Volunteer fire department

A volunteer fire department ( official abbreviation in Germany, Austria and South Tyrol is FF ) is a public fire department, which mainly (eg for emergency services, workshops, etc.) is composed of volunteer members, sometimes even some full-time workers. In contrast, a professional fire (BF ) of pure full-time emergency services. Contrary to popular opinion, in most cities in Germany there would be a fire brigade, the fire protection in Germany is controlled mainly by voluntary forces. With a total number of 2,074 towns in Germany in only just over 100 of these cities, there are professional fire departments. In all these cities there are to enhance the professional fire departments and voluntary. In Austria, there are only six state capitals professional fire departments.

The organization, largely cover the fire with volunteer fire departments, has established itself primarily in the German-speaking countries, while other forms of organization predominate in most other Western and Eastern European countries. In some countries, however, there to establish a voluntary system endeavors. An example of this is the ESEPA in Greece.

  • 7.1 Austria


One of the oldest volunteer fire departments in the area of the present Federal Republic of Germany is the volunteer fire department of the town of Saarlouis in Saarland today. It was founded in 1811 by the then French government. On September 16, 1811 shortly after a broken in the neighboring village Fraulautern great fire, was reorganized by decision of the Municipal Council of the city of Saarlouis, the existing Fire Extinguisher Company, under authorization of the prefect of Metz Vincent -Marie de Viénot Vaublanc by the Lord Mayor Renauld. This new formation was at a time when Napoleon had issued a decree for the Paris Fire Brigade, whose core idea voluntary recruitment of the team, military tight organization and unpaid service, so volunteerism were. Although this decree expressly for Paris was considered, but the fire problem was the same everywhere, issued in consequence also the Prefectures in France for their areas of responsibility comparable decrees (eg, the prefect Vaublanc for the city of Metz, 1812). After December 1, 1815, the Prussians had moved in Saarlouis (result of the Congress of Vienna ), the fire brigade German ( Prussian ).

In 1835 Germany was then the first German fire brigade was founded. This is the syringe Community Kierspe - New House ( North Rhine -Westphalia, Maerkischer circle) that even today the fire Kierspe exists as a fighting group New House of the delete course IV New House / Vollme. 1841 was the establishment of the first volunteer fire department, according to current understanding in the Saxon town of Meissen; 1846 then came by and by other volunteers founded German fire brigades in Heidelberg and Durlach ( Karlsruhe). Most of them have emerged from political revolutionary set gymnastic clubs (see Baden Revolution ). The volunteer fire departments that were once used novel and efficient spraying, which were manufactured by Heidelberger engineer Karl Metz. Because these syringes were operated muscle, their operation was exhausting and required special fitness.

One of the first assignments the Heidelberg Volunteer Fire Department was not called. She impressed the city council but the fact that they very quickly and successfully worked with so far in firefighting unheard organization and logistics. The idea was immediately adopted by, and a few years later there were in the region a number of other similar organizations.

The term fire department was the way in 1847 for the first time used in a newspaper Karlsruhe. Christian stallion was founded in 1846 in Durlach one of the first voluntary Pompiers Corps and the city continued syringe # 2 of Metz by a large fire with the Royal Court Theatre in Karlsruhe. This brought the new methods of fire-fighting days in the national press.

Also in Austria, the first volunteer fire departments were established in the 1860s, which often took the ambulance service. From the ranks of previously unorganized citizens firefighters associations were created, thereby becoming easier money. Had the first voluntary fire brigade in 1831, the Imperial and Royal Tobacco Factory in Schwaz in Tyrol. The first voluntary Ortsfeuerwehr in today's Austria was founded in 1857 Volunteer Fire Innsbruck. In the Austro- Hungarian Empire, a voluntary Pompiers Corps in imperial city by Ferdinand Leitenberg has already been established in 1851 in Bohemia, who also wrote instructions for the organization and equipment, and thus became the model in Bohemia. The exemplary development after the pattern was rapidly passing Bergers, so there were already about 8,500 volunteer fire departments around the turn of the century alone in the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary.

Nowadays, most volunteer fire departments are equipped with the most modern equipment in order to afford in an emergency fast and professional assistance. In addition to the numerous volunteer fire departments in the various communities, there are also larger as volunteer fire departments that can support the Fire around with special inserts with a larger equipment. In some places these are called base fire departments.

Membership and career in the volunteer fire department

In order to join the Operations Department of a volunteer fire department, several conditions must be met. These can include:

  • The attainment of a minimum age, in Germany, depending on the states, between 16 and 18 years, in Austria partly 15 years
  • The physical fitness, the exact requirements are rarely determined by laws or regulations, such as for Hamburg by the fire brigade service provision 300 " Medical standards ". A e of the German Fire Brigade Sports Federation V. developed aptitude test has a purely advisory role.
  • Mental and suitability of character, which is usually also not well defined,
  • And the freedom of certain criminal records or measures; rare a police certificate is required.

