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5 things to know about fire chaplains

Here’s an overview of what fire chaplains do and how you can become one


Fire chaplains are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

Photo/San Ramon Valley Fire

It’s no secret that firefighters have a dangerous job.

While we want every responder to return home safely after a shift, sadly it doesn’t always happen.

In the event of a sudden death, seriously injured firefighter or line of duty death, a fire chaplain provides both counseling to firefighters and other department members.

Firefighters often help people on the worst day of their life. In the same way, fire chaplains provide a service to fire departments through the worst of times. And much like the fire service – fire chaplains are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

Here’s an overview of what fire chaplains do and how you can become one.

1. What does a fire chaplain do?

A fire chaplain’s job is not an easy one. Their main purpose is to help firefighters and fire department members in the event of an injured or killed firefighter. They’re also available to personnel for grief counseling. They lend an ear for those who need to talk about something that is bothering them, such as physical or emotional stress. A fire chaplain’s goal is to aid, comfort and help firefighters and their families, according to the Federation of Fire Chaplains.

2. Fire chaplains and religion

Fire chaplains, while bound in religious tradition, can also serve as non-denominational and non-sectarian in his or her chaplaincy. A fire chaplain will usually find out a firefighter’s or family of a firefighter’s religious preference and notify a nearby church.

3. Are fire chaplains paid?

Most fire chaplains are volunteers. However, some may be employed either part-time or full-time by a fire department or outside agency and receive compensation.

4. Who serves as a fire chaplain?

A fire chaplain can be appointed by his or her fire department and must be endorsed by their religious organization. In rural areas, a fire chaplain can be a local pastor who volunteers their time to help a fire department. There are also firefighters who have ministry experience that volunteer their time when off-duty to do chaplain work.

5. How to become a fire chaplain

Every department has different needs, depending on where you live. While a large department like Detroit Fire may have five fire chaplains, a volunteer fire department would most likely rely on area pastors for their fire chaplain needs. Reach out to your local department and set up a meeting to speak to the fire chief about their fire chaplain needs. Basic requirements to become a fire chaplain include five years of ministry experience, a clean criminal record and you must be ecclesiastically certified or endorsed by a recognized religious body. The selection process usually includes individual and panel interviews; background, fingerprint and reference checks are also part of the process.

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.