“Don’t call it work”: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of volunteer firefighting in young adults based on the volunteer process model

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  • 1 The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Institute of Psychology, , Poland
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The number of people engaging in volunteer firefighting is on the decline. It is therefore important to understand what factors on a personal and social level and from the three stages of the volunteer process model – antecedents, experiences and consequences – might be linked to starting and sustaining engagement in volunteer firefighting. To do this, a qualitative, interview-based study was carried out using a sample of ten volunteer firefighters from across Poland. The data were gathered and analysed using the interpretative phenomenological analysis methodological framework. The data enabled information regarding the stage of the volunteer process and the motivations behind the engagement to be grouped and interpreted. The implications for retention strategies are set out, with a particular focus on the social support of firefighters, the role of coping skills, relationships with the local community, the quality of relationships within the firefighting brigade, the personal development of volunteers and how firefighters make meaning of their service.

Abstract

The number of people engaging in volunteer firefighting is on the decline. It is therefore important to understand what factors on a personal and social level and from the three stages of the volunteer process model – antecedents, experiences and consequences – might be linked to starting and sustaining engagement in volunteer firefighting. To do this, a qualitative, interview-based study was carried out using a sample of ten volunteer firefighters from across Poland. The data were gathered and analysed using the interpretative phenomenological analysis methodological framework. The data enabled information regarding the stage of the volunteer process and the motivations behind the engagement to be grouped and interpreted. The implications for retention strategies are set out, with a particular focus on the social support of firefighters, the role of coping skills, relationships with the local community, the quality of relationships within the firefighting brigade, the personal development of volunteers and how firefighters make meaning of their service.

Introduction

Volunteering is an activity aimed at benefiting people other than one’s closest acquaintances. Typically, it is not linked with an expectation of remuneration and is connected with the donation of one’s own time to groups, people or ideas (Snyder and Omoto, 2008; Omoto and Packard, 2016). A special group of volunteers, performing immensely valuable, physically and mentally strenuous activity, are volunteer firefighters (Schmidthuber and Hilgers, 2019). The service provided by volunteer firefighters is similar to that of paid firefighters – they are present in difficult circumstances, wherever support is needed (Blaney et al, 2021). Often after specialised training enabling them to gain professional skills, they provide strong support to the paid emergency services, allowing for cost savings at local levels (Henderson and Sowa, 2018). The demands on volunteer firefighters from society are high, including the expectation of the same standards as from people who are regular, paid firefighters, despite the fact that they spend their personal leisure time carrying out firefighting tasks (Yarnal and Dowler, 2002).

Volunteer firefighting is on the decline, which might be due to demographic and economic processes, such as lower birth rates, the deregulation of the economy, increased levels of self-employment and productivity demands (McLennan and Birch, 2005). McLennan and Birch (2005) also indicate, based on anecdotal evidence, that employers may not be willing to let their employees who serve as volunteer firefighters to take time off for emergencies during working hours because of the potential financial losses to the company as well as safety issues. This may result in a reluctance to take on volunteering responsibilities. This may be especially true in the case of young adults who strive to enter the job market and remain in it (Yeung and Yang, 2020). In Poland, young adults typically join the regular voluntary firefighting teams after a transition from teenage firefighting brigades, or they start their engagement from scratch. Thus, they are at an early to mid stage of their voluntary firefighting career. At the same time, early adulthood is a period of changes – starting first jobs, developing romantic relationships and establishing own families (Nowakowska, 2020). This struggle between the goals to attain during this life period can be a source of instability for volunteer engagement. However, even though this period might be stressful and full of other opportunities for spending leisure time, some young people still decide to join volunteer firefighting organisations and perform the service, deriving varying levels of satisfaction and displaying different levels of will to sustain the engagement. Given that firefighting is a life-saving activity, with an enormous contribution to the safety of communities, investigating the factors that may enhance the retention of such volunteer firefighters is crucial (Henderson and Sowa, 2018; Schmidthuber and Hilgers, 2019). The current study aims to explore this matter, based on evidence gathered through interviews with young adult volunteer firefighters from across Poland.

Literature review

In contrast to organisations that rely on campaign-related, one-time volunteerism (Rochester, 2006), organisations that depend on the continual engagement of volunteers need to consider ways to retain their human capital (Gazley, 2013). Research can help find ways to successfully manage human resources and enhance volunteer engagement. The current study aims to consider the meaning of potential practices that can operate in a specific type of organisation – volunteer firefighter organisations – based on their goals and needs.

Volunteer firefighter organisations might be understood as an instance of government-by-proxy action (Brudney, 1990), given that disaster management, which is the government’s task, is performed with the efforts of the volunteers. This results in specific expectations about the volunteer firefighters, as they need to be constantly ready to answer to potential events. This fits into the concept of ‘permanent disaster volunteers’ (Britton, 1991). According to a conceptual paper by Britton (1991), such volunteers:

  • experience the same threats and their consequences as paid service officers;

  • need to have similar competences and skills as paid service officers;

  • perform their service as an expansion of their citizen role.

Given that such service is crucial to an effective, organised response to critical events, ways of improving the satisfaction of volunteer firefighters with their service and retaining them are very important. To understand these matters, the ‘volunteer process model’ perspective is suggested in this article as a general framework.

According to the volunteer process model (Omoto and Snyder, 1995), volunteering has three stages:

  • antecedents (motivation, personality and circumstances that predict becoming an efficient volunteer satisfied with one’s service);

  • experiences (especially satisfaction with the service and integration within the organisation);

  • consequences (length of service and changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviour that occurred due to the engagement).

The volunteer process model serves as a comprehensive framework for assessing engagement in a variety of volunteering contexts (Cheung et al, 2006; Dávila, 2009), but has been rarely used directly in the volunteer firefighting context, and in an ‘insider perspective’ qualitative study, so as to find out its validity and whether it can be supported by data gathered in a form not restricted by questionnaire studies, from interviewing the volunteers.