The nationality of the applicants is rarely specified. An example is the Steiermark, in an EU citizenship is required, even if this condition is handled less strictly.

The process of recording turns out very different, are a possible uptake by handshake after participating in several service nights to a written application to the institution responsible for fire protection (eg fire brigade and civil protection department of the municipality ). Usual is an admission interview, in which the candidate is informed about the rights and duties in the fire service. The decision to include, depending on the state or municipality at various locations within the fire department or higher authorities. A claim to admission typically. A recording of the sample is possible. In Austria, the so-called swearing in the course of recording is common in many fire departments.

The training in the volunteer fire takes place at the local level and at the country level in fire service training. It is structured according to the basic training in further management and technical training.

With permanent membership of the Operations Department, the acquisition of additional skills and the perception of the functions firefighter can ascend in the hierarchy of ranks. However, an authority higher ranks against fire fighters lower ranks is not, this results in rather by the management structure - in use by acquired and exercised management functions ( squad leader, platoon leader, etc.), outside of the use by the respective leadership and management structure within the fire service (military leadership, commander, etc.).

Full-time forces

In some cities and major towns also paid staff can be used in the volunteer fire department.

Civil servants ( civilian service ) as firefighters

In Austria, in large fire departments are often used in addition to the ordinary civil servants to volunteer fire service to improve the days of standby. Be convened Preferably, civil servants who are members of a volunteer fire department prior to their military service. This is the training that must be given to civil servants, much easier. The civil servants can not afford the service as voluntary members but rather as professional firefighters, as they are during their service constantly present. Often civil servants remain even after having completed their community service at a fire brigade of volunteer members.

In the Federal Republic of Germany were at the time of conscription in any volunteer fire department received alternative military service and in used in disaster management. This service lasted at least four years. The recording had to be requested by the alternative service aspiring, before recording the consent of the fire department management, responsible for civil protection district administration and the army recruiting office was needed. The alternative service were also members of the local volunteer fire department and a non-local, mostly municipally organized civil protection unit. The alternative service were exempt from military service, that is, they needed the service of the gun does not refuse. Even if they were already recognized conscientious objectors, they could, rather than perform community service, are committed at the fire department. With suspension of conscription, this option was indefinitely away.

Total fire department volunteer units - and professional fire fighters

This variant is encountered for example in all German cities with a professional fire (BF ). In Berlin, the volunteers are obliged partly to ten service hours per month at the police station. Thus, the BF is reduced and the level of training of the volunteer fire department held high. The volunteer fire departments are firmly embedded in the organization of the relevant professional firefighters. It will alert you when major disasters, to replace during prolonged use and the simultaneous occurrence of a large number of loss events (storms, New Year etc. ).

Even in daily use events, the volunteer fire department, from a specified response regulations in the size of the event to be alarmed at the same time with the fire department. Due to the usually shorter Directions and local knowledge can be gained so important minutes. In addition, in many cities Volunteer fire fighters have special tasks (for example: First Responder in Hamburg). Professional fire department and volunteer fire department will then work together hand in hand and complement each other's skills.

Since the formation of FF Graz in 2009, any Austrian city with fire brigade has at least one volunteer fire department. In Vienna there are two volunteer fire on the northern outskirts. These also have their own area of ​​application and move independently of the professional fire brigade of. Only the training is possible in the context of the professional fire brigade. In the surroundings of Vienna specially organized trains are present, the occupied previously assigned fire stations in major operations of fire departments. These are organizationally similar to this disaster emergency services districts.

Alerting of volunteer members

At the beginning of each use of the fire department is alerting. Especially for volunteer fire departments, this alarm is a not to be underestimated problem because the members are located usually at places that are of alarming control center is not known directly, eg at home, at work or on the road.

The alarm can be carried out by different alerting systems such as sirens or by pager. Mobile phones are used by fire departments, or only for an optional secondary alarm ( emergency personnel to replace in long duration ). In case of emergency, such as in a terrorist attack or disaster, a mobile phone all experience would in turn not work because the mobile network would be overloaded by the increased call activity ( illustrative example is the overloading of the mobile networks in the New Year's Eve ). But even without the power supply of transmission towers by a disaster Mobile phones are no longer accessible.

The alarm via Flash SMS can also, since no priorities are guaranteed by network operators to reach the receiver partially later than by pager. However, some fire department members use the Alert notification via SMS to reach more forces can.

