Did you realize that 40 percent of the firefighters in California are volunteers? A question was recently asked regarding what the difference is between a volunteer and career (or paid) firefighter. Although there are slight differences in the requirements, the answer is, there is really no difference other than being paid. Our career firefighters receive a salary and benefits. They are on-duty for 48 hours and off duty for 96 hours (4 days), unless needed to fill a shift vacancy or called-back for a staffing need, e.g. major incident or event.
In comparison, our volunteer firefighters are “on-duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, responding when they can. They do this for a very small stipend, each receiving $10 per call that they respond to. There are benefits – mostly relating to educational assistance and a $50,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) policy provided through a grant sponsored by the California State Firefighters Association.
There are many other non-monetary benefits however; providing life-saving services to our community, participating in civic events, networking abilities, establishing life-long relationships, and participating in specialized training courses.
Although there are, as mentioned, subtle differences between being a paid firefighter and volunteer, one area that does not differentiate is training. In last month’s article we discussed the amount of hours needed to complete the “basic training” in becoming a volunteer firefighter; approximately 156-165 hours. So what would one learn in this basic training course?
The following is a breakdown of the required courses approved by the State of California (State Fire Marshal) and recommended as industry standards by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Each of these classes is delivered locally by our in-house certified/qualified instructors:
• Orientation , Public Education, and Class Culture
• Incident Command System (ICS)
• Fire Behavior / Fire Control / Extinguishment Practices
• Personal Protective Equipment
• Forcible Entry
• CPR / First Aid / Blood Borne Pathogens
• Firefighter survival / Rapid Intervention Crew
• Ropes, Knots, and Hitches
• Low-Angle Rope Rescue (LARRO)
• Salvage and Overhaul
• Vehicle Extrication Techniques
• Fire Investigation
• Ventilation Techniques
• Confined Space Awareness
• Hazardous Materials
• Fire Extinguishers
• Freeway / Roadway Response
• Wild land Firefighting
Again, this list comprises the basic training needed before being able to become a full-fledged volunteer. Want to see some of this training in action? Attend the Firefighter Combat Challenge during the Apricot Fiesta. The event will take place on Saturday, May 31 immediately following the parade in front of Fire Station-I.
As of July 2010, local volunteer firefighter Daniel Estes has been serving the city of Patterson as part of West Stanislaus County’s Fire Protection District. Estes, who also serves as a printing press operator for Westco Graphics, Inc. in Tracy for the last eight years, currently assists Fire Station one at 344 West Las Palmas Ave. in Patterson.
He has had three years of experience firefighting with fellow volunteers, but soon hopes to become a career firefighter in the near future.
Estes said he volunteered to firefight in order to gain “experience, and the satisfaction of helping others in the time of an emergency.”