A question posted recently on Quora asked, “Will there ever be a time when there are no more career fire departments?" Zac Boyd, a firefighter engineer, gave his opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.
I believe that it is possible, but unlikely. In the larger population centers it would be unreasonable to rely on a volunteer department or a combination department.
My reasons include:
- Call volume: Many small cities have sufficient call volume on a regular enough basis unless an engine company was paid to be there. One of the busiest shifts that I have ever worked was averaging 1.2 calls per hour for 48 hours straight within a five square mile area. This area had zero skyscrapers or high-rise apartments. Volunteers wouldn't be able to make a living at another job due to the amount of time spent rushing out to handle calls. This scenario assumes a full service department that is all risk. All risk means that they respond to medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, swift water rescues, Hazmat, technical rescues, fire prevention, public service, mutual aid, natural disasters, and fire calls.
- Expertise: To be proficient in all of those disciplines, it requires plenty of practice. Can members of volunteer department achieve this level of profiency? Yes. Can you maintain an entire force of people trained to this level that are available every time they are needed without paying them? Doubtful. I don't believe that it is a scalable idea.
To be clear, this is not a knock on volunteer departments or firefighters. I'm just saying that there is a break point where the public has a legitimate need of professional firefighters that is beyond the capability of people responding from their places of business. And that service only serves the public if it is not privately funded. Could you imagine waiting for your credit to clear before anyone came to your assistance? Historically, that is where the fire service came from. To this day, we still refer to units as companies.
The professional fire service is one where all you have to do is pick up a phone and make a call for highly trained people to show up with the right equipment. Anytime, day or night, every single day, every single time, and help you.