Fire Prevention 52: Firefighters, We Still Make House Calls

By Mark Gorman, Structural Fire Operations Program Manager
structural firefighters training with live fire and large fire hose
NPS structural firefighters training with live fire at Sequoia National Park, 2015.

Following the tragic death of five firefighters in Australia in 1999, May 4th, the feast day for Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, was designated as International Firefighters' Day.

Firefighters dedicate their lives to the protection of life and property. Often that dedication comes in the form of countless hours volunteered over years, or the selfless perseverance of professionals who all too often make the ultimate sacrifice.

Who are those dedicated individuals that our parks and communities count on when irreplaceable lives and property are in danger? They are frequently our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and maybe even our family members who have chosen to sacrifice a lot of their time, sweat, and energy to serve as a volunteer or paid firefighter. Did you know that approximately 87% of all structural fire departments in the United States are either all volunteer or mostly volunteer?

Our National Park Service (NPS) fire units are no different than those in many other communities across the United States and the world. The parks rely on men and women who have other full-time jobs, families, and all the other demands on one's time, who volunteer and dedicate their time to serve as firefighters. Hundreds of NPS employees hear the call and join park-operated engine companies, or enlist in nearby community departments. For many park employees, their primary job is something other than the title "firefighter." Regardless, there is no difference in the training demands for volunteer and paid firefighters.

NPS firefighters undergo a comprehensive training program that integrates online coursework with two weeks of hands-on training at the National Fire Academy located at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Recruits put in a lot of effort and study time, ensuring they have developed the skill sets and can pass the final exams and skill stations. The training they receive is internationally accredited, ensuring that NPS firefighters are just as prepared as firefighters in any department in the nation. Having worked with many of these firefighters myself, I am proud to say that you are in good hands!

As busy as your life may be, please take the time to thank those who sacrifice so much so that we can sleep safely at night, knowing that at our time of greatest need there are those among us who are willing to risk everything to help.

Fire Info for You

Employees

Park Structural Fire Coordinators

  • In a recent audit implemented by the NPS, a number of structural firefighter-specific items were reviewed. Though not all parks run their own structural fire suppression operations, any NPS employee who participates in structural fire suppression (including those who are paid by the NPS while working with local volunteer departments) must comply with NPS standards.
  • For more information on the structural firefighting branch in the NPS.

Park Leadership
Support your employees who serve NPS engine companies or local fire departments as volunteers. Workplace demands are never-ending, and it is easy to forget that you may need the service of these volunteers someday. Give them the time needed for training so they are safe and effective firefighters.

Take Action

Do you know the firefighters who protect your workplace or home? Take the time to meet them, and spend a minute to say thank you. While you're at it, ask if there's anything you can do to assist them. They may ask you to check your smoke alarms, make sure your address is visible from the street, maybe ask to do a walk-through of your office or shop to help you identify potential fire hazards. And if you have time, we really like cookies!

NPS Fire Facts

Each year the NPS trains approximately 100 firefighters to support the agency's mission. Recruits are required to develop an educational outreach piece to complete their training. Check out what these students have done: