Candidates want the opportunity to be a volunteer as a way of showing interest, gain hands on experience, have something to put on their resume and can say in their oral they have been a volunteer. Often they don’t know the culture, politics and etiquette. You will make an impression becoming a volunteer. Good or bad. Because of the politics something could happen that could ruin any chances you will ever have as a firefighter. And the big problem is you will never know what or who badmouthed you.
Even if you're testing else where, if you listed you are or were a volunteer the background investigator is going to be checking out your history with the volunteer department. They could contact a person that will bad mouth you that will keep you from being considered. Many volunteers, officers and chiefs of departments have tanked a lot of up and coming firefighters just because they played favorites, were jealous of their career path, couldn't make the cut trying to get a paid position themselves, lied to these candidates faces and they never knew what happened. I’ve seen this happen far too much. Candidates wait years trying to become a paid member of their volunteer department or candidates like yourself want to be a volunteer as a stepping stone to a full time position and they have been marked because of some incident they don’t even know about.
Here’s an example: About 2 months ago I received a written letter from the volunteer FD I have been part of for about 6 years telling me I was terminated. I had 2 weeks to appeal the termination. I did so by the date requested and now over a month and a half later I still have not heard a word about having an appeal hearing with the department to find out specifics of what there reasons were.
I also was terminated along with 2 other members of the department. Up until my termination I was one of the top 5 most active guys among a group of over 50 active members. Basically when I wasn't at work I was there drilling, taking classes, going on runs, etc. I have had no disciplinary action taken against me prior to this other than supposedly breaking a "house rule" at one time which since was repeated by multiple members with no disciplinary action ever taken against them.
My letter of termination stated that I was disrespectful to an officer at one point and it affected morale. The other 2 guys received identical letters. I have never had any disciplinary action taken against me regarding disrespect towards line officers or members so this caught me as a huge surprise. I truly feel that the description of "disrespect of officers" is actually a difference in opinions.