Did You Know? Most of the firefighters in Lower Merion are volunteers.
The Lower Merion Fire Department is comprised of seven independent fire companies serving nearly 70,000 residents across over 25 square miles of Lower Merion, Narberth, and portions of Radnor. The fire companies are staffed by more than 200 active volunteer firefighters and officers, supplemented by a small number of full-time personnel. Members of the seven companies now respond to more than 3000 calls for fire suppression and rescue services annually.
The area we serve is as diverse as any in the country, ranging from tightly-packed rowhomes to sprawling estates, large industrial sites, and hi-rise commercial buildings. A housing stock built up over three centuries, busy transportation arteries, and aging infrastructure create innumerable challenges and hazards. Our firefighters work hard and train continuously to meet the ever-changing needs of this community.
Can I really be a firefighter? What are the requirements?
Yes! We’re ordinary people, just like you. Most of us have regular full-time jobs and families. Members are only restricted by their physical abilities, comfort level, and training experience. Anyone who lives in Lower Merion or within one mile of any of the seven stations is encouraged to become a member.
You must be 18 years of age to perform interior fire operations. Some fire companies have volunteer opportunities for those as young as 14. You are welcome to begin the membership process before reaching minimum age requirements.
Staffing levels are lowest during the weekday. Those with flexible work schedules, students, and others available to run calls during these hours are strongly encouraged to apply. We have many veterans serving, and anyone with military experience is also encouraged to become a member.
How does the volunteer system work? What is the time commitment?
While many aspects of firefighting have changed over the past 125 years, the basics of the volunteer system have not. When an emergency is dispatched, volunteers leave their homes or places of work, proceed to their station, and bring their gear and needed equipment to the emergency scene. Today, pagers and smartphones have replaced alarm bells as a means of alerting volunteers, but the concept is the same.
For many decades, LMFD has very successfully operated a mostly-volunteer “combination” system. The department is staffed by over 90% volunteers, while a small number of paid personnel help ensure operational readiness and a quick response. At each Lower Merion station, there are two paid firefighters on duty during the weekday and one at all other times. All other firefighters are volunteers and generally respond from home, work, or wherever they happen to be at the time.
There is no specific time requirement or “on-call” system. Volunteers respond to as many calls and training drills as they are able. Policies vary by station, but generally members are expected to respond to at least 20% of their station’s calls each year. Volunteers are occasionally asked to help man the station during special events or severe weather to ensure a speedy and adequate response. Volunteers also participate in many community functions such as holiday parades and fire safety events.
Each station holds one regular weeknight training session. New firefighters are also encouraged to attend classes at the Montgomery County Fire Academy and achieve national Firefighter I certification as soon as possible. The training program is offered in several flexible iterations, including night- and weekend- only classes.
Do you really do this for free? Are there any other benefits?
Volunteers do not receive any monetary compensation, but all equipment, training, and education/certification is entirely paid for. Active members are covered under worker’s compensation and life insurance policies. In addition, members receive LMFD clothing and gear, a Township parking permit, and attend various social events hosted by the fire company.
More importantly, however, are the intangible benefits. The 125 year old tradition of volunteerism in Lower Merion is a testament to how rewarding an experience firefighting can be. Members take pride in serving their community, learning life-saving skills, and dedication to the traditions of the American fire service. The camaraderie of the fire service is a tight-knit bond rarely experienced elsewhere.
Are there other positions available apart from Firefighter?
Yes, there are many volunteer positions within the Union Fire Association of Lower Merion (UFA). An emergency services organization such as UFA requires many dedicated volunteers to fill the positions needed to support its mission. These positions include: Officers, Firefighters, Fireground Support, Driver/Operators, Juniors, Social Committee Members, Administrative, Fundraising, Board of Directors, Solicitors, and Community Representatives. Every position is crucial in supporting the organizations' mission. Which is providing the residents of Bala Cynwyd, Merion, and Lower Merion Township with fire and emergency services in order to protect life, property and the environment. Below is a detailed list of each position's responsibilities and duties.
- Chief Officers (Chief, Deputy Chief, & Assistant Chief)
- These are senior managerial positions within the organization that serve multiple roles for day-to-day operations, safety, on-scene coordination, decision making, and administrative duties.
- Line Officers (Captain & Lieutenant)
- These are supervisory positions within the organization that focus on day-to-day operations, oversee personnel, crew integrity and safety.
- Driver/Operator (Pump Operator, Aerial Operator, & Engineer)
- These are senior positions within the department tasked with ensuring apparatus readiness, logistics, crew safety, and apparatus duties on the fireground.
- Firefighter (Firefighter I & II)
- These are highly skilled and task-oriented positions within the department responsible for interior operations on a fireground or an emergency incident. Firefighter I is an entry-level position and Firefighter II is an advanced position.
- Support Firefighter (Exterior Firefighter/Fireground Support)
- These are task-oriented positions within the department responsible for exterior operations on a fireground or an emergency incident. These positions are vital in supporting the overall operation on-scene.
- Junior (Adolescent Firefighter)
- These are task-oriented positions for those under the age of 18 within the department that have similar duties to support firefighter.
- Committee Member
- These are positions within the department tasked with long and short term planning such as: event planning, community outreach, civic association liaisons, the Lower Merion Township Fireman's Relief Association Representative, Recruitment & Retention, 5K 2-Alarm Run, and others
- These are positions within the department tasked with duties such as: annual fund drive mailing campaign, banquet hall rentals, birthday party bookings, financial audits, station maintenance, and others.
- These positions are vital to the department's continued success and service. Their duties include organizing, planning, and executing: the annual fund drive, boot drives, silent auctions, community appearances, commercial business partnerships, and donations.
- Board of Director (President, Vice President, Financial Secretary, Recording Secretary, & Directors)
- These positions within the department that manage the organization as a whole. Their duties include yearly and long term budgets, overseeing the various administrative and committee members, recruitment & retention, fundraising, and community relations
- These positions within the department are legal advisors to the board of directors and brigade committee.
- Community Representative
- These are various community members that reflect the diverse demographics of the area in which the Union Fire Association provides fire and emergency services. Their duties include voicing their communities needs, questions, comments, concerns, so the Union Fire Association can better serve the residents of Bala Cynwyd, Merion, and Lower Merion Township. In addition, these members also help and serve on a variety of other positions within the department.
"As firefighters, we represent one of the most intuitively understood natural commitments, one of those natural laws. We protect perhaps the most significant of all the natural laws. That when one of us is in danger or in need of help; help will come. That in times of trouble there is someone you can call, even if you are all alone...and that when we come, you are no longer a stranger. You are no longer alone. Your problem is no longer just your problem - it's our problem. We have sworn to help both victim and perpetrator without judgment and without hesitation. We have taken on an ancient burden, one we accept gracefully, voluntarily, and with tremendous humility, that we are now and will always be our brother's keeper" (CHIEF [RET] Bobby Halton - Coppell Texas FD).