Considering the ‘antecedents stage’ of the model, the first aspect that should be mentioned is the motivation to start and continue engagement. An overarching theoretical perspective, complementing the volunteer process model, has been provided by Clary and Snyder’s (1999) functional theory, distinguishing six functions that volunteering may have for people:

  • The values function focuses on acting according to the values that are important to them (for example, altruism and humanitarianism).

  • The understanding function concentrates on the opportunities to learn and practise skills.

  • The enhancement function involves psychological development and the boosting of self-esteem.

  • The career function focuses on gaining career-relevant experience.

  • The social function means that people perform volunteer work to fit and affiliate with social groups they find important.

  • The protective function concentrates on dealing with intrapersonal conflicts and protecting the ego from their consequences (for example, volunteering to reduce one’s own negative feelings, low self-esteem, guilt or shame).

Within this framework, for volunteer firefighters, one study found that the values motive was most prevalent; however, the understanding and enhancement motives best explained variance in the prospective period of service (Greene and Hendershot, 2017). The ability to gain new skills and the need for achievement and efficaciousness have also been found to be important motivators and aspects enhancing satisfaction with the volunteer firefighting service (Fahey et al, 2002; Henderson and Sowa, 2018).

Also Gazzale (2019), using a phenomenological approach, identified that, among volunteer firefighters, commitment and giving back to the community, altruism, a sense of comradery and relationships with close others (family and friends) played a crucial role in motivating their engagement. The role of the last of these was found to be important in the retention of volunteer firefighters. The support of family and friends may help firefighters cope with the demands and stresses of their service (Huynh et al, 2013), and it is important that this support is continued (Henderson and Sowa, 2018). On the other hand, many volunteer resignations are motivated by family-related responsibilities or work–family balance issues (Cowlishaw et al, 2014). Thus, when investigating volunteer firefighters, attention should be paid to how family and loved ones react to the service and support the firefighter so that they do not experience volunteering–life conflicts. The conflicts between volunteering and work also play a role in volunteer firefighting satisfaction and continuation. Malinen and Mankkinen (2018) found that a lack of time, conflict with school or work demands and challenges at work may be the most important barriers to volunteering. Taken together, evidence suggests that firefighting most often involves noble intentions; however, how much people gain from the service in terms of skills and psychological development links to how long they remain active in the service.

The ‘experiences’ stage of the volunteer process model encompasses mainly satisfaction with and integration within the organisation/volunteer community (Omoto and Snyder, 1995). However, the wider context of community relationships with the volunteers may also play a big role in the specific context of volunteer firefighters as important experiences that enhance their willingness/unwillingness to continue service. Several studies have indicated that for volunteer firefighters it is particularly important to contribute to their communities (Fahey et al, 2002; Perrott and Blenkarn, 2015). Presumably, communal orientation and altruistic attitudes greatly support the engagement of such kind. Volunteer firefighting can be dangerous, but at the same time is performed for a particular community and requires a high degree of teamwork. The values of volunteer firefighters connect to how they experience their fit with the role, and how they want to be perceived by their community. Carpenter and Knowles-Myers (2010) found that concern for social reputation or social image and altruism were correlated with the decision to volunteer as a firefighter. The experience of being affiliated with such a communal organisation can be rewarding (Perkins and Metz, 1988). One study found that the firehouse environment was a place of friendship and the formation of deep interpersonal bonds, as well as of extensive emotional work (for example, familiarity, affection, self-disclosure and giving and taking comfort) (Yarnal et al, 2004). Generally, the volunteers who participate in the firefighting activity for a long time tend to invest emotionally in their role as well as gaining a sense of identity and self-worth, which are formed by the volunteer status (Danson, 2003). More specifically, for volunteer firefighters, engagement in their service is related positively to the intention to continue, as well as a willingness to recruit other people (Mayr, 2017).

The ‘consequences’ stage for volunteer firefighters encompasses the length of service but also changes that occur as a result of engagement, for example changes in beliefs and attitudes, including attitudes towards the people who volunteers support or the volunteering activity itself. Theoretically, the antecedents and experiences should influence the consequences of volunteering, thus, finding out about the antecedents and experiences can help predict and/or understand the consequences, which is vital for organisations that want to retain volunteers.

Current study

The aim of the current study was to explore the perceptions of young adult volunteer firefighters regarding their service in general. Attention was paid to:

  • personality traits and the external context to which the volunteers assigned special meaning in sustaining their volunteer engagement (the antecedents stage in the volunteer process model);

  • their satisfaction with and integration within the firefighting organisation (the experiences stage);

  • what meaning they made of their volunteering and whether it had influenced their life or opinions (the consequences stage).

In terms of the type of qualitative methodology chosen, the analysis was data-driven rather than theory-driven, with the ultimate goal of finding out where empirical evidence matched the theory rather than finding theory in the data (details on the methodological approach are given later in this article).

Insights into how people understand their service and what psychosocial factors are linked to the continuation of their work can be provided by in-depth qualitative studies, and this was the approach taken in the current study. Qualitative studies not only take into account the limited perspective of chosen traits, as observed for questionnaire studies, but also allow for exploring a wider spectrum and context of experiences and perceptions solely among the investigated group.

