Hats off to Our Volunteer Firefighters
Day in and day out, CLAC’s volunteer firefighter members work hard to keep our communities safe
By Gord O’Coin, Regional Director
Firefighters are rightfully upheld as heroes in our society. But it might surprise you to learn the facts behind an unrecognized segment of these rescuers: your friendly neighbourhood volunteer firefighters.
Across Ontario, there are 18,800 volunteer firefighters. Of the 441 fire departments in Ontario, 194 are serviced exclusively by volunteer firefighters. An additional 215 are serviced by both volunteer and full-time firefighters in what is known as a composite fire department.
Volunteer firefighters are highly trained and provide an outstanding level of service to their communities. All volunteers must complete the training standards established by the National Fire Protection Association, which is identical to the training program for full-time firefighters. The time that they spend achieving this standard is completed in addition to the responsibilities of their full-time occupations.
Volunteer firefighters work in other paid professions to feed their families. They are tradespeople, healthcare professionals, paramedics, police officers, business owners, doctors, and lawyers, among many other occupations. In their free time they train as firefighters, maintain their fire stations, and attend emergency calls within their communities.
At any time, a volunteer can be called away from the dinner table, a warm bed in the middle of winter, family events, and even their workplace to respond to an emergency. The reason they do this is simple: to keep their communities safe. These brave men and women drop everything they are doing and rush to the fire station to be able to respond within a matter of minutes.
Since volunteer firefighters do this important job when they are available, they don’t perform this service for the paycheque. In fact, they receive only a nominal stipend for the time they spend serving their community.
An average annual honorarium amounts to less than $3,500 per year. This is in consideration for being available nearly 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. These everyday heroes do this difficult job because they care about their friends, family, and neighbours—and they often do it without the fanfare or recognition they deserve.
On the heels of First Responders Day on May 1, we would like to recognize all the volunteer firefighters in our communities who go above and beyond to keep us safe when disaster strikes. Your sacrifice means that we can sleep soundly at night, knowing there is experienced, competent support when we need it the most.