Focus Turns to Volunteers in Wake of Tragedy

The horrific explosion that cost the lives multiple firefighters and first responders in West, TX, on Wednesday night has brought national attention to the role that volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel have in our nation. With 69% of our nation’s fire service comprised of volunteers and most small towns like West served entirely by volunteers, the commitment and sacrifice of these men and women have come into sharp focus amid very tragic circumstances.

Several articles in recent days have spotlighted the fact that volunteers are often the ones responding to the call in communities across America. Articles from MSN News, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor, featuring interviews with National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg, look at the importance of volunteers in our nation’s fire service, especially in small and rural communities. An article on CNN focused on how volunteer firefighters in and near West stepped up to help others despite their own personal tragedies or imminent safety risks. Local news outlets across the country such as the Abilene Reporter-News,, and WJPF-TV in Georgia are looking at the importance of volunteers in their own communities. International media such as a post from the U.K.’s Guardian reminds us that the volunteer fire service shares a bond that crosses geographic barriers.

As the entire fire service community mourns the deaths of our fellow firefighters and emergency responders in West, let us also join the nation in understanding the importance of volunteers and take time to recognize the dedication and heroism these individuals show every day. We will always remember and honor all of the volunteers who have fallen in the line of service.