How to Become a Volunteer Firefighter

Oregon experienced a record number of wildfires this summer and climate scientists predict that wildfires will continue their upward trend. Personnel to fight the fires was limited, and as of Sept. 14, was expected to remain limited into the fall.   

Dave Busby, who is retired Navy and Civil service, works at the Corvallis Fire Department as the Fire Emergency Planner. He said in an email, “There is always a need for community members to volunteer as Firefighters. As we have seen recently, wildfires are a threat to this great State and having trained men and women step up and face that challenge will help us respond to it in the future.” 

This September, Oregon used about 150 prisoners, members of a program established by the Oregon Department of Corrections, to help combat wildfires. In July, the state also trained 400 members of the National Guard to fight fires, adding to the 180 who had already received training.  

Volunteer firefighters are an important part of the firefighting team, with 43.9 percent of Oregon’s fire departments being volunteer and 46.2 percent being mostly volunteer 

How to Volunteer 

To volunteer with the fire department, an applicant needs to meet a few requirements. The City of Corvallis requires applicants to be at least 18 years old, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, have a valid driver’s license and a driving record that meet’s city standards, have successfully complete a background check, and be certified by a licensed health care professional as able to complete firefighter duties.  

While the department will pay for a physical exam, the applicant must have received a conditional offer. The offer will depend on the above certifications as well as abilities such as being able to follow instruction, keep cool and effective under stress, and work well with other firefighters.  

The fire department will then provide training and equipment necessary to become a Basic Firefighter.  

“The volunteer program is a gateway to working as a professional firefighter,” Busby said. “Many career firefighters started as volunteers, such a both our Deputy Fire Chiefs Kevin Fulsher and Ben Janes. 

However, there are a number of people who volunteer with no such plans.  

 We also have some great volunteers who do it just to make the community safer,” Busby said. “They are valued members of the Corvallis team, do just that every time they work a shift. 

 While not every person is a good fit for the job, Busby says that you will not know until you try.  

“Corvallis Fire runs a challenging volunteer academy, and if you make it through that you will certainly have the basic skills, but also the confidence to face all the complex situations the job provides,” he said.  

For those that wish to apply, submit a City of Corvallis application to Human Resources. Applications are always accepted, but to participate in the fall New Volunteer Academy it is best to have submitted the application by the end of April.  

Busby said, “So, yes I truly believe there is a need for volunteers, and anyone interested should keep an eye out on the CFD website for our next academy.”  

By: Hannah Ramsey