Maintaining volunteer firefighter numbers: Adding value to the retention coin

Jim McLennan, Adrian Birch, Sean Cowlishaw, Peter Hayes

Peer-reviewed Article


Archived Article


Annual resignation rates for Australian volunteer based fire agencies range from about 6.7% to 8.3% of total volunteer firefighter memberships. We report two studies investigating aspects of volunteer retention. (1) Analysis of 396 exit survey returns from former volunteers found that reasons contributing to resigning were: Work/ Family needs, 51%; Moved from the area, 38%; Age/Health issues, 28%; Dissatisfaction with the volunteer role, 25%. A major contributor to Dissatisfaction was poor brigade leadership. (2) A survey of 514 second-year volunteers found that higher levels of volunteer satisfaction, and thus intention to remain, were associated strongly with being a member of a well-led, inclusive, and harmonious brigade. Overall, the findings indicated the need for agencies to: (a) distinguish unavoidable reasons for resigning (Moved; Age/ Health issues) from potentially avoidable reasons (Work/family needs; Dissatisfaction); (b) endeavour to balance the demands on volunteers and the needs of their volunteers’ work and family life; and (c) enhance the quality of brigade leadership and management.