The current study was conducted in Poland, a country of nearly 38 million inhabitants in Central Europe. Compared with other countries, Poland has a medium risk of fire emergencies, similar to other highly industrialised countries with a large density of inhabitants within large urban spaces, such as observed, for example, in France, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and the United States (Kunikowski and Rostek, 2017). The Polish security system consists of a wide variety of state and non-governmental institutions, which cooperate to ensure the highest standards of emergency services. Among the non-governmental organisations, voluntary fire brigades (Polish: Ochotnicze Straże Pożarne) have a crucial role (Marjański et al, 2016). Apart from the formal fire service, these organisations are the most important in providing emergency services during fire incidents (Kunikowski and Rostek, 2017). The existence of voluntary fire brigades in Poland dates back to the 18th century; however, they were popularised in the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries. Initially, they were introduced to extinguish fire (Nowak and Nowak, 2011); however, they now have a variety of goals and aims in relation to ensuring the security of local communities (for example: extinguishing fire; providing a technical emergency service, especially during transport accidents; evacuating people and animals from endangered spaces; helping during natural disasters, for example during floods and other emergency events; removal of the results of emergency events, especially after weather anomalies; education and providing information about such events to local communities; and acting for the preservation of the natural environment – taken from information on the website of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration and Ropęga and Wilk-Woś, 2018). In 2012 (the newest study available), around 16,000 voluntary fire brigades existed in Poland, and they had 690,000 members, mainly from rural areas and small towns. An average voluntary fire brigade in Poland consists of 33 members, 92% of whom are male (Adamiak, 2012). In one study, 95% of Poles trusted voluntary firefighters, which makes voluntary fire brigades the most trusted non-governmental association in the country (Berliński, 2012). Although Poland is high in the rankings of the number of volunteer firefighters per 100,000 inhabitants, sociodemographic processes and rising demands in the regular work settings of the volunteers have resulted in a relatively low number of new firefighters joining the service. An average voluntary fire brigade has 60% active members out of all those enrolled (Adamiak, 2012).

This research was performed from the organisational embeddedness perspective, concentrating on the factors encouraging people to remain within the organisation rather than why they leave it (Mitchell et al, 2001). In line with this perspective, a focus was placed on the perceptions of the fit between the person and the voluntary firefighting organisation, links with fellow firefighters and activities as well as gains from the service/consequences of leaving it (Ng and Feldman, 2014). Therefore, the current study aims to answer the following questions: How do the active volunteer firefighters view their service? What encouraged them to take up the responsibility of being a firefighter, and to continue their service?

A qualitative insight into volunteer firefighting congruent with the approach taken by Henderson and Sowa (2018) – namely, focused on the everyday ‘routine’ provision of the volunteering service of firefighters rather than disaster or crisis situations (Henderson and Charbonneau, 2016) – is missing in the literature. The current study attempts to fill this gap. To give coherence to the evidence gathered, the planning of the interview schedule and analysis was informed using Omoto and Snyder’s (1995; 2002) ‘volunteer process model’. During the analysis process, the functional theory of volunteering mentioned in the previous section (Clary and Snyder, 1999) was also used to compare the evidence obtained to the well-established classification of volunteer motives. Exploring factors at all stages of volunteering and enfolding its functions may help in interpreting the meaning and impact of events and perceptions reported by the participants, as well as derive implications for practice for the recruitment and retention of firefighter volunteers.

Although, as presented in the literature review, some data on the issue of the retention of volunteer firefighters are already available, to date these aspects have not been investigated within a single research plan using the volunteer process model framework – one of the most popular ones in volunteering studies. This framework has also rarely been used in the firefighting context, which makes it important to find aspects (a) that fit into the theory and (b) that are specific to the firefighting context. A qualitative study using the volunteer process model framework may give coherence to the data and provide information about how to support volunteers in remaining active and understand their commitment based on their opinions and self-perceptions.

Method

The interview schedule

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) (Smith et al, 1999) was chosen as a methodological framework for the current study. IPA’s main aim is to understand and interpret the lived experiences of the respondents by diving into the qualitative material and finding out the themes that emerge from it (Smith et al, 2009). IPA sampling needs to be purposive and homogeneous (Pietkiewicz and Smith, 2012), and the number of participants is typically small, for the quality and depth of interpretation to prevail over the quantity of data (Smith, 2017).

Semi-structured interviews were applied as a method to gather reliable, comparable data from the respondents, focusing on the themes of interest, with the possibility of deepening the questions or following the flow of the conversation (Adams, 2015). The interview schedule was inspired by previous qualitative studies on volunteer motivations, the experiences of volunteers and the consequences of volunteer engagement by Leonard (2002), Corden and Sainsbury (2005), Dein and Abbas (2005), Rehberg (2005), MacNeela (2008), Beck et al (2015) and Talbot (2015). The full question list is available in the Appendix.

Participants

A predefined sample of ten young adult participants aged 18–35 (M = 23.50, SD = 2.99) was recruited through mailing volunteer firefighter organisations across Poland, as well as social media advertisements. This number slightly exceeds the number typically applied for IPA studies, which is six to eight participants (Smith and Eatough, 2006). According to IPA methodology, the low number of participants should result in a more in-depth interpretation (Smith, 2017). However, the final decision on how many people are included is up to the researcher, and the criteria relate, for instance, to the richness of the material and data saturation, the planned depth of analysis, the way of comparing the cases and pragmatic limitations – for example the availability of potential participants (Pietkiewicz and Smith, 2012). In the present study, apart from the abovementioned criteria, an important one in deciding when to stop recruiting new participants was the fact of external financing of the study and the goal to remunerate all volunteer firefighters who were interviewed.

In the emergency services, including firefighting, men are typically prevalent (Beatson, 2005). Thus, attention was paid to the gender balance during the sample recruitment phase so as to reflect the views of both genders on their work. The first ten respondents who were within the predefined age range of 18–35 were included in the sample. Table 1 presents the pseudonyms and basic demographic characteristics of the participants.

