Firefighters Volunteering Beyond Their Duty: An Essential Asset in Rural Communities

Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Jill D. McLeigh

Abstract


Fire departments are essential assets in American rural communities. The current
study aims to understand the motivations and the personal, organizational, and
communal aspects that drive firefighters (both paid and volunteers) to engage in
additional voluntary community work. Their volunteer activity challenges existing
theories on motivation to volunteer, since these firefighters already have what most
volunteers seek (e.g., recognition and satisfaction). Two focus groups of
firefighters were assembled in which volunteer and career firefighters shared their
perceptions about their communities and the work they do for them. Qualitative
data analysis showed that leadership, attitudinal commitment, a strong sense of
affiliation, altruism, and a sense of community all influenced firefighters’
perceptions and motivations.
Key words: firefighters, community, volunteer, focus groups, asset-based
community development

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.

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