Volunteer firefighter

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A volunteer fire department (in Austria and Germany as a fixed term F reiwillige F your defense ; the official abbreviation in Germany, Austria and South Tyrol is FF ) is a public fire department , mainly from voluntary for members, sometimes even some full-time workers (eg. for the rescue service or in workshops). In contrast to this, in rare cases there are compulsory fire brigades on the one hand , where residents of the respective community are obliged to serve, and on the other hand professional fire brigades (BF) consisting of purely full-time workers. Contrary to the widespread opinion that there is a professional fire brigade in most cities in Germany, fire protection and general help in Germany is mainly provided by volunteers. With a total of 2074 cities in Germany, there are professional fire departments in just over 100 of these cities. In all of these cities there are also volunteer fire departments to strengthen the professional fire department. In Austria, too, there are professional fire departments in only six provincial capitals. In Austria, numerous company fire departments also use the addition Voluntary to show that the company fire department has no full-time members. On the other hand, fire brigades can be voluntary, but not mention it in the name, as in Vorarlberg , where they are referred to as local or city fire brigades .

The organization to largely cover fire protection and general assistance with volunteer fire brigades has prevailed above all in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Poland, while other forms of organization predominate in most other western and eastern European countries . For historical reasons, in contrast to the rest of Italy, there are almost only volunteer fire brigades in South Tyrol . In some countries, however, there are efforts to establish a voluntary system. An example of this is ESEPA in Greece.


The suction and pressure syringe of the Kronach volunteer fire brigade from 1882 (reproduced picture from 2003)
Fire station of a small volunteer fire brigade in a rural area, FF Philippsthal, Brandenburg
Cooling of a fuel tank during a large-scale exercise by the volunteer fire brigades in the Tübingen district
Example of a fire station for a volunteer fire brigade

One of the oldest volunteer fire brigades in what is now the Federal Republic of Germany is the volunteer fire brigade of the district town of Saarlouis in what is now Saarland . It was founded in 1811 by the then French government . On September 16, 1811 shortly after the neighboring village Fraulautern broken great fire of was decided by the magistrate of the city of Saarlouis the existing fire extinguisher company under authorization of the prefect of Metz Vincent-Marie Viénot reorganized by the mayor Renauld. This new formation happened at a time when Napoleon had issued a decree for the Paris fire brigade, the core idea of ​​which was the voluntary nature of the recruitment of the crew, a tight military organization and unpaid service, i.e. voluntary work. Although this decree explicitly only applied to Paris , but the fire protection problem was the same everywhere, the prefectures in France subsequently also issued similar decrees for their areas of responsibility (e.g. the prefect Vaublanc for the city of Metz in 1812). After the Prussians moved into Saarlouis on December 1, 1815 (result from the Congress of Vienna ), the fire brigade became Prussian or German.

In 1841 the Meißen volunteer fire brigade was set up as the first volunteer fire brigade according to today's understanding in Meißen, Saxony .

In 1846 other volunteer fire brigades founded in Germany in Heidelberg and Durlach ( Karlsruhe ) gradually emerged . Most of them emerged from politically revolutionary gymnastics clubs ( see Baden Revolution ). The volunteer fire brigades used new and more powerful syringes that were manufactured by the Heidelberg engineer Carl Metz . Since these syringes were still powered by muscles, they were strenuous to operate and required particular fitness.

The Heidelberg volunteer fire brigade was never called to the first missions. But she impressed the city ​​council by working very quickly and successfully with organization and logistics that were previously unknown in fire fighting . The idea quickly caught on, and just a few years later there were numerous other similar organizations in the region.

The term fire department was first used in a Karlsruhe newspaper in 1847. Christian Hengst founded one of the first voluntary Pompiers Corps in Durlach in 1846 and deployed Metz's city sprayer No. 2 in a major fire at the Grand Ducal Court Theater in Karlsruhe. This brought the new fire fighting methods into the national press for days.