Table 1:

Pseudonyms and characteristics of the participants

PseudonymGenderAgePlace of residenceEducationJobApproximate length of experience with the volunteer firefighting brigade
AlicjaFemale22Large city, volunteer firefighter in the rural area of originBA studies in progressStudent4 years, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community since childhood – family tradition
DorotaFemale24Small cityHigh school, resigned from studiesUnemployed, concentrates on bringing up a child6 years
JoannaFemale28Rural areaBAOffice worker1.5 years
KamilaFemale20Large cityBA studies in progressStudent2 years, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community for 4 years
PolaFemale20Rural areaBA studies in progressStudent1 year, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community for 7 years
JanMale27Small town near a large cityHigh school, BA studies not finishedOffice worker11 years
JacekMale21Large city, volunteer firefighter in a rural area near a large cityBA studies in progressStudent3 years, but has been engaged in similar activities since early adolescence
DamianMale24Rural areaMA studies in progressStudent6 years, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community since childhood – family tradition
FilipMale27Rural areaMAOffice worker10 years, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community for 15 years
WiktorMale22Large cityBA studies in progressTechnical worker4 years, but been a member of a volunteer firefighter community for 12 years

Procedure

The interviews were conducted individually in audio-video form over Zoom. Prior to participation, the respondents were informed about the goal of the study, the topics that would be mentioned, that audio would be recorded (transcription, usage for research purposes), the right to stop their participation in the study without giving reasons, the confidentiality of the data and the remuneration (an electronic shopping voucher for 100 PLN sent by email) and the fact that the voucher could be received only upon completion of the study.

Two written informed consent forms were collected by email prior to scheduling the interview: the first one for participation in the study and the second one for the recording and transcription of the audio. After receiving the informed consent forms, the date of the interview was scheduled.

The interviews lasted between 45 and 60 minutes each. All of the interviews took place when the interviewees were at home. At the beginning of each interview, time was given to make sure that the interviewee met the inclusion criteria for participation, to discuss any necessary questions and to remind participants about the confidentiality and subject of the interview. One participant was excluded during the first minutes of the interview due to not fitting the age range defined prior to data collection. None of the participants opted out of the study. After the interviews, the audio material was transcribed verbatim.

Data analysis

The analysis conformed to IPA guidelines (Smith et al, 2009). The process of identifying the themes comprised working on printed transcripts, reading the cases, highlighting the interesting passages, making memos and generating codes. Codes were clustered into themes. After identifying themes, the relevance of the themes to the highlighted fragments was then verified. At this stage, two independent raters (text analysis specialists) were involved, and were asked to link the quotations to the thematic codes, as well as provide their own codes if they found it necessary. The process was done on the printed transcripts of the interviews, with fragments of interest (quotations) highlighted.

After this process, ATLAS.ti 8.4.25.0 (Hwang, 2008) was used to assist with the analysis process. The quotations of interest were highlighted in the software and coded with the thematic codes that emerged from the IPA analysis. The coding performed by the independent raters was also introduced to the software using the Intercoder mode. Agreement measures between raters – simple percentage agreement (91.3%), Holsti index (91.3%) and Krippendorf’s Cuα (0.90) – were calculated through Intercoder agreement in the ATLAS.ti. Disagreements were resolved through discussion.

Ethics

The study protocol and materials were approved by an institutional research ethics committee at The Maria Grzegorzewska University. The author also obtained temporary authorisation from the institutional data protection officer to process the emails of the participants of the study in order to gather written informed consent forms, schedule interviews and send remuneration in the form of the electronic shopping voucher.

Results and discussion

During the IPA process, 102 quotations of interest were highlighted. During the IPA analysis, seven themes emerged:

  • the context of joining and continuation – the social environment and personality factors;

  • coping with volunteering demands;

  • relationships with the local community;

  • team spirit;

  • skills acquired during volunteer engagement;

  • the self-enhancement value of volunteer engagement;

  • synonyms for volunteer engagement and meaning making.

The context of joining and continuation – the social environment and personality factors

Results. For many of the respondents, a family tradition of participation in volunteer firefighting – that is, having an uncle (Alicja), a father (Damian) or several people from one’s closest family (Filip and Wiktor) who were volunteers – was a factor that made them aware of what volunteer firefighting was. For all of them, except Wiktor, the participation of family was important in making the decision about joining. Wiktor reported that despite having family in firefighting, he did not think about joining because of that. Filip mentioned that both having family and observing their activities as volunteers made him keen to join himself: “I lived in a rural area, where there are very few activities. In my opinion, the fire brigade was the place where I could run, see a cool car, cool equipment and I took that into my blood. In fact I enhanced what I already had in my blood” (Filip). For some other participants, friends (sometimes friends who had family in the volunteer firefighting community) were the people who encouraged them to join (Jan, Dorota, Kamila and Pola). Jacek joined together with his friends, answering a call for volunteer firefighters.

Dorota also mentioned that her motive for staying in the volunteer firefighting community was due to relationships in the brigade and the fact that she could socialise with friends at the station. She also mentioned that the station was a great place for children to play and thus she and her friends could spend time with their families there:

‘When I joined, I joined with my best friend, other friends, … I bore a child, my best friend also, and some of my other friends also have children now … and now we meet at the fire station with children, coffee, … it’s more about talking with each other … In the rural areas we rarely visit each other at home … so we go to the station. I have an expectation now, that when the children grow up, the station is fenced, so we have lots of space, we will have a bit of rest [laughter].’

Jan also spoke about the fact that he joined to gain experience for his education and a future career in rescue forces (as he planned then), which would not be provided otherwise. Dorota meanwhile shared her experience with depression, which made her seek forms of activity that would help her overcome it. She talked about the fact that volunteer firefighting had personal meaning for her, because she was able to cope with her problems.

