How Volunteer Firefighting Works

By Corinne Rose

November 16, 2012 Updated Nov 16, 2012 at 7:26 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) -- With this week's death of a volunteer firefighter, we decided to take a closer look at how volunteer fire departments work.

There are 16 volunteer fire departments in Allen County. Some are hybrids, where a few people are paid and the rest volunteers, others are manned strictly by volunteers.

View Allen County Fire Departments - Paid, Volunteer and Hybrid in a larger map

In Indiana, township trustees are charged with providing fire protection to their residents, so those are the lines typically drawn to determine which fire department covers an area.

Robert Boren is a paid member of the Huntertown/Perry Township Fire Department and has been a firefighter there for the past 15 years. He says there is a certain mindset volunteer firefighters have -- a true passion for helping people.

"To be able to do this for free is not because you're looking for a paycheck, you're not looking for significant recognition or awards or accolades. You're looking for a sense of accomplishment, being able to help somebody out in a time of need and you don't need anything in return for that," Boren says.

Since most of the departments in Allen County are staffed by volunteers who might have to leave a job or family function to respond to a call, mutual aid is crucial. That's when other departments are asked to help with an emergency or fire. And Boren says it doesn't matter whether the backup department is fully paid, like the city of Fort Wayne.

"We work together as a team to take care of whatever situation we're facing. And there's a unity that we have. We don't care about paychecks, we don't care about departmental lines, we help one another out. That's the end story. It doesn't matter who is who and what rank is what, we join together to get the job done," Boren says.

The sobering statistic is that this year alone across the country, more than 100 firefighters will lose their lives in the line of duty. And the crash that happened Sunday night just hit that much closer to home. But professional or volunteer, firefighters know there is a risk.

"It does put things into perspective. And instead of saying it's too close to home, it's now home. And it makes us realize how precious everything is and how precious each department is and how much we rely on one another," Boren says.

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