In Austria, too, the first volunteer fire brigades emerged in the 1860s, and they often took on the rescue service . Fire brigade associations were founded from the ranks of the previously unorganized citizens , which made it easier for them to obtain funds. The Imperial and Royal Tobacco Factory in Schwaz in Tyrol already had the first voluntary company fire brigade in 1831 .

The first voluntary fire brigade at local level in today's Austria was the Innsbruck volunteer fire brigade, founded in 1857. In the Austro-Hungarian monarchy a voluntary Pompiers Corps was founded in Reichstadt in 1851 by Ferdinand Leitenberger in Bohemia , who also wrote instructions for the organization and equipment and thus became a model in Bohemia. The exemplary development based on the Leitenberger model was rapid, so that by the turn of the century there were already around 8,500 volunteer fire brigades in the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary alone .

Nowadays, most of the volunteer fire brigades are equipped with modern equipment in order to be able to provide quick and professional help in an emergency. There are also volunteer fire brigades that can support other volunteer fire brigades in their area with more extensive equipment on special missions. In some places these are referred to as base fire brigades .

There are no volunteer fire brigades or unpaid firefighters in the UK. In earlier times they existed in different villages and had little or no equipment. They were wholly or partly dependent on the support of the city fire brigades with full-time or part-time workers and were completely dissolved in 1938. A year later, the British government at that time combined all fire brigades and fire protection agencies into a single organization called the "National Fire Service", which was directly subordinate to it.

Membership and career in the volunteer fire brigade

In order to be able to join the operations department of a volunteer fire brigade, various requirements must be met. These can include:

  • reaching a minimum age, in Germany between 16 and 18 years, depending on the federal state, in Austria sometimes 15 years,
  • physical fitness, although the exact requirements are rarely stipulated by laws or regulations, e.g. B. for Hamburg through the fire service regulation 300 "Health Requirements". A from the German Fire Brigade Sports Federation e. V. developed aptitude test is only a recommendation.
  • the mental and character aptitude, which is usually also not precisely defined,
  • as well as freedom from certain previous convictions or measures ; a certificate of good conduct is rarely required.

The nationality of the applicants is rarely specified. One example is Styria , where EU citizenship is required, even if this condition is less strict.

The process of recording is very different. Admission by handshake after participating in several service evenings up to a written application to the institution responsible for fire protection (e.g. fire department and disaster control department of the community) is possible. It is usual to have an admission interview in which the applicant is informed about the rights and obligations in the fire service. Depending on the federal state or municipality, the decision on admission lies with various offices within the fire brigade or with higher-level institutions. As a rule, there is no entitlement to admission. A trial recording is possible. In Austria, the so-called swearing- in is common in the course of admission by many fire departments.

The training in the volunteer fire brigade takes place at the municipal level and at the state level in fire brigade schools. After the basic training, it is divided into advanced management and technical training.

With length of service to the insert section, the acquisition of additional qualifications and the perception of functions which fire fighters can in the hierarchy of service levels rise. However, higher ranks have no authority to issue directives to lower ranks of the fire brigade. Rather, this arises from the management structure - in the field through acquired and exercised management functions ( group leader , platoon leader, etc.), outside of the mission through the respective management and management structure within the fire service (defense management, commander, etc.).

Full-time employees

In some cities and larger communities, full-time workers can also be deployed in the volunteer fire brigade. These are often the full-time equipment maintenance staff . If there is a larger number of full-time employees, they can take the strain off the volunteers extremely, for example by doing small assignments completely independently.

Community service as firefighters

In the Federal Republic of Germany , a multi-year obligation to the fire brigade as alternative military service could apply until 2011.

In Austria , even today, large fire brigades often require civil servants to do fire service in addition to regular voluntary members in order to improve daytime readiness. Civil servants who were already members of a volunteer fire brigade before completing their alternative service are preferably called up. This greatly facilitates the training that civil servants must receive. The civil servants do not perform the service like the voluntary members, but rather like professional firefighters, since they are constantly present during their service time. Civil servants often remain voluntary members of a fire service even after they have completed their civil service.

