Yup, vollies are volunteer firefighters…but itâ€™s a bit more complicated than just fighting fire for free. Our dispatchers are paid; itâ€™s one of the few jobs we have (dispatcher, Service Director, and a few others) that actually gives out money. We also get paid when we get sent to fires on federal, state forestry, or certain kinds of private lands. For training, all our dispatchers are certified EMDs (emergency medical dispatchers), and most have other certs as well (in wildland fire, structure fire, or medical). The best come to every training they can, so they better understand what happens when the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Not having gone through the process myself, Iâ€™m not sure how intense it is, but dispatching one of the most vital jobs out there…and those of us on the ground sure notice the difference between a good dispatcher and a bad one.
Iâ€™m going to keep blowing the vollie trumpet and say that even though we tend not to get a whole lot of respect, it is great experience. Many, many fires have been killed on initial attack by vollies long before they became enough of an issue to bring in the big guns. We also get as much training as our communities can afford; if you get on with a good, well-supported vollie department, you can get training on par or better than you might get through the agencies (I know some folks donâ€™t want to hear that, but itâ€™s true…weâ€™ve bailed out some big names). Any of you ladies and gentlemen sitting home waiting for your FF to come home who want to learn a bit more about the fire world might consider volunteering; you donâ€™t have to give up your day job, and it is time consuming, but we have jobs and training for every level of time commitment and physical fitness. And itâ€™s a heck of a lot of fun.
Nerd on the Fireline