“Volunteering” in the fire service can have many meanings, and that’s because there are many ways one can help out. For the purposes of this conversation, we’ll talk about two main categories one can volunteer with the Kanab Fire Department: as a firefighter or as a member of the Association. While both have a multitude of different activities and unique demands, they are equally important.

When asked the question, “What do I have to do if I want to volunteer with your department?” No two people will answer the same. We believe that many people have misconceptions on what it is actually like to volunteer in our department.

There is a fair amount of training that Utah State mandates that you must take (all of this is free to you as a member of the department) to be a firefighter with the Kanab Fire Department. In addition to the state requirements, our department mandates that you take a few training courses, before you can be qualified as an “interior” firefighter (a firefighter that can wear a SCBA and go inside a house that is on fire). But you do not have to be an interior firefighter to fill a valuable role in the department.

A popular misconception about being a “firefighter” is that all a firefighter does is “fight fire.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Our firefighters train extensively with tools that allow us to “extricate” people from cars (via the Jaws of Life), which require an entirely different skill set than fighting fires.

The department also provides HAZMAT (hazardous materials) emergencies as well.

As you can see, there are many “hats” that firefighters wear and they do much more than fight fires. If you don’t want to participate in the fire protection responsibilities as a member, you can join the Association.

The Association’s responsibility summed up is to support the firefighters. For example: bringing food to a scene of an emergency, or having a bake sale to help raise funds for the Association’s budget.

We believe that all tasks of the fire department are equally important. It is a true “team sport.” Without teamwork, the fire department simply could not function.

What does it take to volunteer with the Kanab Fire Department?

Firefighting is by nature a dangerous profession. As a volunteer agency, members can donate as much time as they deem necessary. As such, a member must be vigilant in honing his/her skills through training to protect themselves and their fellow firefighters. This seems contradictory to being a volunteer, but it’s necessary to point out the seriousness of the nature of firefighting. Members are required to attend at least 75% of the weekly Thursday night truck checks/drills that they are assigned. Most members however, participate much more than these minimum requirements. For example, for any given month, you could potentially have nine weekday meetings. That’s not counting any training courses, additional events and fire calls. The Kanab Fire Department is the largest and most active volunteer fire department in Kane County. While the time commitment may be large, there is a great feeling of self-worth and honor in serving the community and being able to save lives.

Another responsibility of our members that is hardly ever thought of when describing firefighting is the maintenance duties of our members, including both the firehouse and apparatus. Members also take care of the firehouse grounds, sweep the apparatus floor, clean the bathrooms. This is all part of being a member.

Misconceptions about volunteering and joining with the Kanab Fire Department.

How can I be beneficial with no firefighting background/experience/training?

All training is provided free too you and most classes are held at night to work around a standard 9 to 5 weekday job. While there are base training requirements you must meet, it’s up to your prerogative if you wish to complete more advanced training courses such as advanced firefighting classes, vehicle extrication, emergency medical services (EMS), hazardous materials, and technical rescue. Members are not expected or allowed to take inappropriate risks at a scene, especially if they do not have the experience, training, ability, and aptitude for a particular task in attacking a fire. As explained above, there are many jobs to be performed at a scene and only the most experienced and trained members of the department are assigned direct firefighting responsibilities in challenging situations. Other firefighters perform essential supporting functions. Remember that firefighting is a team sport and only by working together can the department succeed!

The Fire Department is just a “social club” to hang out.

The fire department is a brotherhood, so there is a strong social aspect to the organization, but it is a highly professional environment. The Kanab Fire Department has a no tolerance drug use policy. All members take their membership very seriously and uphold themselves to high professional principles.

“I don’t think I have enough time to be able to join and dedicate to the department.”