As for the personality traits that the volunteer firefighters found important in their engagement, Kamila mentioned that she joined because of her need to help other people, and being close to them when something dangerous happened. However, some of the respondents also expressed the view that novelty and sensation seeking were important in making the decision about joining and sustaining engagement:

‘I like adrenaline, but not like in the extreme sports.’ (Dorota)

‘A person can sit on a couch [sigh], lay in front of a TV, but we are always going out [for actions]. Generally, I think it’s a sort of a hobby … Each case can be different … you always need to prepare for something new. It is certainly interesting, such novelty.’ (Jacek)

‘When joining, I saw myself extinguishing fire [laughter]. I like fire, I like adrenaline very much. I like such moments, in which a normal person typically panics.’ (Kamila)

However, Damian was critical about thinking of volunteer firefighting as an exciting activity:

‘Some people find in it an opportunity to load their own adrenaline. It is always adrenaline, when you get into a building which is on fire, you can’t see anything, screams, it’s hot and so on. If someone desires such extreme sensations, he or she can load it by such activity. But I think it’s for a short term, mainly the will to help others [is important].’ (Damian)

Interpretation and discussion. The context of joining fits into the antecedent stage of the volunteer process model (Omoto and Snyder, 1995). Interestingly, the role of family traditions was mentioned by several of the interviewed volunteers. According to Yarnal and Dowler (2002), volunteer firefighters who have such a family history of engagement view it as worthwhile and valuable. Moreover, familiarising oneself with the specificity of volunteer firefighting might have been a form of practice and made it easier to learn behaviours expected at firefighting stations.

For some other volunteers, an invitation from friends or starting the engagement together with them was the first step in volunteer firefighting. Being in a group of peers sharing the same hobby would probably sustain the engagement and the intention to remain, with a conviction that this involvement is socially accepted and attractive. The respondents were young adults, thus the developmental aspect of affiliation and seeking relatedness through prosocial activity might have been very important to them (Nowakowska, 2020). It needs to be noted that only active volunteer firefighters were interviewed. It would be interesting to know whether the people who dropped out of the activity also had social support in their engagement. According to Marta and Pozzi (2008), such support is important in the sustained, long-term engagement of young adults in volunteer activities. Specifically, for volunteer firefighters, the support of family and friends and their acceptance for the firefighter playing the role are crucial to continued engagement (Huynh et al, 2013; Henderson and Sowa, 2018).

In this emerging theme, the social function of volunteering (Clary and Snyder, 1999), focused on relationships with others and spending leisure time together with others, was also visible. This function might be viewed as self- rather than other-oriented, similar to the career function (the intention to enhance one’s own career prospects by volunteering), which was also displayed by some respondents. Joining volunteer firefighting is often motivated by reasons such as making friends and socialising (Francis and Jones, 2012; Perrott and Blenkarn, 2015). In general, volunteering involves both self- and other-oriented motives (Marta et al, 2006). Interestingly, factors similar to the ones observed in the current study, such as an invitation to volunteer and the motive of making friends or enhancing career prospects, were also found in a study by Carpenter and Knowles-Myers (2010). They were linked to the decision to start firefighting volunteering, but were not linked or were even negatively associated with the amount of time devoted to volunteering.

Furthermore, an interesting motive of seeking novelty and sensation was reported by some respondents. Presumably, being able to adaptively cope in extreme circumstances requires deriving some pleasure from taking risks, otherwise it could be difficult to sustain engagement in such a form of volunteering.

Coping with volunteering demands

Results. Patience and calmness were indicated as two of the most important forms of coping with the demands of volunteer firefighter work (Alicja, Filip and Wiktor). Filip talked about the fact that many things happen during a firefighting action and thus a firefighter needs to be patient and conform to the hierarchy of the brigade. At the same time, being courageous (Jacek and Kamila) was also mentioned as useful. However, a greater level of involvement in work was not always viewed as equal to efficiency (Damian and Wiktor). Wiktor provided an outlook on that: “A firefighter cannot be a ‘turbo-man’. He or she needs to be calm … not hot-headed, that he or she will do everything, because this is the worst. When someone is everywhere, someone is nowhere.” Resistance to stress and “steel nerves” (Joanna), as well as good emotion control (Filip and Joanna), were found to be very important in volunteer firefighter work. These were felt to be needed in order to focus well on the difficult, especially life-threatening, situations they found themselves in (Joanna).

Interesting results were obtained regarding the role of being emotionally involved in volunteer firefighting. Jan said that a firefighter should be “empathic to some degree, pay attention to the harm of others”. However, Wiktor said that “big emotions cannot enter into work”, whereas Filip mentioned that an “emotional approach is not always good”. According to Joanna: “It shouldn’t be that there is a difficult situation and a person is so sensitive that she cries seeing the harm of someone else, but he or she can assess the situation well.”

Physical preparation and courage were viewed as important (Damian and Kamila), but mental strength was viewed as crucial to make fast and appropriate decisions (Joanna). Kamila even said:

‘You don’t need to be very sporty or strong. You should have a really resilient mentality. Because some views, some experiences are in your memory for a long time and you need to cope with that and live on. … I would recommend such volunteer work for a person who is physically weaker, but would cope mentally, than a bully who would not be able to deal mentally with some situations.’ (Kamila)

Interpretation and discussion. The theme of coping is an element of the experiences stage of the volunteer process model. Despite the fact that, as mentioned earlier, the motivation to join the volunteer firefighting brigade might be due to a need to seek novelty, during firefighting action volunteers need to display calmness and remain balanced. Moreover, the importance of mental readiness and successful coping strategies was highlighted, even over physical readiness to be a volunteer firefighter. The method of coping assessed as most useful by the participants resembles the characteristics of the problem-focused coping style as classified by Lazarus and Folkman (1984). Problem-focused coping is aimed at reducing the impact of the stressful event by resolving it or tackling the source of stress and may include problem solving, information seeking, assistance seeking and similar strategies (Schnider et al, 2007). Problem-oriented coping generally promotes a future and goal orientation to problem solving and is viewed as effective. In the current study, the respondents mentioned that emotions cannot prevail during firefighting action. However, it needs to be noted that, in the study, no theme occurred regarding post-traumatic coping with stressors. Available data on bouncing back after trauma among firefighters suggest that both problem- and emotion-oriented strategies constitute useful resources (Sattler et al, 2014). It is possible that given the fact that the traumatic experiences were not the central subject of the current study, but the ‘routine’ provision of service, the firefighters omitted this particular subject and instead concentrated on how they dealt with stressors during their everyday service. From the current study it seems therefore that problem orientation, rather than emotion orientation, is particularly useful to deal with the often extreme stressors of volunteer firefighting, but this can be said only when considering the moment of being in action.

