​​​​WANTED: Volunteer firefighters across Minnesota to save lives, protect communities

Jan. 26, 2023

A firefighter spraying water on flames​ What do you think of when you picture a firefighter? Historically, the image of a firefighter was probably a big strong man running out of a burning building, saving the life of a victim by carrying them in their arms.

While that image may still be reality in some cases, the fire service is made up of a wide range people who perform a variety of life-saving activities. Far more often, firefighters will be the people helping grandma when she is injured in the middle of the night after a fall. Firefighters may be in the school teaching kids the dangers of fire. Firefighters may be alongside the road assisting an injured motorist after a collision.

Firefighters provide many necessary services to people across Minnesota, but our state's fire departments are struggling to get volunteers and full-time staff members. Part of the mission of our State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) is supporting fire departments, which includes helping them navigate challenges like making sure they have enough staff to keep their communities safe.

“We are hearing about recruitment challenges across the country and Minnesota is no exception," said Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Amanda Swenson. “Our fire-fighting force in Minnesota is 97.5 percent paid-on-call or volunteer, which is the second highest percent in the country. We rely heavily on our volunteers and finding those people to step forward to keep our communities safe."

Minnesota has approximately 775 fire departments — most of them staffed by volunteers. They have a full-time job outside of the fire service, but when their community calls, they answer. Communities across the state are calling for people like you.

SFMD is working with the Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA) to help make sure that call is heard. MSFDA received a $1.4 million grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program to improve the recruitment of volunteer firefighters in Minnesota.

If you're interested in becoming a firefighter, the first thing you need to do is head over to mnfirehire.com, a website run by MSFDA, to learn more about the duties of a firefighter.

All firefighters attend classes to learn the basic elements of the fire service. During the first year, you will learn the duties of the firefighter, history, fire science, scene management, the tools they use, and how to put it all together. There is a lot to learn in this job as it can be dangerous.

You will learn to use a chain saw, K12 saw, hydraulic spreaders, ladders, fire hose and nozzles, thermal imaging cameras, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). You will learn how to tie knots, repel from a tall building, and even fight a live fire.

The MSFDA calls volunteer firefighters “the Swiss Army knife of the community, responding to various emergencies from fire incidents to medical calls." Contact your local fire department to learn more.​​