Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-03a-12

Service Providers--Volunteer Firefighter Staffing

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-03A-12


Emergency Response


March 2001


Service Providers--Volunteer Firefighter Staffing


Under Review


To identify considerations for adequate fire department staffing using volunteer firefighters. .


  • Most Ontario fire departments employ volunteer or part-time firefighters. They provide a provincial resource estimated to save residents more than one billion dollars annually.
  • As society becomes more mobile, volunteer and part-time firefighters spend less time in their communities than has been traditional.
    Safe emergency incident operations require adequate staffing at all times.

Service Delivery Implications:

  • A key factor in the ability of some municipalities to organize and operate a fire department is the opportunity to utilize volunteer or part-time firefighters.
  • Adequate staffing over a 24 hour period, 7 days a week requires a significant pool of well educated trained and highly motivated personnel.
  • A lack of adequately trained staff has a detrimental impact on public fire protection and firefighter safety.
  • While automatic aid and mutual aid may support emergency incident operations, arrival times of external resources may be significant and will vary through uncontrollable factors.

Staffing Best Practices:

Consider the following ideas used successfully by fire departments:

  • Create a number of platoons within the fire department and mobilize staff based on needs established by operational policy.
  • Create a daily or weekly standby list and reimburse personnel accordingly.
  • Assign firefighters to particular tours of duty and reimburse personnel accordingly.
  • Schedule volunteer or part-time firefighters to work on specific fire department apparatus for an assigned shift.
  • Implement timely activation of automatic or mutual aid established in communications policy.
  • Implement automatic aid for target occupancies during specific periods of the day when staffing levels may be insufficient.
  • Establish protocols to ensure adequate resources are alerted immediately for identified high risk occupancies or properties.

Related Functions:

The continued viability of the volunteer fire service is dependent upon the successful recruitment and retention of the best qualified personnel available. The viability of volunteer or part time firefighters remains as long as there are sufficient numbers available for emergency responses at all times.
In order to demonstrate the inherent value that volunteer firefighters represent to the community, municipalities should consider should consider implementing local support mechanisms, such as:

  • Fire department competency models created by the fire service
  • Implementation of a mutual commitment document between the municipality and the fire service
  • Define employee roles, responsibilities and expectations
  • Adequate compensation with regard to roles, responsibilities expectations
  • Define the benefits of belonging to the fire service
  • Implementation of an exit interview policy
  • Fire service recognition program

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.
See also PFSG
See also:
04-04-12 Automatic Aid
04-09-12 Fire Protection Agreements
04-84-13 Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention