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How to Become a Volunteer Firefighter in Canada

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

To become a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, there are specific requirements and skills you should have that ensure you are mentally and physically capable of joining the highly intensive career. Volunteer firefighters work alongside permanent firefighters in response to emergency calls. Most volunteer firefighters have full-time jobs in other fields but have the ability to respond to emergency calls.

Minimum Qualifications Required to Become a Volunteer Firefighter

Pre-firefighter training in Ontario consists of a range of skill development and basic requirements. The following qualifications are needed to become a volunteer firefighter:

  • Hold a valid driver’s license
  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Able to understand and communicate in English and/or French (written and oral)
  • Physically able to perform tasks and duties of the job
  • Able to commit scheduled time to training
  • Live and/or work in the response area
  • Be of sound and positive ethics and thrive in a team environment
  • Be conviction free of a criminal offense related to the duties of a firefighter

What Are the Responsibilities of a Volunteer Firefighter?

  • Work as part of an organized team
  • Protect citizens in times of crisis
  • Perform the duties of first responder
  • Respond to a broad range of emergency situations
  • Provide pre-hospital care for victims
  • Be a community role model
  • Upgrade skills, knowledge and physical requirements
  • Maintain the fire station and upkeep of firefighting equipment
  • Perform the duties of administration, fundraising, public education, or other as assigned

The Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment Process

To become a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, the recruitment process can vary from department to department and if the position is within a private company or for a municipality. 

Informational Meeting

During recruitment time, fire departments often offer information meetings open to any interested candidates. This acts as an introduction to the position of a volunteer firefighter and its role responsibilities.


If a person has decided after an information meeting that volunteer firefighting is still a goal, applying for the position is the next step. A basic volunteer application will involve submitting personal information, education background, work history, and a list of credible references. A volunteer must live within a specific distance of the firehouse.

Background Check

As with any form of employment and volunteer position, a background check is conducted to review any criminal convictions, credit history, and driving record.


A competency interview will take place with members of the fire department’s administration and the Fire Chief. Based on the application and any information from the background check, the candidate will have the opportunity to discuss their experience and skills. Proficiencies focus on communication, stress management, teamwork, ethics, and customer service.

Physical Fitness Assessment

A physical fitness assessment is a vital portion of the recruitment process as candidates must be able to perform rigorous tests of endurance, strength, and agility. A full physical medical test will be done in addition to a fitness test that consists of a claustrophobia test, hose advance/drag, a ladder lift, hose carry/climb, rope pull, forced entry, and a victim drag obstacle.


The training process is an ongoing condition of becoming a volunteer firefighter. New recruits will learn the basics of firefighting skills, emergency response protocols, and become familiar with their department’s policies and procedures. Most training sessions can involve seven to 10 weekends of training.

Probationary Period

Depending on the individual fire department, new volunteer recruits may experience a probationary period. This timeline may range from three months to one year. The probationary period is intended to assist the volunteer firefighter and the department to uncover strengths and areas that may need attention in skill building.

Ongoing Training

Just as hired firefighters must continue their studies and training, volunteer members are also required to continuously update their skills and education during their posting.

Do Volunteer Firefighters Get Paid (Regular Salary)?

No, volunteer firefighters do not receive regular salary in their position. There are some fire departments that offer renumeration for call response, training, or other related services. Volunteers can claim expenses through the federal Volunteer Tax Credit.

Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit Regulation 2023 

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) continues to ensure the Canadian federal government offers the Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit to all volunteer firefighters. With the 2023 regulation standing at a maximum limit of $3,000 per year, the CAFC has asked for the amount to be increased to $10,000.

The Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit is available for those volunteers who regularly attend fire meetings, respond and are on call for all emergency calls, and attend related training programs/workshops. Any volunteer firefighter who contributes at least 200 hours of service per year can apply for the tax credit.

Can a Volunteer Firefighter Become a Full-Time Paid Firefighter?

Yes, with the right firefighter training, a volunteer can become a full-time paid firefighter at departments across the country. Volunteer members are exposed to the basic training and education of the firefighting service which can be expanded to positions with commercial, municipal, and other forms of firefighting.

How FESTI Can Help Fire Departments with the Training of Volunteer Firefighter Recruits

The Fire Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) offers exceptional volunteer firefighting training with our NFPA 1001 Firefighter Training programs. We have an in-house program and a blended program that combines at-home and onsite training courses.

Our firefighter academy offers a variety of certification courses for new and existing firefighters, leadership programs, and EMR courses. FESTI participants have successful careers in essential emergency services.