Members are not expected to give up their careers and family life. Obviously, a volunteer’s ability to respond to alarms is limited by being away from Kanab for professional or personal reasons, being ill or injured, or having other pressing commitments that must receive priority. Answering calls is not a requirement for membership. While our firefighters are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we do not have our station staffed or require “duty shifts.” Our members are alerted via pagers that each firefighter wears by the county 911 dispatchers. All available firefighters then have only moments to respond to the stations, get dressed and get the trucks on the road and respond to the call for help.

“I don’t think I would ever fit in at the Fire Department.”

The Kanab Fire Department membership is comprised of your neighbors, your friends and maybe even your relatives. They’re people just like you with families, jobs and active lifestyles that still find time to give back to their community. The bottom line is that if you want to serve the community, then you will fit in!

Facts about volunteering

Volunteers comprise 73% of firefighters in the United States. Of the total estimated 1,108,250 volunteer and paid firefighters across the country, 816,600 are volunteer.

Communities served by volunteer firefighters depend on them to be their first line of defense for many types of emergencies. Volunteer firefighters are summoned to a wide array of emergencies across the country every day, including fires, emergency medical incidents, terrorist events, natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, water rescue emergencies, high angle, confined space emergencies, and other general public service calls. The public relies on volunteers to be their first line of defense in these emergencies.

The majority of fire departments in the United States are volunteer. Of the total 30,310 fire departments in the country, 21,900 are all volunteer; 4,886 are mostly volunteer; 1,480 are mostly career; and 2,044 are all career.

Services contributed by volunteer firefighters save localities across the country an estimated $137.2 billion per year.

The Kanab Fire Department provides fire protection, fire prevention, some emergency medical services, specialized rescue services such as motor vehicle extrication, HAZMAT response, technical rescue, and confined space rescue.

There are many tasks/duties that are essential to a fire department’s success, which do not involve advanced fire training on and off an emergency scene. We believe that you would be very surprised to find out how many jobs require very little training and are essential to the success of the department.

Why join the Kanab Fire Department?

There are many reasons to join our great department; here we list just a small number:

1 .Quality Training

You provide the commitment and we provide all of the training for free. From local and State instructors, Utah certified courses, to regional and national seminars and conferences we offer you the opportunity to explore every avenue of emergency services and train you to be the best at what you want to do.

2. Firefighter Banquets

As a member, you and your guest will enjoy these events held to recognize the past years accomplishments of the department and celebrate how special our volunteers are.

3. Social Events

Throughout the year we offer a variety of opportunities for you and your family to get to know the other members of your department in a relaxing atmosphere. This includes conventions and parades, parties and fun fundraisers!

4. Peace of Mind

Your experience as a volunteer firefighter provides an opportunity to serve your community, your neighbors, and your friends, at times when their lives and property are at risk. Your service is rewarding because you are helping when they need help the most. Words cannot describe the overwhelming emotion one feels when a mother hugs in gratitude after you save her children.

5. Fire Protection is also a very interesting field, applying advanced technologies and professional skills to help people when their lives and property are at stake.

As a volunteer firefighter, you will learn about: the engineering of buildings and their protection systems, the operation of complex fire protection apparatus, the operation of advanced safety equipment, first response life support skills such as CPR, and leadership and teamwork under conditions of challenge and stress.

Feel free to contact any member of the Fire Department for information on joining or contact Chief Decker at 644-2534.

 

This week’s guest editorial is by Kanab Fire Chief/City Manager Joe Decker. Joe began as a Volunteer Firefighter in1997. He worked his way up the ranks as an Engineer and Captain, becoming Assistant Chief in 2003.  Joe was named Volunteer Fire Chief in 2008, and in 2010 became Kanab’s first full-time paid Fire Chief.  He is certified as a Structural and Wildland Firefighter; Hazmat, Confined Space, and Rescue Technician; and is also a Fire Investigator and a Utah Fire and Rescue Academy Instructor, contributing thousands of volunteer hours to our community over the years.  His support comes from his wonderful wife, Trina, and their four children, Anthony, Tevin, Emmorie and William.