Total fire brigade made up of units of voluntary and professional fire fighters

This variant can be found, for example, in all German cities with a professional fire brigade (BF). In Berlin some of the volunteers are obliged to work ten hours per month on the guard. This relieves the BF and keeps the level of training of the volunteer fire brigade high. The volunteer fire brigades are firmly integrated into the organization of the respective professional fire brigades. You will be alerted in the event of major incidents , for replacement during longer missions and if a large number of incidents ( storm , New Year's Eve etc.) occur at the same time .

Even in daily operations, the volunteer fire brigade can be alerted at the same time as the professional fire brigade, if the size of the event is specified in the deployment order. Important minutes can be gained through the mostly shorter journey and the good local knowledge. In addition, volunteer fire brigades have special tasks in many cities (e.g. first responders in Hamburg). Professional fire brigade and voluntary fire brigade then work hand in hand and complement each other in their skills.

Since FF Graz was founded in 2009, every Austrian city with a professional fire department has at least one volunteer fire department. In Vienna there are also two volunteer fire brigades on the northern outskirts. These also have their own area of ​​activity and move out independently of the professional fire brigade. Only training is possible as part of the professional fire brigade. In the environs of Vienna there are specially organized trains that manned fire stations that have been assigned in advance during large-scale operations by fire brigades. Organizationally, these are similar to the disaster relief services in these districts.

Alerting volunteer members

At the beginning of every fire brigade operation, there is an alarm . This alerting is a problem that should not be underestimated, especially in the case of voluntary fire brigades, as the members are usually at locations that are not directly known to the alarming control center , e.g. B. at home, at work or on the go.

The alarm can be carried out by different alarm systems , such as sirens or radio signal receivers . Mobile phones are not used by fire brigades or only used for an optional secondary alarm (emergency services to relieve long-term missions). In an emergency, e.g. B. in the event of a terrorist attack or in the event of a catastrophe, a mobile phone would not work in all experience, as the mobile network would be overloaded by the increased call activity (an illustrative example is the overload of the mobile networks on New Year's Eve ). But even if the power supply to transmission masts fails due to a disaster, cell phones can no longer be reached.

The alerting via Flash SMS can sometimes reach the recipient later than via pager , since network operators do not guarantee priorities . Nevertheless, some fire brigade members use the SMS alert to be able to reach more emergency services.

After alerting, the emergency services go to the fire station or the agreed assembly point as quickly and safely as possible .

After putting on the operational clothing , the fire fighting vehicles are manned and the journey to the place of use follows .

Compatibility of work and fire brigade in voluntary work

Exercise: Rescuing a group of visitors who have had an accident in the Fell visitor mine

General problems

The physical distance from home and workplace reduces the alertness of the fire brigade at the commuter's home, especially during the day . In addition, the continuously necessary further training represents an additional burden for volunteers who are already required in professional life. The incompatibility of voluntary work, work and family is also named in empirical studies as the main reason for terminating voluntary work. Volunteers who are ready to leave also report problems within the organization more frequently and perceive the internal climate as being rather unfavorable. It is noticeable that volunteer firefighters who are ready to leave are not exposed to higher time requirements (e.g. from work or family) than volunteers who want to continue their commitment. This indicates that incompatibility is not an isolated temporal problem, but a complex phenomenon that is related to collective necessity (temporal and spatial flexibility) and individual prioritization of areas and content of life. On the other hand, according to studies in recent years, companies have increasingly resorted to the experience that members of voluntary organizations and, especially in the fire brigade, bring with them as workers, since management and team skills are increasingly in demand in business.

In-house work as a safety officer , fire guard or first aider is also preferably assigned to members of an FF.


In Germany there are laws that allow members of the volunteer fire brigade to be away from work during working hours in the event of an emergency, whereby the wages must continue to be paid by the employer. The same procedure also applies to training events, such as participation in courses at a state fire brigade school or other courses. There are similar regulations with lump sums for self-employed or non- employed people . However, some volunteer firefighters are forbidden by their employers from leaving their place of work during their working hours because of a fire service, although this contradicts the legal regulations mentioned above.

