Volunteer Firefighter Process

How do I become a volunteer firefighter?

Phase One: Application package

You must be a permanent resident of the area covered by a volunteer fire station. If you are not sure that you’re living in a volunteer station’s primary coverage area, you can visit your neighbourhood fire station to check. If you are, you can pick up an application package for your area station if it's currently recruiting volunteers. Drop by the station on a Tuesday night just before 7:00 p.m. HRFE volunteer firefighters train every Tuesday evening (Wednesday evenings in Cooks Brook, Meagher’s Grant, Dutch Settlement and Middle and Upper Musquodoboit), so this is the best time to be sure of finding a volunteer officer in the station. Fill out the application form and return it to the Station Captain.

Phase Two: Interview

The Station Captain will set up a time for an interview. This is a competency-based interview designed to allow you to draw on examples from your past work or volunteer experience to demonstrate that you possess the required skills to be a volunteer firefighter. Competencies measured through this process may include: communication; customer service; stress management; teamwork and cooperation; values and ethics; and valuing diversity.

See Preparing for an Interview for more information.

Phase Three: Medical assessment

After successfully completing the interview, your Station Captain will give you a pre-placement medical assessment form to be filled out by a physician. Return the completed form to your Station Captain.

Phase Four: Physical fitness test

Volunteer firefighters are required to pass a physical fitness test in accordance with the Gledhill Fitness Protocol for Firefighters (Gledhill) [PDF]. This test will include a ladder climb, claustrophobia test, hose carry/climb, rope pull, hose advance/drag, ladder lift, victim drag and forced entry. Volunteers are required to complete all Gledhill events except the shuttle run. Some events are pass/fail and some are timed.

Click here to see the 2023 Gledhill video. (Start at the 2:03 minute mark, volunteers are not required to do the Beep test.)
Physical Fitness Test Preparation Guide [PDF]

Once you pass the physical fitness test, you are required to attend weekly training at your fire station and to attend all station meetings. You are not permitted to carry a pager or attend calls until after completing Volunteer Recruit Training (Phase Five).

Phase Five: Training

Successful volunteer firefighter recruits will be assigned to a spring or fall Volunteer Recruit Training Class (VRT). Volunteer Recruit Training is mandatory and includes both hands-on and eLearning components. VRT takes seven weekends to complete. See brochure for more information.

Phase Six: Graduation

A graduation ceremony is held for those who successfully complete Volunteer Recruit Training. VRT graduates are considered probationary volunteer firefighters for one year.

What does HRFE provide in return for my volunteer time?

  • Free Level I firefighting training
  • Free medical first responder training
  • Firefighter and family assistance program
  • Life insurance
  • Annual honourarium based on your participation level

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

I don’t live in an area that accepts volunteer firefighters. Can I volunteer in another area?

No, you must be a permanent resident of the area where you wish to volunteer and you must live in that station’s primary coverage area.

Is there a cost to apply?

No cost to apply.

I am a volunteer firefighter outside of HRM. Can I transfer to HRFE without having to go through the recruitment process?

All applicants are required to successfully complete all phases of the HRFE recruitment process, after which prior credentials and experience will be evaluated to determine if a customized, compressed training program could apply. 

If I have a criminal conviction that has not been pardoned, does that mean I can’t be a volunteer firefighter?

Firefighters are viewed as a person in authority and may interact with members of the public at their most vulnerable. Therefore, an adult criminal conviction of a violent offence or a sexual offence, for which a pardon has not been granted, may disqualify an individual from becoming a volunteer firefighter with HRFE. Each situation will be assessed on an individual basis and a determination made based on the nature of the offence and the length of time since the offence occurred.