Volunteer Fire Service

Keys to Recruitment and Retention

Issue 8 and Volume 163.

By ALAN L. RUFER Magazine articles on the decline of the volunteer fire service seem to be written on a regular basis, and there is no shortage of online articles referencing a decline in the numbers of volunteer firefighters. What surprises me is the lack of supporting evidence found within many of these articles and the misleading manner in which their statistics are presented. For example, one recent article’s statement that volunteer ranks have declined about 10 percent since 1983 is correct, but I do not feel that it accurately depicts the volunteer fire service’s current state. That article used data from 1983 to 2007. A concern is that 1985 accounted for a six-percent decline in volunteers, which represents the largest one-year decline during the 25-year period. Also, 1985 and 1986 accounted for a combined 10-percent decrease in volunteers—the largest consecutive two-year decline of volunteers during the 25-year period.1 Including…

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