Relationships with the local community

Results. Volunteer firefighters mentioned that one of the most important factors that contributed to their decision to engage with firefighting was the possibility to help people within their communities and ensure their safety (Alicja, Damian, Jacek and Jan). Filip named it as simple help within society, given that the people who the volunteer firefighters help are most often not anonymous to them. Damian mentioned the fact that in rural areas of Poland it is a form of activity within the community. According to him, it is difficult to obtain professional emergency services quickly in the countryside, and the awareness of this made him engage in the volunteer firefighting brigade.

Some of the respondents indicated that their relationships with the local community were very positive and people were friendly towards volunteer firefighters (Jacek), respected them (Joanna) and trusted them (Kamila).

Another aspect of the relationships with the community was gratitude:

‘It is simply beautiful, that people just say thank you to us. It is enough for us – the smile of a person whom we helped and we feel better instantly. It is the best reward.’ (Jacek)

‘The best in this work is the fact that someone will come and say thank you.’ (Damian)

However, Jan provided another outlook: he noticed the fact that someone might express their gratitude (the community, the mayor or the commander of the brigade), but it was not needed for him to feel good about the service that he had provided during the action.

Interpretation and discussion. The theme of relationships with the local community is linked to the antecedents (starting engagement because of the opportunity to provide safety to one’s own community, congruent with the values aspect of the volunteer functions) (Clary and Snyder, 1999) and experiences (establishing relationships and gaining recognition within the community and receiving gratitude from it) stages of the volunteer process model (Omoto and Snyder, 1995). The gratitude aspect is also in line with the finding that young volunteers are keen to be active in forms of volunteering where they can see they make a difference, especially in improving the everyday lives of other people and when they can see the effects of their work (for a review, see Shields, 2009). Presumably, being active within their close environment and feeling that they make an impact may enhance their engagement by positive reinforcement. Being a member of a communal organisation, such as a voluntary firefighting department, can be rewarding (Perkins and Metz, 1988). Contribution to the security of the community has been found to be a very important concern of voluntary firefighters (Fahey et al, 2002; McLennan et al, 2007). Thus, paying attention to the positive relationships between the voluntary firefighting department and the community, as well as the social reputation of the firefighters, might be important to make the volunteers motivated and keen to engage further (see Carpenter and Knowles-Myers, 2010).

Team spirit

Results. The importance of team spirit was clearly highlighted in the vast majority of interviews. Jan indicated that he joined the volunteer firefighting community with the motive to feel unity within the team. Several firefighters (Filip, Jacek, Jan, Kamila and Wiktor) mentioned the fact that the atmosphere between the firefighters did not need to be always ideal to function efficiently:

‘I was not a popular firefighter. I simply did what I was meant to. During the actions it is not important, whether I am a friend or not, or a good friend, you simply do your job. You are a team together. And I simply liked it.’ (Jan)

‘The atmosphere is not always awesome, but I have a lot of friends, so this is one of the reasons why I am a volunteer firefighter … Not everyone in the firefighting brigade is skilful at teamwork, they like ruling. But it’s bad. What is most important is the cooperation.’ (Jacek)

‘It is like in small communities and generally between people, some sub-teams of people exist, some people like each other, some not, etcetera. But when there’s the action, no one thinks what somebody said in the past, but we are like brothers, aren’t we?’ (Filip)

Responsibility for each other within the team was also underlined (Jacek, Joanna and Wiktor). The responsibility had a special character, because the firefighting service is linked to events that put lives at risk. Wiktor said that during the most difficult actions the firefighters work in pairs, so that one is responsible for another, regardless of what happens. This builds trust and confidence during the action and, according to Wiktor, serves as extensive support.

When asked what is most important in volunteer firefighter work, Jacek provided an interesting insight regarding teamwork skills:

‘A volunteer firefighter should not act as a hero. It should be a person who is skilful at teamwork. And this is one of [the] most important things. Be team oriented and think logically, foresee future events, what can happen, not just go. It should be a person who has knowledge and uses it.’ (Jacek)

Interpretation and discussion. The theme of feeling team spirit clearly fits into the experiences stage of the volunteer process model (Omoto and Snyder, 1995). The fact that this theme emerged from the interviews is not surprising given the nature of volunteer firefighting work. However, many firefighters reported that the atmosphere within the brigade is not necessarily ideal. Teamwork skills are crucial in emergency services in order to provide appropriate support. Trust in a team is absolutely vital to perform tasks under extremely stressful circumstances, and thus the interpersonal frictions ought to be limited to maintain performance and the collective orientation (Driskell et al, 2018). It also needs to be noted that voluntary firefighting brigades are places of self-disclosure and of showing vulnerability (Yarnal et al, 2004). Volunteers who do not feel comfortable with bonding with other people or have trouble in personal relationships with other firefighters can find such an environment uncomfortable. Despite the fact that the current study suggests that during the performance of such life-threatening activities a special bond is formed and presumably communication during an action can be different from communication in less formal settings, it should be noted that attention needs to be paid to relationships between the members of the volunteer firefighter brigade to sustain engagement and efficient action, as well as to prevent resignations due to interpersonal processes that can be hard to bear.

Skills acquired during volunteer engagement

Results. The volunteer firefighters mentioned two classes of skills that they acquired thanks to their engagement. The first class involved hard skills, for example operating equipment (Jacek) and technical skills useful in their education or professional work (Alicja and Jan) or confidence in administrative, formal tasks, for example contact with companies (Pola). The second and broader class involved soft skills: learning communication with other people, openness to other people, self-esteem in establishing and maintaining contact with other people (Alicja, Joanna and Wiktor) and patience during contact with other members of the team (Dorota). Jacek, Kamila and Pola highlighted the fact that they learnt teamwork. Kamila even mentioned that she did it “by doing”, because without it, any successful action would be impossible.

