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Out-of-the-box recruitment ideas for short-staffed fire departments

Looking to hire? Check out these unique recruiting ideas


Photo/City of Shakopee

Recruitment and retention issues have been top of mind for fire service leaders for years now; however, staffing shortages among volunteer and full-time members alike have reached alarming levels recently.

Following two years of pandemic restrictions, quarantines and lockdowns, fire leaders are eager to get their numbers back up – but how?

With nearly every employer in the U.S. looking for reliable workers amid the Great Resignation, the fire service will need to ramp up its recruitment game with creative ways of advertising the industry. Check out how some fire departments are using unique approaches to reach recruits, and share how your department is working to encourage applications.

1. Advertise on buses, park benches ... or a Zamboni

Imagine all of the potential-future firefighters who show up for their kid’s ice hockey games and see a fire truck-themed Zamboni glide across the ice.

In January, the City of Shakopee, Minnesota, unveiled its fire-themed Zamboni, part of the Shakopee Fire Department’s recruitment efforts for a February hiring spree. The call to action is right there on the side of the Zamboni: “Become a firefighter.”


Photo/Shakopee Fire Department

2. ... Or a concrete truck

In South Carolina, Newberry Fire Department members were brainstorming creative ways to get the word out that the department was hiring. Gene Shealy, recruitment captain for the NFD, said the initial suggestion was to put a sign on a concrete truck to let drivers on the road know the department was hiring.

The final result was much more than a simple sign.

Instead, the department was given the royal treatment by Mark Hartsell of Carolina Concrete, who said some might consider the concrete truck design over the top, but he disagreed. “Anything you can do to let those guys and gals know how much they are appreciated needs to be done,” he said.

Mission accomplished!

3. State-wide recruitment efforts

In North Carolina, a state-wide public safety announcement reminds residents that the fire service is something they are all a part of, referencing the “caring mom, who also teaches fire safety,” and the “geek behind the scenes working social media like a boss.”

The PSA works on behalf of all short-staffed departments in the state, advertising the available openings, while saving the departments money to use on city-specific recruitment tactics, which will hopefully be made easier with the PSA working to get the conversation started among potential fire candidates.

Is your state providing any additional recruitment promotions or volunteer encouragement to residents? Let us know in the comments, or send us an email with what your state is doing.

4. Utilize younger members

In this video from the University of California at Davis Fire Department, student firefighters tout the worthiness of the program, the benefits to potential recruits and what they can expect on the job.

While some of these suggestions may not be replicable at your department, you might be able to take the basic idea and tweak it to make it work for your members.

Are you having success with a unique recruitment tactic? Let us know what’s working, and we might include it in a future article.


Read next:

How to create an incredible firefighter recruitment video

Follow these simple steps for showcasing your department to prospective members

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.