What is the minimum age to be eligible to be a volunteer member?
For most departments, the minimum age to join is 18; however, the Vienna, Centreville, and Greater Springfield Volunteer Fire Departments accept 16 and 17-year-olds as junior members.
Must I be physically fit to join?
There are no fitness requirements for Administrative or Auxiliary members. Operational volunteers must obtain a passing physical from the Fairfax County Occupational Health and Safety Center in order to participate in the training provided. This (no-cost) exam will test your ability to handle the stresses of being an emergency services provider. You must be in good physical condition. In order to become a volunteer firefighter, you must be able to complete the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) to demonstrate your fitness. However, there are other volunteer roles at each fire station that are less physically demanding, and there are resources within the fire department to help you get in shape and prepare for the CPAT.
What if I don’t know which fire station to join?
Often, volunteers will chose to apply to the department closest to their community or place of work. However, you may choose a department based on its size, the membership of friends or colleagues, or the specific operational and administrative opportunities offered by each. Start by looking at the websites for each of the Departments. If you know any volunteers within the county, ask for their opinion. Or stop by a fire station. Some fire stations host bingo or other community events. During October, every fire station hosts an open house. Plan to attend your top 3 choices and see which station feels like the best fit to you.
What if I want to become a paid county firefighter?
For those interested in applying to be career firefighters in Fairfax County, view the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Recruitment Section website for more information.
Do I have to be a Fairfax County resident to join?
No. Our volunteers live and work all over the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and beyond. However, because of the considerable time involved in training, we recommend that you plan to live locally for at least three years.
What is the time commitment to be an active volunteer?
The participation requirements differ for operational and administrative members. While each volunteer department has its own policies for members’ participation, at a minimum, operational volunteers are expected to volunteer at least 20 hours each month and complete a minimum of 48 hours of training each year. Many departments also require attendance at regular departmental meetings and participation in administrative functions (e.g., fundraising).
Do I have to pass a background check in order to join?
Yes. All applicants must successfully pass a background investigation. You will be required to provide fingerprints and driving records as part of this investigation.
How can I juggle my school or work schedule and still meet the monthly minimum participation requirements?
All training classes are held on nights and weekends, in recognition of the fact that many volunteers have other commitments in addition to volunteering. Once qualified, there are many opportunities for volunteers to meet the minimum participation requirements. For example, every fire station is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so staffing units is very flexible. Volunteers may also staff units at other County volunteer fire departments to meet the minimum participation requirements. Additionally, volunteers can “up-staff” career units to meet membership requirements.
Why do some volunteers work at fire department bingo games?
Some volunteer fire departments hold bingo games as a a primary fundraising method. Operational and Administrative volunteers may be required to staff these bingo games as part of their commitment to the fire department. Other departments have alternative forms of fundraising.
How do I apply?
Joining a volunteer department is easy. First, choose one of the 12 departments and contact the department by phone, e-mail or the Request Info page.
Training and Certification FAQ’s
What kind of training must I have to join the volunteer fire department?
No prior experience is required to join a volunteer fire department. However, volunteers with prior public safety experience or certifications may be able to transfer their certifications into Fairfax County, potentially shortening the training process. Volunteers receive world-class training in emergency medical care, fire suppression, and other rescue and administrative disciplines free of charge. Your department training officer will coordinate training according to your interests (Operational EMT-only, Operational Firefighter/EMT or Administrative) once your membership is accepted.
How can I maintain my full time job while in training to be a volunteer EMT or Firefighter/EMT?
All training classes are held on nights and weekends, in recognition of the fact that many volunteers have other commitments in addition to volunteering.
How is my training as a volunteer different from the training paid firefighters and EMTs get from the County?
EMS-only and Firefighter/EMT volunteers receive the same intense and physically demanding training as the career staff of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department; they perform the same operational roles.
How long will it take me to earn my basic certifications?
For volunteers with no prior experience, training takes between 6-18 months. EMS-only members spend between six and 12 months to obtain the EMT-B (basic) certification while Firefighter/EMT members spend between 12-18 months in training. Volunteers with prior experience or certifications may be able to transfer their certification into Fairfax County, potentially shortening the process.
If I start training in the EMS-only track, can I later decide to become a firefighter?
Yes. Once fully certified as an EMT, EMT-only members can choose to become firefighters by attending fire suppression training.
Can I start training as a firefighter before I begin EMT training?
No. All Fairfax County firefighters must first train to be EMS providers and maintain this certification throughout their tenure.
What if I have prior certifications as a firefighter and/or EMT from another jurisdiction?
Volunteers with prior experience or certifications may be able to transfer their certification into Fairfax County, potentially shortening the process to become an EMT or Firefighter/EMT. You still must meet all County requirements, to include applicable riding internships, before being released as a provider in the County.