volunteers all carry something that pages them if there’s a call. They can leave their jobs. Businesses will stay pay to the end of their shift. The volunteer teachers have a buddy system with other teachers. If they get paged the students know which classroom to heads to. No one screws around when there’s a call. I grew up in a town of volunteers. There was a tower with a red light at the top. If the light was on you knew to pull off the road.


Fortunately fire is still a 100% volunteer force. God help us if fire ever goes pro.


These numbers are accurate but create a representation that isn’t. The numbers are heavily skewed toward po-dunk towns like mine, where the population could fill one corner of a stadium and nothing more. The lack of actual numbers of fires, the coordination between these tiny little towns in case of actual fires, and of course, the bravery and honor of the volunteer firefighters, are why it is like this in small towns across America. Especially in rural areas. To fund career firefighters just isn’t mathematically possible in places like this. Go to bigger cities though, it HAS to be pros. Too many fires, too many buildings and people concentrated in dense areas.