Volunteer fire chiefs' perceptions of retention and recruitment challenges in rural fire departments: The case of North Dakota, USA

D. K. Yoon, Jessica Jensen, George A. Youngs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Many rural volunteer fire departments in the US are contending with decreasing numbers of volunteers. General social change and changes specific to firefighting have created retention and recruitment challenges for rural fire departments across the nation. The present study examines volunteer fire chiefs' perceptions of these challenges in a state where there has been a long-term decline in the state's rural population. The study draws on data collected from a statewide survey of volunteer fire department chiefs in North Dakota. This study found that chiefs did not see turnover as a major problem, but chiefs did report the need for many more volunteer firefighters and much more training to improve their departments. Consistent with national studies, chiefs identified age, time demands, government mandates, and personality conflicts as turnover triggers. In contrast with national studies, chiefs did not report loss of interest as a significant trigger. Finally, the study examines the sizable gap reported by chiefs between the number of active and inactive volunteers on department rosters and suggests how inactive volunteers might be utilized to recruit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-413
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sep 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research

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