Germany has as many as 22,000 volunteer fire departments, and those numbers are rising
Fire brigades usually carry out rescue and recovery operations, extinguish fires and protect life and property. In much of Germany, however, this work is mainly performed by volunteers who often have a normal, paid job.
The volunteers carry a pager with them at all times that alerts them when there is an emergency. When it beeps, they quickly head to the local fire station and then to the scene of the emergency.
This is because most small towns and villages in Germany cannot afford a full-time fire brigade since equipment and personnel are expensive to buy and maintain. That means full-time professional fire services are often stretched thin in many regions and they can’t be relied on to attend to each emergency, especially since they could be far away and need a long time to reach the site.
Volunteer firefighters, however, can often be at the scene of an emergency in just a few minutes.
In large cities, that is those with more than around 100,000 inhabitants, there are also professional fire departments. According to statistics from 2018, there are 104 of these in the country. But they too are often supported by volunteers. There are more than 22,000 voluntary fire services in Germany and their ranks are steadily rising.
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Image: Thomas Banneyer, Picture Alliance