Thank you for your interest in serving with the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department!
The fire/rescue service and emergency medical service offer exciting challenges and a valuable, rewarding way to serve the community. In return for your commitment of one evening per week, we offer training that will always be in great demand – and the opportunity to help your neighbors when they need it most.
The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service is a “combination” service in which approximately 1,000 career firefighters and 1,000 volunteers serve side by side. Career and volunteer personnel take the same training courses and are held to the same standards while on duty. Here in Takoma Park, we work closely with the career personnel assigned to Station 2. Please note, however, that the career personnel are not involved in volunteer recruiting. It is important to return all application paperwork to the volunteer administrative office.
Your first step is to schedule an orientation meeting with our membership committee. Please email:
We look forward to hearing from you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the requirements for membership?
No prior training or experience is required. You just need to be willing and able to make the commitment to a lot of training, especially in your first 12-18 months. If you have good work references and character references and you pass a thorough physical, our membership will most likely vote you into probationary membership and give you a chance to prove your dedication. New members are elected in January, April, July and October. (Members of other fire departments in Montgomery County applying for transfer or dual membership may be elected at any monthly meeting.) You will also need to be fingerprinted by Fire/Rescue Internal Affairs in order to run a required criminal background check; please note that a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from serving with the fire department – it’s a case-by-case decision to be made by our active membership.
What is the time commitment?
The minimum commitment is four consecutive hours per week plus approximately 200 hours of training at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville. Members who are qualified to staff a rising position on the ambulance or engine are strongly encouraged to commit to a 12-hour weekly shift, usually 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. but negotiable. Members are also expected to attend the monthly meeting on the second Wednesday evening of each month. New members who do not yet meet the prerequisites for EMT training are expected to spend four hours at the fire station on Wednesday evenings for a combination of instructor-led training and online courses. (Accommodations can be made for new members with a standing schedule conflict on Wednesday evenings, such as work or school, but those individuals will need to take greater initiative to study on their own and will not have the benefit of being part of a recruit class.)
When are EMT classes and firefighter classes held?
Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter I & II are the most time-consuming and demanding classes you will take in your first 2-3 years in the fire service. They are offered on a variety of schedules: weeknights, weekends, a combination of nights and weekends, and even full-time Monday through Friday for five intense weeks during the summer. The Academy has fall, spring and summer sessions; the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute in College Park, which is a fallback option if no Academy course schedules work for you, is part of the University of Maryland and is on a semester schedule. EMT training is considered a college-level science course, and is recognized by most colleges and universities for 6-8 credits; firefighter training, while more physically rigorous, also has a significant academic component.
Do I have to take both EMT and firefighter courses?
In Montgomery County, all firefighters are also EMTs. EMTs do not have to be firefighters, and about half of our members are “EMS only” personnel. Usually, if you want to become a firefighter, you will need to become an EMT first.
What’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?
Emergency Medical Technicians, or Basic Life Support providers, have about 170 hours of medical training and serve as field agents of a doctor (the EMS medical director of their jurisdiction). EMTs are trained to assess and triage medical emergencies and to stabilize patients for safe transport to an emergency room, trauma center or specialty center; most interventions performed by EMTs are noninvasive (such as spinal immobilization, oxygen administration or CPR). Paramedics have about 2,000 hours of training and are independently licensed Advanced Life Support providers; they can start IVs, interpret EKGs and insert endotracheal tubes. EMTs can administer nine medications that can be swallowed, inhaled or injected; paramedics can administer more than 30 medications, mostly by IV. (In between, EMT-Intermediates, with about 600 hours of training, can perform most of the same ALS skills as a paramedic, but with less science coursework; therefore, they need to radio a doctor for authorization in many cases where a paramedic could act independently.)
Can I become a paramedic or EMT-I by joining the Takoma Park VFD?
In order to take an EMT-I or Paramedic class, you need to have letters of recommendation from paramedics who have worked with you as an EMT. In general, you should have at least 100 patient transports on record as an EMT-in-Charge before applying for ALS training. Although there are currently no ALS units based at Station 2, that may change – and is more likely to change the more members we have who pursue ALS training. Even if you end up transferring to another VFD or rescue squad to serve as a paramedic, your initial years of training with the Takoma Park VFD will be an asset to you.
Do you have to be a volunteer first in order to become a career firefighter?
It certainly helps, but it is neither a requirement for the job nor a guarantee of getting it. There are many applicants for every available paid firefighter position in Montgomery County and competition is intense. If a firefighting career is your goal, then some volunteer experience will help you prepare for the selection process, but don’t expect it to be much of a shortcut.
Is it true that volunteer and career firefighters don’t get along?
Not here! There are a few people in a few stations who fit this stereotype and keep it alive, and it’s true that the firefighters union (IAFF Local 1664) and the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association are sometimes on the opposite sides of public policy issues – but here at Station 2, we are proud of a great working relationship between the career personnel assigned here and our volunteers. It’s fair to say the career staff appreciates volunteers who pull their weight as part of a team and they have little use for those who don’t, but the same can be said of the active volunteers!
How much does it cost to be a member?
Nothing! All of your required training, uniforms, personal gear, and entry and annual physicals are free, and you can claim a mileage deduction on your taxes if you drive to the Academy. The county provides a small annual stipend that covers out-of-pocket costs such as meals eaten on duty. Your contribution – and it is significant one – is your time.
