Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Volunteer fire department
A volunteer fire department (VFD) is an organization of firefighters who have joined forces to perform fire suppression and other related emergency services for a local jurisdiction. Nearly 90 percent of firefighters in the United States are members of VFDs.
See also the Firefighter article and its respective sections regarding VFDs in other countries.
The term may also be used in reference to a group of part-time or on-call firefighters who may have other occupations when not engaged in occasional firefighting. Although they may have "volunteered" to become members, and to respond to the call for help, they are compensated as employees during the time they are responding to or attending an emergency scene, and possibly even for training drills. An on-call firefighter would probably be expected to volunteer time for other non-emergency duties as well (training, fundraising, equipment maintenance, etc). Used in this sense, the term "volunteer" contrasts with career firefighters who are full-time firefighters, working organized shifts, usually based in a centrally located firehouse. Some departments may work as a combination of career, on-call, and volunteer firefighters. In that way, a station can be regularly manned for rapid response with apparatus, the on-call forces can converge during an incident, and the volunteers provide supplementary manpower to the paid forces (before, during, and after an incident).
A VFD may be financially supported by taxes raised in a city, town, county, fire district, or other governmental entity, as well as corporate and other private donations, federal grants, and other assistance from auxilliary members, or firemens' associations.
With these funds the VFD acquires and operates the firefighting apparatus, equips and trains the firefighters, maintains the firehouse, and possibly also covers insurance, worker's compensation, and other post-injury or retirement benefits. A VFD (or its governing entity) may also contract with other nearby departments to cover each other in a mutual aid pact as a means for assisting each other with equipment and manpower, when necessary.
Depending upon the location and availability of other services, a VFD may be responsible for controlling structural fires as well as forest fires. Because it may be the only emergency services department for some distance, a rural VFD may also be fortunate to include First responders, Emergency medical technicians, and other specially qualified rescue personnel. Law enforcement officers may also be trained in these related duties and overlap with the VFD. The VFD may also have duties as the local fire inspectors , arson investigators , and as fire safety and prevention education, in addition to being the local civil defense or disaster relief liaison.
A VFD would normally be reached the same way as other emergency services. A central dispatcher would then call out the VFD, either by radio, or with a loud signal (e.g., siren or bell). However, average response times may be longer than with full-time services because the members must come from different distances to the station or to the indicident.
Many jurisdictions permit (or require) VFD members to equip their privately owned vehicles with special emergency lights (such as flashing green or red lights, or a red "FIRE" headlamp) and sirens. Under state law, others using the public ways may be required to yield the roadways to the VFD members when their emergency lights or sirens are on. This may permit the members to travel more quickly to the fire station or directly to the incident where their services are needed.
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