Interpretation and discussion. This theme focuses mainly on the consequences aspect of the volunteer process model. The skills (hard and soft) resemble the career (boosting the career prospects) and understanding (deepening knowledge, gaining abilities and skills) functions of volunteering (Clary and Snyder, 1999). Interviewees mentioned a wide variety of soft skills gained, mainly connected to communication and establishing relationships with other people. This suggests that volunteer firefighting can be a place to acquire and exercise skills relevant not only for the fire emergency service, but also for everyday life. It is interesting given that previous theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that such soft skills can support young adults in successfully realising the goals of this life period (for a review, see Nowakowska, 2020).

The self-enhancement value of volunteer engagement

Results. Self-enhancement was an important matter raised by interviewees – a motive and a drive to sustain volunteer engagement. Jan and Joanna mentioned that volunteer engagement enabled them to feel needed and appreciated. Jan recalled feeling not worthy of society prior to starting volunteer firefighting and intentionally seeking a way to change this feeling.

Another self-enhancement matter was visible in the interview with Dorota, who reported that her volunteer firefighter team was waiting for an extraordinary action to gain recognition:

‘I think that we are always waiting, probably the smaller brigades, but presumably all got it so. We are waiting for an action which will be in all newspapers, that we will be there. I think that it’s exciting, that we are waiting for saving someone’s life or property and then we will walk in glory and everyone will clap their hands [laughter].’ (Dorota)

Damian also mentioned that the firefighter uniform enhanced his ego and made him feel better:

‘I don’t know, maybe it’s bad, but when I put on the uniform … my ego is boosted, maybe. Not in that sense that I feel a superman, but we know as firefighters that people perceive as well. We are not policemen who get somewhere and see lots of pairs of hostile eyes, but we know that people put hope in us.’ (Damian)

At the same time, in Damian’s view, a balance between volunteering and other activities should be maintained, and being a firefighter involves common sense:

‘A firefighter should be a well-balanced person, have everything in good proportions. The firefighting needs to be there, but there should also be family, friends, calmness, common sense, not [a] lack of premeditation and a feeling that “I am a hero, because when I am wearing a uniform, nothing will happen, as I am a superman”.’ (Damian)

However, Jacek also spoke about the simple satisfaction of being a “good man” who helps other people, despite not having material gratification, which also made him feel better.

Interpretation and discussion. Self-enhancement was understood as a motive and a drive, and might be viewed as part of all three stages of the volunteer process model: antecedents (as a motive), experiences (the events that were self-enhancing) and consequences (the rewarding function of such experiences, leading to sustained engagement). The literature in general highlights the interplay of other- and self-oriented motives in volunteer engagement (Hartenian and Lilly, 2009). Ego enhancement is also one of the functions of volunteering, according to Clary and Snyder (1999). Additionally, in the case of the current study, it was observed that feeling needed or seeing respect in the eyes of other people can be a booster of engagement. Part of this related to material signs of being a volunteer firefighter (for example a uniform). Previous studies suggested that image concerns, operationalised by the decision to have a vanity plate of volunteer status, served as a factor contributing to engagement (response to the calls) (Carpenter and Knowles-Myers, 2010). Thus, it can be suggested that although the motives are egoistic, they are not necessarily detrimental to the willingness to participate in volunteer actions. Presumably, this can be linked to building a role identity as a volunteer firefighter; and material signs of affiliation within a brigade can help to form such an identity. Given that volunteer firefighting involves obligation and ambiguity, tensions regarding the volunteer and other duties need to be negotiated (Yarnal and Dowler, 2002). If these negotiations are not successful and the role ambiguity is higher, engagement can be lowered (Harp et al, 2017).

Synonyms for volunteer engagement and meaning making

Results. Most of the respondents mentioned ways in which they understood and named their engagement. Three of them (Damian, Filip and Wiktor) directly stated that they did not want to name their activity as “work” (‘volunteer work’ is a proper expression in the Polish language), and instead called it a “service” (Damian), “belonging” (Filip) or a “passion” (Wiktor).

Kamila and Pola also mentioned the fact that helping others is connected with reciprocity – they help other people through volunteer firefighting, but one day they might need the support of others, and thus it is important to engage:

‘You always need to remember, that now I will help you, but I can be in a situation one day that I will need help.’ (Kamila)

‘We don’t know when we will need help ourselves. It could be that we go out some day, and something will burn in our house or a wire will snap – [a] short circuit will occur, or gas will explode. It is possible that we won’t be at home then and we will need to count on people who are closer then.’ (Pola)

Other respondents, when speaking about their engagement, called being a volunteer firefighter a “vocation” (Jacek) or a “sacrifice” (of time that might have been devoted to family, friends or work) (Jan). Damian even mentioned that he understood his engagement as a “fulfilment of humanity” given his religiosity and how he tried to live.

Kamila also presented an interesting metaphor for her volunteering, regarding the excitement it gave her:

‘It is amazing for me, it is a bit like … maybe video games for boys. Boys love to play because they want to know, what will come next, when they will pass the next level. And for me it is also something like that, because I want to know what will come next, how it will end. And afterwards, after the action, when I sit down I simply feel good … that I did something really good.’ (Kamila)

Jacek compared volunteer firefighting to team sports, as well as to a hobby. Additionally, Dorota referred to it as “our entertainment”, referring to the people who live in the small city. Other synonyms, which were linked to a sense of belonging to the volunteer firefighter community, were “family” (Filip, Pola and Wiktor), “brotherhood” (Wiktor) and “team” (Filip).

