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Volunteer Firefighter's Association receives $1.25 million grant for recruitment

Photo courtesy: Belvedere Fire Co. Facebook page

Volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention is down nationwide, but Delaware’s Volunteer Firefighters Association just received a $1.25 million grant from FEMA for recruitment and retention to rebuild its pool.

And the association says it has a pitch to make. Administrative Assistant Warren Jones says volunteer firefighters can go on to work in several public service positions like fire marshals, paramedics, and police officers.

“If you look at all the public safety agencies in the state of Delaware like EMTs, probably the majority, there's almost 2,000 EMTs in Delaware, apparently the majority of them came out of volunteer fire service," Jones says. "All of your fire marshals who work at the State Fire Marshal's office have all come from volunteer fire service. Some of the police officers, the paramedics, a lot of them came out of volunteer fire service, as a matter of fact, all the chiefs of each three paramedic units in each county came from the volunteer fire service.”

Jones applied for the four-year grant and says spending in the first year will focus on outreach and advertising - hoping to show young people how volunteer firefighting can open many career doors.

“We have substantial benefits for younger people who may not even know we have," Jones says. "We have a tuition reimbursement program, which would pay them their college tuition as long as they are attending a state university. We have a scholarship program that we run through DVFA. And getting back to the career path, there is definitely room for becoming more and more as time goes on. There are more and more careers being created in the fire service that need to be filled.”

An unpaid opportunity is more of a turn-off for today’s younger generation, but the DVFA offers benefits in hopes it can attract more to their ranks.

Jones says volunteer firefighting can also be a great option for a career change – or for empty-nesters looking for something to do and connect with the community.

Jones adds that as long as they are physically fit to handle the job, each fire company takes care of the rest to train and supply new volunteers with the equipment they need.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.