Since the employer's continued payment of wages would lead to his disadvantage, the employer can assert this continued payment of wages against the authority to be alarmed. This means that he receives the wages paid back from the authorities.

Public institution

In the case of public institutions (e.g. city or municipality as employer), it is expressly stated that the employee must be released unless there are compelling reasons. There is also no pay within the authorities.

Insurance coverage

Voluntary fire brigades are "companies that provide assistance in the event of accidents" within the meaning of Section 2, Paragraph 1, No. 12 of Book 7 of the Social Code . Accidents as a result of fire brigade activity are work accidents ( Section 8, Paragraph 1 of Book 7 of the Social Code) and are compensated by the locally responsible accident or fire department accident insurance (in Bavaria by the Bavarian Municipal Accident Insurance - KUVB).

Situation in North Rhine-Westphalia :

  • In “Part 1: Basics”, the Unfallkasse NRW stipulates that “all activities that are internally related to the tasks of the fire brigade” are insured. The law on fire protection and assistance (FSHG NRW) defines all activities of the fire brigade.


In Austria, the exemption for fire service operations is not regulated by law. The voluntary nature of the company is more important here and every firefighter has to agree this in detail with the respective employer. Companies that particularly support the fire brigade in their voluntary work can receive the fire-brigade-friendly employer award from the respective state fire brigade association . Since the number of deployments is increasing sharply due to extreme events, Global 2000 is also addressing the issue of volunteering and calling for better conditions for release from work during deployments.

Especially with longer missions, such as the snowfall in 2019, discussions flare up again and again, where solutions are demanded and considered by the fire brigade but also by politicians. For example, in the public sector there is often the option of special leave for assignments. Individual companies, such as the TGW Logistics Group recently concluded a company agreement for their employees, granting them annual paid special leave for assignments and training. However, demands are also made that the federal government should compensate employers who release members of voluntary organizations in an emergency without questioning the voluntary work.

While political parties repeatedly demand that compensation for lost earnings be anchored in law, especially after disaster operations, the organizations themselves warn, such as the ÖBFV but also the Red Cross, to refrain from voluntary work, as this would result in more disadvantages for employees who do voluntary work Would have to expect professional life.

Individual companies that promote voluntary work repeatedly take a different path, for example by paying bonuses to helpers who are called in from the workplace in addition to lost earnings, as they also see a boost in motivation in the employment relationship.

In 2019, a provision was made for release from duty in the event of disaster operations. During the Bierlein Federal Government, the National Council decided in the course of the free game of forces to continue paying the remuneration for missions of more than eight hours and with more than one hundred emergency workers, whereby the employers a lump sum of 200 euros per day from the disaster fund as Receive compensation. It is criticized, however, that the assumption of deployment ignores reality.

Promotion of young talent

Fire fighting exercise carried out by youth firefighters

The promotion of young talent within a volunteer fire brigade is often carried out by special units within the local fire brigade. In Germany this is primarily the youth fire brigade , in some federal states there is a children 's fire brigade for younger children , and in Austria there is a youth fire brigade .

Depending on the national or state regulations, the youth fire brigade or youth fire brigade offer the opportunity to join the fire brigade at a young age. Members of the youth fire brigade are mostly not allowed to take part in active duty (exercises by the emergency services and operations). On the one hand, they should receive fire-fighting specific training in theory and practice and on the other hand they should also experience a general youth program. The minimum age at which members of the youth fire brigade are accepted into active service depends on the regulations of the individual federal states. In a few federal states, youth fire brigade members are allowed to take part in operations; however, the types of use are very limited for minors.

In children's fire brigades, depending on the federal state, children between the ages of four and ten are introduced to the topics of fire, fire protection and fire services in a playful way. The large age difference in children's fire brigades usually requires a certain degree of internal differentiation , so with the younger members the fire protection education in day-care centers and kindergartens is connected through painting and games , with older members with exercises in the fire protection education and demonstration exercises in primary schools .

