10 reasons to not become a volunteer firefighter
Some people just aren’t fit for the volunteer life – you know, like people who enjoy sleep
By Mikey Heinrich
There are plenty of good reasons to become a volunteer firefighter in your community. And if there is one universal truth about volunteer fire departments, it’s that they are always looking for new recruits to join their ranks.
That being said, becoming a volunteer firefighter isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. There are plenty of good reasons why you might not be a good fit for the fire service. Outside of age and infirmity, here are 10 additional reasons why you might not want to become a volunteer firefighter:
1. You enjoy sleeping
Sure, getting woken up in the middle of the night to run out the door and spend a few hours in 80 pounds of gear is, of course, the most fun thing in the entire world. But after doing a bit of research, it turns out that there is a strange, barely comprehensible subset of the population that actually enjoys having an undisturbed night’s rest in a comfortable bed. Little is known or understood about these strange people. If you encounter them in your community, try to give them pity. They cannot help their twisted abnormality.
2. You’ve come to understand that it's a mistake to help other people
While it remains indisputably true that other people exist mostly to be a hindrance to your day-to-day activities, many volunteer departments frown on including members who openly express a "your roaring attic fire is not my problem" attitude. People with that sort of mentality are much better suited to working at The Gap.
3. You prefer to sweat as little as possible
I know, it seems bizarre to say it out loud, but there are people out there who prefer to avoid losing three to four pints of water at a stretch from sweating. These stingy, water-hoarding folk are rarely a good fit for your local volunteer department.
4. Breaking in doors and windows doesn't sound like any fun at all
Seriously, after a long stressful week at the day job, there is absolutely nothing therapeutic about taking a Halligan to a plate glass window. No, sir. Nothing therapeutic at all ….
5. You’re actively afraid of fire
True story – one of the many questions on the standard psych exam for new applicants is "True or False – I am afraid of fire." On one hand, I’d really like to believe that the inherent problem there would have occurred to you before you get to the psych test, but the realist in me has to accept that at some point, someone has gotten to that question and thought to themselves, "Oh … Wait … My crippling terror of fire is going to be a problem, isn’t it?"
6. You find the thought of running red lights to be upsetting
Particularly while laying on the sirens. Yes, that’s a nightmare. No fun at all.
7. Because only losers give back to their community
I mean, honestly. You see these people out there helping out with food drives or volunteering with youth organizations or whatnot. What’s up with them? Don’t they have cable?
8. You’re trying to avoid having any extra retirement savings
Sure, most departments have a pension plan that volunteer firefighters can become vested in after a certain amount of time. But I know I speak for the majority when I say that I am dedicated to spending my retirement years eating as much low-quality cat food in my street-corner cardboard box as possible. I’ll be damned if you’re going to get in the way of that.
9. Being part of a close-knit group who trust one another with their lives is probably overrated
If I wanted to have people in my life that treated me like family, I would have stayed in touch with my family, thank you very much.
10. Navy makes you look fat
Is it your fault that you’re a fall and not a winter? Of course not. That duty crew T-shirt is just a non-starter.
Hot potatoes, dispatchers and volunteer fire departments
We should never put dispatchers in a situation where they have to wonder if members are playing hot potato with the call
About the Author
Mikey Heinrich is a firefighter and public TV database wrangler at Twin Cities Public Television. He contributed to FireRescue1 through Uniform Stories.
This article, originally published in 2016, has been updated.