See our list of volunteer firefighting programs here or contact us for more information.

Advanced Confined Space Rescue Training for Firefighters: What You Need to Know

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Confined space rescue training is a specialized skill to prepare firefighters and emergency personnel for hazardous and dangerous situations.

A confined space is defined as an area with no clear entrance or exit and is not designed for continuous use by people or animals. As confined spaces can involve vessels, tanks, sewers, pits, silos, tunnels, and ductwork, it is imperative that all rescue personnel possess the skills, knowledge, and equipment to ensure a successful outcome.

Hazards Associated with Confined Space Rescue Missions

  • Oxygen Deficiency or Enrichment: During a rescue from confined spaces, all parties involved are exposed to air quality with less than 19.5% oxygen. Low levels can lead to asphyxiation or suffocation. Danger is evident with high levels as well with an enriched oxygen atmosphere leading to fire or explosion hazard.
  • Toxic Gases and Vapours: Because of exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances, rescuers and victims can inhale carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide, or other harmful gases.
  • Entrapment or Engulfment: Industrial buildings often see entrapment of rescuers and/or victims due to the materials handled such as water, sand, and grain.
  • Flowing Liquid or Free Flowing Solids: Confined spaces are at risk for being an open invitation for free flowing hazardous liquids that can cause the person trapped and the rescuer to experience burns, drowning, or suffocation.
  • Mechanical or Electrical Hazards: All commercial buildings have hazardous potential with live wires and dangerous equipment which can injure or cause a fire in or near a confined space.
  • Excessive Temperatures: Depending on the area of the building, the confined space can be exposed to extreme heat or severe low temperatures, putting victims and rescuers at higher risk of injury and death.

What Role Do Firefighters Play in Confined Space Rescue?

As with any form of an emergency situation, a firefighter works with their team to save victims from confined spaces while ensuring their own safety is not in jeopardy.

Within minutes upon arriving on the scene, firefighters assess the situation, create a safety perimeter, and plan a rescue with the appropriate equipment and skills. With each rescue, victims are assessed, provided emergency medical care, and transferred safely to emergency medical personnel.

How Can Firefighters Reduce or Prevent Confined Space Rescue Hazards?

  • Implementing Ventilation Measures: With a confined space, good ventilation provides the appropriate oxygen levels while removing all hazardous vapours and gases.
  • Using Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Gloves, respirators, and protective clothing are vital to all hazardous situations to keep personnel and the victims protected and safe.
  • Establishing Proper Emergency Response Protocols: A confined space rescue operation requires precise and proper emergency response planning to see a successful outcome.
  • Providing Proper Training: Having proper training in facing confined spaces and emergency situations can help reduce injuries.

Benefits of Advanced Confined Space Rescue Training

Firefighter training for confined spaces involves skills to reduce the risk of injury or death through enhanced safety measures. While all rescue operations need to be focused on the emergency, there are regulations and standards that need to be followed to keep everyone involved safe.

In addition, confined space training allows rescue personnel to have the knowledge and skills to perform in high-pressure situations regardless of the challenge. Specialized rescue methods can lead to the successful extraction of both the victim(s) and rescuers from within confined spaces. Every form of advanced training can support a firefighter in their goal to further their professional career.

How Does FESTI’s Confined Space Rescue Training Courses Help Firefighters?

The Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) is a private career college that offers training for firefighters, emergency personnel, as well as corporate and team building programs.

Basic Industrial Confined Space Rescue Training

In addition to basic firefighter courses, we offer the Basic Industrial Confined Space Rescue Training program. With the focus on confined spaces rescue response, participants will learn assessment and management of the situation before preparing for the actual rescue.

This training course involves confined rescue within industrial buildings and all that it entails in respect to area hazards and victim/rescuer conditions. The targeted area will then be reorganized to a safe environment.

Emergency Services Confined Space Rescue Training

The Emergency Services Confined Space Rescue Training offers step-by-step instruction on an emergency response in confined spaces situations. The program is designed with similar guidelines of the Basic Industrial Confined Space Rescue course.

Through classroom and hands-on training, learn how to respond to hazards, assist victims involved in a confined space situation, and obtain the necessary skills to manage all equipment and procedures for a successful outcome. Participants will learn to be part of the team with other responding personnel, understand the authority guidelines in emergency situations, and learn extensive rope rescue skills.

Confined Space Entry Certification

FESTI’s Confined Space Entry Certification program involves training of skill development for working within a confined space. Candidates will become familiarized with the Canada Labour Code, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and on-hands learning of equipment. The program focuses on air monitoring, personal protective equipment, simulated scenarios, and live activities.

