The Pros and Cons of a Volunteer Hero

Here are some of the benefits and the drawbacks of volunteer firefighting.

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Photo by Erin Conner

It’s no question the amount of stress and trauma that can be experienced when your job title is a firefighter. Not many people have what it takes to put others’ lives before their own.

There are about twice as many volunteer firefighters as there are career firefighters but, what is it about the job that causes the numbers to fluctuate so frequently?

 Volunteers leave for a multitude of reasons, some of which include better offers at bigger departments but,  a major issue seems to be the payment or, lack thereof and, the increase in the cost of living here in New York. Since many are volunteers and do the job for free, most families simply cannot feed the demand anymore. Age eligible people living in a home spend a majority of their hours at a full time job attempting to make substantial enough wages to provide for themselves and a family, which in turn means the lack of time availability for such a volunteer service. Especially now with the living costs increasing by 14% in just the last three years alone most are struggling or just getting by. This is considered a huge con for volunteer firefighters.

Kieran Mooney, a local volunteer firefighter also states that “one con of the job includes the long and extensive hours of training.” Now the specific amount of hours needed depends on one’s location and department but typically volunteers are required to get anywhere from 20-150 hours of training each year with additional fitness tests as well, which is a lot of hours for an individual who is not dedicated solely to this job alone. It’s understandable why this may turn some people away, training to save a life is extremely time consuming and nerve racking for potential ‘newbies’ to the job.

Despite the fact that the cons are a huge responsibility that a volunteer has to put up with, a pro that really draws in most to becoming a volunteer firefighter is the rewarding feeling of saving someone’s life or property. Responding to a fire is an undeniable thrill that sends adrenaline flooding through a first responders body, they have to have immense courage as more often than not they have lives in their hands. Firefighters are an essential part to every society and knowing that you can make a contribution to your community with a great impact on many entities is a rush that most live for.

Finally, although these firefighters are volunteers and do not receive payment, most are eligible for property tax reductions and tax credits in general. Taxes in New York continue to skyrocket and are already considered some of the highest out there, thus becoming a volunteer and giving up some of your hours for free doesn’t seem too bad for a pro like tax benefits. You simply have to fill out a IT-245 and IT-201 form, and again there are certain requirements such as a minimum number of hours worked for that tax year that need to be met but this will only benefit you financially in the end.

With over 1,665 registered fire departments and 800,000 volunteers in New York alone, the firefighting business, whether its volunteer or career, is a serious load to take on. There are both endless amounts of pros and cons that should be taken into consideration when thinking of joining such an association, and one must decide if this noble occupancy is the right fit for them. Either way a firefighter’s job will continue to remain an absolutely indispensable criteria of every society.