Firefighters in Europe

The following statistics show the number and proportions of active adult fire brigade members in several major European countries.

country Residents Total number of
fire brigade members
Ratio of
fire brigade to

Fire service volunteers
Professional fire service members Part-time firefighters Volunteer rate
DenmarkDenmark Denmark 5,756,000 7,600 0.13% 1,350 1,750 4,500 17.76%
GermanyGermany Germany 82,218,000 1,027,996 1.25% 996.688 31,308 0 96.95%
FinlandFinland Finland 5,474,000 19,267 0.35% 11,615 3,846 3,806 60.28%
FranceFrance France 66,628,000 234,446 0.35% 193,800 40,646 0 82.66%
GreeceGreece Greece 10,788,000 15,660 0.15% 1,507 12,441 1,712 9.62%
ItalyItaly Italy 61,000,000 48,930 0.08% 20,060 28,870 0 41.00%
AustriaAustria Austria 8,773,000 258,433 2.95% 255.865 2,568 0 99.01%
PolandPoland Poland 38,413,000 256,480 0.67% 226.240 30,240 0 88.21%
Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 10,610,000 79,950 0.75% 67,383 12,567 0 84.28%
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 61,370,000 60,500 0.10% 1,400 40,100 19,000 2.31%

Status: 2017

Reaching an age limit

Reserve units in Austria

In Austria, active membership is mostly limited to the maximum age of 65 years. In Burgenland, the age limit will be increased to 70 in 2020. From this age, the members do not have to resign, but are transferred to the reserve level . This means that they have to retire from their functions and are only allowed to take part in the action according to their capabilities. However, they still retain various rights in their traditional fire department. In some federal states, for example, they are entitled to vote, similar to the active members in the election of the command. Depending on the federal state, members may also report to the reserve after a specified seniority . This happens above all if they can no longer take part in operations and exercises for private, professional or health reasons, but still want to participate in social life in the fire service.

It also depends on the federal state whether members of the reserve are allowed to take part in operations or not. For example, after reaching the age limit of 65, Salzburg residents were not only allowed to no longer perform functions, as in other federal states, but were also no longer allowed to participate in missions. It was only in 2018 that this age was raised to 70 years.For example, in Upper Austria you can find a fire brigade member who is officially in reserve, but still takes part in almost all operations and exercises at the age of 90.

In Lower Austria, the Lower Austrian Fire Brigade Association made the first attempts in 2011 to raise the maximum age to the age of 70.


Depending on the federal state, a fire brigade member transfers to the age and honorary department after the age of 60 to 67 . Its members no longer take an active part in the action or only take part in a supporting role, which means that the operational clothing is no longer required. They may still be able to carry out certain tasks such as vehicle maintenance, fire protection training or administrative work. The aged fire brigade members are entitled to continue to use their service uniform , which is worn with the last rank awarded. The insurance cover remains unchanged.


The municipalities are responsible for the voluntary fire brigades . Depending on the type of use and the legal conditions, expenses for some operations can also be charged according to the issued fee schedule so that the equipment can be maintained. While the costs do not have to be reimbursed for almost all types of fire operations, operations based on strict liability are usually subject to reimbursement.

Additional funding can be provided, for example, through contributions from sponsoring associations , donations to fundraising campaigns or income from various events. Donations in kind (e.g. special equipment) that relieve the budget of the volunteer fire brigade have an indirect financing effect.

See also

Portal: Fire Brigade  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of fire brigade

