Firefighter chaplains work alongside firefighters in responding to community crises. They are available to spiritually support the firefighters as they risk their lives and encounter traumatic situations in their everyday work. Chaplains sometimes also respond to fire calls to be available as a spiritual support to crisis victims.
Fire Department Requirements
Each fire department has slightly different requirements, but most require that applicants are endorsed by a major religious denomination to serve as chaplain. Whether positions are volunteer or paid also varies by station. Some firehouses have multiple paid chaplains, while others employ just one volunteer chaplain who may also be the pastor of a local church.
Most mainline denominations will require you to obtain a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree and serve as a pastor for one or two years.
Some fire departments will hire chaplains without much formal education, but these chaplains are generally required to go through basic firefighter training and specialized chaplaincy training. More often than not, to be endorsed by a church denomination, chaplains must first complete several years of schooling. The M.Div. takes three to four years to complete, and many denominations also require participation in Clinical Pastoral Education, in which students train under chaplains in hospitals, fire stations or police stations for one or two years. Service as a pastor in a church for an additional year or two is also often a requirement. Between undergraduate education, graduate school and hands-on learning, count on training to take up to 10 years.
Lay Firefighter Chaplains
While several years of formal training are required to become professional paid firefighter chaplains, a few fire departments allow average laypeople to volunteer as chaplains. Every department has different requirements for lay chaplains. Many departments will require you to go through the same basic training as other volunteer firefighters, in addition to going through some basic chaplaincy instruction with a local pastor or a paid chaplain within the department. If your local fire department does not allow lay chaplains, call surrounding departments, especially in rural areas that employ predominantly volunteer firefighters.