After alerting the forces go as quickly and sicherstmöglich the fire station or at the agreed rendezvous.

After applying the turnout gear up the available fire engines and the ride to the site below.

Reconciliation of work and fire in an honorary

In some countries laws permit the members of the volunteer fire department during working hours in use case, the distance from the workplace, where the wages are to continue paying by the employer. In other countries, is set to the voluntary nature of the business. Accordingly, also different reimbursement of wages weiterzuzahlenden is handled. So get in Germany the employer to further wage paid by the municipality refunded. The same procedure also applies to training activities, such as attending courses at a regional fire school or other courses. For self-employed or non- employed persons, there are similar arrangements with lump sums. The distance from the workplace is and has always been at odds with some activities (such as train crew or station line ). However, the labor market situation in the 21st century often reduces the usability of many volunteer fire departments continue. So many volunteer firefighters are prohibited by their employers during their working hours to leave the workplace because of a fire brigade, although this contradicts the above-mentioned legal regulations. The geographical distance from home and work decreased mainly during the day the alert of the fire at the residence of commuters. In addition, the continuously necessary training required an additional burden on already working volunteers dar.

In Germany the incompatibility of volunteering, work and family in empirical studies is named as the main reason for the termination of a voluntary commitment. But exit Prepare volunteers also more likely to report problems within the organization and take the internal air true rather unfavorable. It is noticeable that got out ready volunteer firefighters are ( for example, from occupation, or family) not exposed about higher temporal requirements as volunteers who want to continue their involvement. This suggests that incompatibility is not an isolated temporal problem, but a complex phenomenon, which is related to collective need ( temporal and spatial flexibility ) and individual prioritization of areas of life and content. On the other hand, are increasingly resorting according to statements of studies in recent years of companies on the experiences that members of voluntary organizations and there bring, especially in the fire service as workers, this is particularly in demand for increased leadership and team skills in the economy.

In Austria the exemption for fire-fighting operations is not regulated by law. Here is more likely to put on the voluntariness of companies and each (r ) firefighter or - man must agree in detail with the respective employers. Companies, especially designed to support the Fire Department in volunteering, may obtain honors firefighters Friendly Employer by the respective Landesfeuerwehrverband.

Youth development

The promotion of young talent within a volunteer fire department is often carried out by special units within the local fire department. In Germany this is especially the youth fire brigade, in some states there is for younger children, the children fire department, the fire department in Austria youth. Depending on the national or local rules are offered the opportunity to join at an early age of the fire department in the youth fire brigade and the fire brigade youth. Members of the Young Firefighters may not participate in active service ( exercises of the forces and missions ) mostly, they are intended both to obtain firefighter specific training in theory and practice, and on the other hand also experience a general youth program. The age, are taken into active service with the youth fire brigade members, depending on the regulations in the individual federal states. In some states, youth fire brigade members are allowed to participate in any operation, the types of applications, however, are severely limited for minors. In children brigades children are playfully introduced to the topics of fire, fire prevention and fire between four and ten years. The large age difference in children's fire departments usually requires a certain amount of internal differentiation, it is connected with the younger members through painting and playing on the fire safety education in day care centers and kindergartens, with older members with exercises on the fire safety education and Vorführübungen in primary schools.


This EU statistics show the proportion of Feurwehrmitglieder in different EU countries. The stand is from 2008. Population figures are partly rounded, but they still show the tendency of the proportions of the respective member types.

Reserve units


In Austria, the active membership with the maximum age of 65 years is limited. After this age, the members must not escape, but be transferred to the reserve position. This means that they have to cover their functions and the use of events may participate according to their possibilities only. But you still retain certain rights in their ancestral fire department. So they are, for example, in some states, similar to the active members in elections of the command vote. Depending on the state of Members may also according to a specified seniority Report in the reserve. This happens especially when they can no longer participate in operations and exercises from personal, professional or health reasons, but want to participate in social life in the fire anyway.

In Lower Austria first efforts were launched by the Lower Austrian Landesfeuerwehrverband in 2011, up reset the maximum allowed age to 70 years of age.


Support the volunteer fire departments are the municipalities. An additional funding, for example, by contributions from booster clubs, donations be made in raising activities or revenue from various events. Depending on type of use and the legal realities and expenses can be redeemed for some operations, so that the equipment can be entertained. Indirect financing effect have in-kind donations ( eg special equipment), relieve the budget of the volunteer fire department.

Fire departments in various countries and regions

  • Fire Stations in Germany
  • Fire Stations in Austria
  • Firemen in Switzerland
  • Fire Stations in South Tyrol
  • Fire department in the Czech Republic
  • History of the Fire Department in Old Austria