Do volunteers get paid?
No. That’s why we’re called volunteers. There is a small annual stipend that offsets any out-of-pocket expenses, and there are other financial benefits: Maryland tax breaks for those who have been active members for three full years; free Ride-On bus passes and discounts on other county services; and a pension fund (Length-of-Service Awards Program) for senior members who meet certain criteria. But there is no hourly wage or pay per call.
Are there minimum and maximum ages for volunteers?
You must be at least 16 years old to join, and if you are under 18, you need written permission from a parent or guardian and you are required to stay in school and maintain a passing GPA. Minors are not allowed to be on duty or in the fire station after 10 p.m. on a school night. You do need to be 18 before you can command an ambulance crew and 19 before you can take Emergency Vehicle Operator (driver) training. However, 16-year-old EMTs and firefighters can and do make a difference in the field and even save lives.
There is no maximum age as long as you can pass the annual physical. It’s a great opportunity for active retirees.
What does the physical include?
The Fire/Rescue Occupational Medical Section clinic physical is based on National Fire Protection Association standards for firefighter fitness and is typically 2-3 hours long. In addition to an ordinary general physical exam, it includes a treadmill test, lung capacity test, vision and hearing tests, a chest X-ray, and two consecutive skin tests for tuberculosis. In addition, you will need to fast for 12 hours for baseline blood and urine tests; you can have this done as part of your physical or go to FROMS on a walk-in basis up to two weeks before your scheduled physical.
I just had a TB test or a fire department physical in another jurisdiction. Will that count?
Almost never. The FROMS physical is more thorough than most other occupational physicals and very few other agencies’ physicals are accepted.
Once I join, how soon can I ride apparatus?
You need to complete certain basic training before you can ride as an observer. It usually takes about two months. All county personnel, paid or volunteer, take short online courses in cultural diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity law; in addition, you need to be trained in HIPAA (medical privacy law), workplace hazards, bloodborne and airborne pathogens, and CPR for healthcare providers (which is different from AHA “Heartsaver” or Red Cross CPR training for lay rescuers). You also need to learn and demonstrate familiarity with all of the equipment carried on the apparatus you will be riding, and you need to go to the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service logistics warehouse in Rockville to turn in your uniform requisition and be issued uniforms.
Can I do a ride-along?
As a prospective applicant, we invite you to ride along on the ambulance or fire engine for a few hours when staffing permits and subject to the operational needs of the fire/rescue service. To set up a ride-along, call the career crew on duty at (240) 773-4702 and ask to speak with the officer in charge. If the time you request can be accommodated, you will be given a waiver to sign and you’ll need to dress appropriately for the weather; wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes; and avoid wearing shirts, hats or other apparel bearing any political or potentially controversial logos or messages. You will also need to pledge to maintain strict confidentiality and to follow the instructions of fire/rescue personnel at all times.
Can I be a live-in member?
Not right away. We do offer live-in privileges to members who are qualified to staff a minimum position (an essential crew position on the ambulance or engine) and who commit to a certain number of hours per week on duty, usually 36 hours or more, and extra responsibilities around the firehouse. The Board of Directors considers live-in requests on a case-by-case basis and will generally not offer these arrangements to probationary (first year) members.
I’m a member of another VFD where I don’t get much engine time. Can I be a dual member?
We will be happy to consider your application like anyone else’s, including reference checks. Our policy is that if you meet your commitments to the Takoma Park VFD, it’s not our business what you do with the rest of your time. And if you are a current IECS member in Montgomery County, we offer an abbreviated probationary process to transfer members and dual members. In our experience, though, many dual members have had problems with their primary departments or even been denied permission by their primary department to affiliate with a second. Please know your current organization’s rules before applying for dual membership.
Do you have any administrative (non-riding) membership positions?
On a case-by-case basis, we will consider electing administrative members who commit to the same amount of time we expect of riding members – at least four consecutive hours per week. Usually we will consider this option only for individuals who offer some professional skill or expertise to the organization, such as web design or LAN administration. If you are interested in helping with fundraising projects and special events, you can join the TPVFD Auxiliary, which is open to anyone, any age, subject to a background check.
OK, WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Schedule an orientation meeting with our membership committee. Please email:
After an orientation, you will be given an application form to complete and return. You can then go on to the next steps.
You will need to pass a thorough physical exam at the Fire/Rescue Occupational Medical Section (FROMS) clinic in Rockville. Your recruiter will send you a web link and password for the FROMS online scheduling site. Follow the instructions on the site to schedule a physical and to get your fingerprints recorded at the Internal Affairs office. You will also need to download and print a packet of medical history forms and consent forms to fill out and bring to your physical.
Keep your appointments. Fire/rescue and EMS candidate physicals are hard to schedule and very expensive for the taxpayers of Montgomery County. Most physicals require at least two follow-up office visits to have TB test results analyzed, so the physical exam is usually the most time-consuming part of the application process. If you must cancel an appointment, call FROMS as early as possible. Finger-printing is done only on certain dates, so try not to miss those limited opportunities either.
Plan to attend the next meeting for new members. When we receive your medical clearance from FROMS, we will invite you to the next membership election, held on the second Wednesday evenings in January, April, July and October. If your application and medical clearance are in good order, you will be formally elected to the membership and begin your one-year probationary period.