Become a Volunteer Firefighter!
No experience is necessary. The Arcata Fire District (AFD) provides all training, uniforms, and personal protective clothing at no charge to our members. After completing training and demonstrating proficiency, Arcata Fire District volunteer firefighters may be assigned to a wide- variety of exciting and challenging emergency tasks such as fire suppression, rescue, and providing life-saving medical assistance.
When Do I Apply?
The District accepts written hard-copy applications for volunteer firefighter year-round. Application forms may be downloaded, completed, and printed here. Electronic or faxed applications are not accepted.
The annual recruitment and fall selection process are usually scheduled for August through November. In August, all new volunteer firefighter applications received in the past year will be opened, and the District will attempt to notify all applicants of the dates and places for these information and selection events via email.
Applicants seeking to be appointed prior to the start of the January volunteer firefighter academy should submit a hard-copy of their application to District Headquarters before the end of August in order to meet the District deadline (exact date varies from year to year).
Applications from experienced volunteer firefighters who wish to transfer into the District on a lateral basis are opened and considered on a case-by-case basis. Lateral applicants also complete a structured selection process, facilitated as quickly as time and resources allow.
(Updated October 18, 2017)
Physical Ability Testing:
All volunteer firefighters are required to successfully complete the State of California Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) prior to appointment. This test is administered several times a month at different Firefighter Candidate Testing Centers (FCTCs) around the state. Each candidate is responsible for their own reservations, travel, practice run (if desired), and test arrangements and
expenses (although the District may reimburse the test fee for successful candidates upon appointment to the District and submission of evidence that they completed the test at their own expense in the prior 12 months). More information about the CPAT may be found at https://www.fctconline.org/cpat/, with links as to how to train and make reservations. Candidates who submit proof they have passed the CPAT within the past 12 months may be given preference over candidates who do not. Potential applicants should recognize the importance of the CPAT and prepare accordingly; as many as 50% of candidates fail this test.
More information about the selection process may be found at What Does the Selection Process Involve?, below.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of personally providing swift and effective emergency assistance to a community member when they are in dire need of help! Our volunteer firefighters experience a strong sense of satisfaction knowing that they make a positive difference as essential members of the AFD emergency services team.
Some of our firefighters are established members of the local community who are volunteering in addition to their family and work obligations. Others are college students seeking to gain several years of real-world experience to augment their academic education. An active volunteer seeking a future career as a career firefighter may, over the course of several years with Arcata Fire District, develop an impressive résumé of training, certifications, skills, knowledge, work experience, and professional references.
Regardless of their career or personal goals, all AFD volunteer firefighters enjoy a special sense of pride and team spirit. Serving alongside and wearing the same uniform, volunteers and paid firefighters work closely together during training, emergencies, maintenance, and mealtimes at our three stations. The fire service is often described as a close-knit “family”, and many of our firefighters have forged strong new life-long friendships with “brother” and “sister” firefighters after their appointment to Arcata Fire District.
In return for their service, AFD provides volunteers with in-house training, emergency response experience, advanced firefighter classes, and worker’s compensation insurance.
Volunteer Firefighter Duties
Each month, every AFD volunteer firefighter is required to work one or more pre-scheduled shifts as part of an engine crew at a fire station (when shift assignments are scheduled, the District seeks to consider each volunteer’s personal needs). The total hours of shifts completed must meet or exceed 24 hours per month.
Under the direction of a supervisor, volunteer firefighters wear a uniform and perform many of the same duties as the paid staff, including responding to all types of calls for service: structure fires, wildland fires, vehicle fires, medical aid calls, vehicle accidents, public service assists, community education events, and other emergency and non-emergency calls. During their shifts, volunteers are expected to participate in daily training, fitness workouts, maintenance, and other activities of their assigned engine crew.
Each month, all volunteer firefighters are expected to attend an evening and/or weekend Drill, where new and refresher training is provided to volunteers.
Also, all firefighters are provided with a wireless pager that they are encouraged to monitor when they are in the area and reasonably available for emergency call-out. Many volunteers keep their District-issued protective helmet, boots, and fire-resistant “turn-out” clothing at the ready in their personal vehicle. When a major fire or other serious emergency occurs, the pager will signal a need for additional personnel to respond, and our volunteer firefighters are encouraged to report directly to the scene or to a fire station as appropriate for the circumstances.
Becoming a successful and skilled AFD volunteer requires a substantial time commitment.
The initial orientation ride-alongs and required training for new firefighters often exceed 200 hours over the course of about 4 months (January-April)
All volunteer firefighters are expected to attend 12 hours of training each quarter.
All volunteer firefighters are required to participate in 72 hours of ride-alongs/activities per quarter.
All volunteer firefighters are encouraged to report to the scene or to a fire station in response to major fires and other serious emergencies, when they are reasonably able.
Because of the significant costs and extensive training demands associated with developing a volunteer firefighter, a three–year service commitment is expected of every volunteer. Every applicant is asked to sign an acknowledgement of this commitment.
There are ample opportunities for volunteer firefighters to receive training, gain knowledge, achieve certifications, and to advance within the organization.
Volunteers may advance through the following ranks as quickly as their certifications, skill development, and District policy allow:
Recruit Volunteer Firefighter
Probationary Volunteer Firefighter (Orange Helmet)
Volunteer Firefighter (Black Helmet)
What Does the Selection Process Involve?
All candidates are asked to review and sign a document acknowledging the District’s
Physical Ability Testing
Drug Screen (includes marijuana)
Live Scan Fingerprinting
Typically, less than 1/3 of the candidates who apply in August successfully pass these steps, and are appointed as Recruit Volunteer Firefighters in December. All RVFFs are then required to successfully complete a Volunteer Firefighting Academy consisting of about 200 hours of training in the Greater Humboldt Bay Area on certain weeknights and some weekend days from January through April.
All graduates of the Academy are then promoted from RVFF to Probationary Firefighter, and sworn in with a badge and uniform, and expected to start volunteering.