Why Choose FESTI?

For comprehensive confined space rescue training in Ontario, consider the live onsite training at the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI). Located at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, our experienced instructors provide intense firefighting training programs for candidates from across Canada and the world. Contact us to learn more about our training programs.

Unlocking the Power of Leadership Training: Preparing Firefighters for Leadership Roles

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Leadership training for firefighters can be just as important as learning proper firefighting techniques. Organization and management are key aspects of a fire company which depend on leadership skills.

A firefighter experiences emergency situations where confidence, communication, and teamwork are vital for a successful outcome. Through experience, day-to-day training, and observation, a firefighter can obtain the knowledge he or she needs to become a great leader.

Why Do Fire Departments Prefer Servant Leadership?

All organizations, businesses, and job positions have a leadership authority that oversees the general management. A leader is designated to lead their team to success regardless of the specific career or position.

With firefighting, a leader needs to offer servant leadership as opposed to a regular leadership. Servant leadership is a way of leading through serving. A servant leader does not stand by delegating tasks while remaining stagnant. They take the reins and stand side-by-side with colleagues to ensure the job is performed with their guidance, both figuratively and literally.

Servant leadership puts the needs of others first by sharing the responsibilities. This also involves ensuring every member of the team has the opportunity to access all courses and training programs to advance their own careers.

Why Is Leadership Training Essential for Firefighters?

Firefighter training takes many shapes including constructive training for leadership skills. Being a firefighter at any level is a high-stress job that requires effective action and a calm demeanor. The situations a firefighter may find himself/herself in can have life and death consequences.

In addition to physical attributes, the ability to communicate is an essential part of the responsibility of the position. Miscommunication can result in injury or even death.

Along with communication, motivation plays a major role in leadership in being able to inspire colleagues. With the training, a firefighter is able to improve on weaknesses to enhance their self-confidence to be able to properly offer constructive leadership.

How to Develop Strong Leadership Skills in Firefighters

Fire department leadership training is part of the essential core of a fire company. Firefighters work together as a team under management to protect each other and the public. In order to develop strong leadership skills, there are key aspects to consider.

Professional leadership training courses focus on teamwork, communication, management, and leadership skills. Identifying areas of weakness and strengths through discussion with supervisors and colleagues can be beneficial.

Firefighters can improve their communication skills through discussion and engagement in presentations and meetings. Although it may not seem like a fundament aspect of the job, improving their speech and writing skills can help firefighter become more effective communicators and leaders.

Lastly, experience is one of the greater assets firefighters can obtain to improve their leadership skills. Learning from their successes and mistakes through practical and theoretical means can help firefighters learn how to improve their safety, communication, and management.

FESTI’s Firefighter Training Courses to Prepare Firefighters for Leadership Roles

The Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) is a world-class fire and emergency services training college that offers practical and theoretical development programs for leadership roles. We offer the following firefighter training courses.

Leadership Training

Leadership roles require management skills, accountability, communication, engagement, and self-development. FESTI teaches these essential soft skills through a Leadership Essentials 13-week program based on proven leadership development for fire and emergency services.

Communication Training

Communication training is part of the leadership programs at FESTI to enhance the partnership within various departments and organizations. A significant part of supporting communication is universal accountability, engagement, and providing techniques for all forms of behaviour.

Through a partnership with Crucial Learning (formerly VitalSmarts), FESTI offers Crucial Conversations to offer productive communication, accountability, and engagement training. These types of training courses have been shown to improve the vitality of an organization. With proper communication, quality can improve by 40%, reduce grievances by 90%, lower staff turnover by 50%, and improve the satisfaction of the whole team by 80%.

Corporate Training

The FESTI-TSSG Corporate Training Experience uses soft skills in combination with firefighter training for a supportive experience to all health and safety training participants. In conjunction with the dynamic team at The Soft Skills Group, FESTI is able to provide this immersive learning experience.

The programs are customized to meet the needs of the individual organization to better provide theoretical and practical skills training. This unique corporate training program is open to individuals, executives, and HR personnel looking to improve their leadership and team-building skills. It offers constructive practical opportunities to put the theoretical lessons to the test in safe but effective firefighting scenarios.

Join Us to Improve Your Leadership Skills

As a private career college, The Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) is located within the grounds of the Toronto Pearson International Airport. In addition to offering superb fire training courses, we also focus on programs to develop leadership skills for fire, emergency, and corporate personnel.

Register for a course or program by clicking here and complete the webpage registration. Or for more information about FESTI, contact us today.