We walk past them in the grocery store, wait in line with them at Tim Horton’s, and see them as we pick up our kids from school or daycare. Who are these people just like you and I?
Volunteer firefighters. They are the men and women who choose to race out and help others when the call comes—in their spare time.
The NFPA estimates there were approximately 152,650 local firefighters in Canada during 2014-2016. Of the total number of firefighters, 26,000 (17 percent) were career firefighters, and 126,650 (83 percent) were volunteer firefighters.
In Ontario, there are 30,966 firefighters, and 18,772 of those are volunteers. The main issue facing our municipalities are recruitment and retention.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs says that volunteer firefighters, on average, each give their respective communities 443 hours of work per year.
Most of us go to work every day, head home, and focus on ourselves and our families. Whether you go to the gym, your kid’s hockey game, or simply relax, it is your time to do what you want. For the men and women who are volunteer firefighters, they choose to serve their communities.
What makes someone choose to be a volunteer? Is it the money? No—although many volunteers get paid, it is seldom about the money. For some volunteers, it has transcended over generations. For others, it’s an interest in public safety, to be part of a team, or to eventually pursue firefighting as a career.
For most, it simply comes down to wanting to help people. Serving one’s community.
I hear many stories from my members who tell me that being a firefighter is a challenging, satisfying, and rewarding experience. I can tell you for certain that there is a special connection between firefighters—one that can’t help but be developed when you have a group of members who, on a moment’s notice at any time of day or night, turn up to help a neighbour. Friendship and camaraderie are a big part of being a volunteer firefighter.
CLAC is extremely proud to be the union of choice for volunteer firefighters in Ontario. Representing over 1,200 members in Ontario, CLAC has been the voice for volunteers for over 15 years. We advocate for better access to training for our members, personal protective equipment and clothing, access to full-time career opportunities, fair wages, and compensation. We help foster an environment of respect within the municipalities they work in and notably, uphold their binding contract that protects their rights.
Collectively, we are beyond honoured to serve the men and women who give of themselves so freely in our greatest time of need—these heroes who live among us.