Web links

Commons : Voluntary Fire Brigade  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ÖWB edition 40, p. 243
  2. As an example: Norske Skog Bruck voluntary company fire department , accessed on April 13, 2017.
  3. Saarlouis Volunteer Fire Brigade: Voluntary - Help us! .
  4. Oldest… or not oldest volunteer fire brigade in Germany , accessed on June 20, 2010.
  5. Ferdinand Leitenberger : The voluntary Pompiers Corps or instructions on how a fire brigade or fire, life-saving extinguishing station can be founded in every provincial town or in every larger village with inconsiderable expenses. Already carried out in Reichstadt zu Bohemia. Ehrlich, Prague 1855.
  6. ^ Franz-Josef Sehr : East Sussex Fire Brigade . In: Florian Hessen 4/1989 . Munkelt Verlag, 1989, ISSN  0936-5370 , p. 31-32 .
  7. Fire Brigade Act Baden-Württemberg , Section 11, on landesrecht-bw.de
  8. Law on fire protection and the assistance of the fire brigades (Schleswig-Holstein) , § 9, retrieved from gesetze-rechtsprechung.sh.juris.de/
  9. Law on Fire Brigades in the State of Berlin ( Memento of December 21, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 23 kB), § 6
  10. Fire Service Regulations 300 (PDF; 109 kB)
  11. Aptitude test of the AG GMS of DSF e. V., accessed on May 13, 2013.
  12. ↑ The ban on migrants from the fire brigade should fall on ORF from August 5, 2011, accessed on August 5, 2011.
  13. Migrants are allowed to join the fire brigade in the Kleine Zeitung of January 31, 2012, accessed on December 23, 2015.
  14. Fire Brigade Service Regulations 2 , Training of Voluntary Fire Brigades, 2012.
  15. Berlin fire brigade
  16. Wiesbaden Fire Brigade - Voluntary Fire Brigade
  17. ^ Tasks of the FF Hamburg
  18. David Wenzel, Irmtraud Beerlage, Silke Springer: Motivation and retention in voluntary work. The importance of organizational characteristics for engagement, well-being and remaining in the volunteer fire brigade and THW (= sociological studies. Vol. 39). Centaurus, Freiburg (Breisgau) 2012, ISBN 978-3-86226-123-9 .
  19. ↑ The leadership quality acquired in the fire service helps on the job. In: Brand Aus. No. 11, 2010, ISSN  0006-9035 , pp. 8-9.
  20. ^ Unfallkasse NRW: Answers to questions about insurance coverage ( Memento from March 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  21. http://www.unfallkasse-nrw.de/fileadmin/server/download/Feuerwehr/Allgemein/Serie_VS/Serie_VS_Teil_1_Grundsaetzliches.pdf
  22. http://www.idf.nrw.de/service/downloads/pdf/fshg.pdf
  23. Excellent fire service- friendly employer . In: Zeitschrift Blaulicht , accessed on August 25, 2010.
  24. GLOBAL 2000: Will the fire service become a climate service? at Fireworld.at on August 14, 2015, accessed on August 16, 2015
  25. ↑ Employment in the fire brigade counts as working time - logistician TGW is leading the way with a great example for the economy on the portal of the Upper Austrian Fire Brigade Association from January 15, 2019, accessed on January 19, 2019.
  26. "Federal government should compensate companies for helpers" on ORF from January 16, 2019, accessed on January 20, 2019.
  27. SPÖ: Five days of special leave, money from disaster funds in the Wiener Zeitung of January 15, 2019, accessed on June 23, 2019.
  28. Opinion on the planned continued payment of wages from the ÖBFV of June 14, 2019, accessed on June 23, 2019.
  29. Company supports volunteers with bonuses on ORF from June 22, 2019, accessed on June 23, 2019.
  30. Time off for voluntary helpers: only a few missions, AK-Kalliauer demands improvements on OTS from July 16, 2019, accessed on November 8, 2019.
  31. World Fire Statistics Issue No. 24-2019. (PDF) Table 11: Personnel and equipment of state fire brigades in 2001–2017. World Fire Brigade Association CTIF, April 18, 2019, accessed on April 4, 2020 .
  32. Fire brigade: State commander has director placed aside in the courier of April 26, 2019, accessed on June 25, 2019.
  33. "Retirement age" at Salzburg's fire brigades increased to 70 in the Salzburger Nachrichten of January 17, 2018, accessed on December 5, 2018.
  34. Upper Austria: Still an active firefighter at the age of 90 on Fireworld.at, accessed on May 19, 2017
  35. Suggestion: At the age of 70 still with the fire brigade on ORF -Online from January 18, 2011.
  36. Age limits for the fire brigade of the German Fire Brigade Association, accessed on May 8, 2017
  37. Seniors active in our fire brigades Fire Brigade Association Baden-Württemberg, accessed on May 8, 2017