Interpretation and discussion. The synonyms used by the volunteers might be viewed as consequences (Omoto and Snyder, 1995) of their engagement – formed through experiences and indicating the meaning they assigned to it. Expressions such as “service”, “passion”, “vocation”, “sacrifice” and “fulfilment of humanity” indicate a strongly emotional attitude towards their own engagement or even a self-transcendence aspect of volunteering (Schnell and Hoof, 2012), which is interesting given the self-enhancement (thus, contrary; Roccas, 2003) aspect of volunteering described in the earlier sections of this article. Presumably, volunteering consists of a mix of self-transcendence and self-enhancement aspects, similarly to altruistic and egoistic motives (Hartenian and Lilly, 2009). The self-transcendence aspect is interesting in the context that volunteer firefighting is a dangerous service with risk of injuries and death. It might be possible that the proximity of death for firefighting activities (Gambin et al, 2020) forms such an understanding of the service. Also, synonyms connected to the social function (Clary and Snyder, 1999) and affiliation within the firefighting community were observed. Hence, the personal need to belong might be realised by this highly cooperative, team-based activity and the relationships established during volunteering (see Huynh et al, 2013). It suggests that not only the sense of self-efficacy during actions, but also the relatedness and inclusion within the volunteer organisation, are important when understanding volunteer firefighting engagement, similar to what was discovered by Huang et al (2020). Participation in voluntary firefighting is often motivated by reasons such as seeking social bonds and the positive public image of firefighting (Francis and Jones, 2012; Perrott and Blenkarn, 2015). If a firefighter fails to form a positive image of their own service or does not form satisfactory bonds with the brigade, the risk of resignation might be higher, and they might want to seek other forms of fulfilling their own needs.

General discussion

Volunteer firefighters provide valuable services to communities (Henderson and Sowa, 2018), and thus their recruitment and retention are very important for people’s safety. The way in which active volunteers perceive their service, their own commitment and organisational features can help in understanding the factors associated with remaining in the role and provide information on how to retain volunteers (see Alfes et al, 2015; Cho et al, 2020) in answer to the decline in the number of volunteer firefighters. The current study focused on the demographic group of young adults, at the early to mid stage of their voluntary firefighting career, who perform a great amount of service compared with other age groups, but are typically also finishing their education, looking for jobs and building new interpersonal relationships. The current study explored what aspects of volunteer work made them satisfied with their service, and how. The use of inductive, qualitative methods enabled the provision of rich evidence comparable to theoretical frameworks and existing literature.

As discussed in the interpretation sections, the current study enabled us to discover factors from the framework of the volunteer process model (Omoto and Snyder, 1995): the antecedents, experiences and consequences of volunteer firefighting. Thus, the engagement process can be understood in terms of its various stages (from the decision to start volunteer firefighting to making meaning of it based on experience).

From the level of antecedents, the obtained data clearly indicate the role of the close social environment in the decision to become and remain an active volunteer firefighter. Family traditions, observing close others (family and friends) performing voluntary firefighting and joining with peers were indicated as important. This is in line with previous findings, which indicated that finding support within close circles enhances satisfaction with firefighting service (Henderson and Sowa, 2018) and facilitates bouncing back from stressful events (Blaney et al, 2021).

From the levels of the antecedents and experiences of engagement, in the community and self-enhancement themes that emerged from the interviews, it is likely that volunteer firefighting engagement is linked both to altruistic (supporting the safety of the local community and being helpful) and egoistic (gaining a reputation and recognition and boosting the ego) motives. This mix of motives is in line with a study by Carpenter and Knowles-Myers (2010), who found that the decision to volunteer is linked to altruistic attitudes and social reputation concerns. Being a volunteer firefighter is a highly demanding and socially visible activity, thus, presumably, people who choose to join need to highly identify themselves with the idea of helping others, but at the same time, be ready to take the community gratitude and critique. This is in line with findings by Greene and Hendershot (2017), who found a link between being motivated by values in the decision to start voluntary firefighting, and the role of the need for enhancement and gaining skills in longevity of service. Moreover, theories of embeddedness suggest that embeddedness in one context can reinforce embeddedness in another one (Ng and Feldman, 2014). Thus, being rooted in one’s own community can enhance rooting in the voluntary firefighting organisation, and the same the other way, which can be especially true because volunteer firefighters serve their local communities and care for their security.

Additionally, at the experience level, the majority of the interviewed volunteers, despite deriving satisfaction from their work, mentioned the necessity to cope with difficult and dangerous actions, sometimes even trauma. Given the fact that firefighters experience mental health issues more severely than the general population (Stanley et al, 2017; Gambin et al, 2020), and this group is especially prone to trauma and its adverse effects due to life-saving activities and exposure to death (Ogińska-Bulik and Kobylarczyk, 2016), among this group, mental health counselling and support deserve special attention (Lourel et al, 2008). Based on the evidence gathered in the current study, especially strengthening resilience by working on problem and goal orientation, as well as the capacity to make decisions under stress, might be vital to support the volunteer firefighters in coping with stress during firefighting action and help them remain engaged for a longer period of time. In the current study, only within-situation stressors were mentioned; however, Sattler et al (2014) also found out that resilience and problem orientation, among other resources, help firefighters bounce back from traumatic experiences in the long run.

Another vital experience-related theme important for practice was the issue of work–life balance and the fact that over-engagement does not necessarily mean success during firefighting action. Conflict between volunteering and work/school has also been found to be one of the most important barriers to voluntary firefighting (Malinen and Mankkinen, 2018). Thus, observing the behaviours and attitudes displayed by peer volunteer firefighters and the brigade leaders, as well as reasonable demands from less experienced ones, could prevent burnout or undesirable outcomes during actions (Cowlishaw et al, 2010), and as a result, prevent dropout.

At the level of the experiences and consequences of engagement, the issue of establishing and maintaining positive relationships within the brigades and affiliation-related matters were important in coping with the demands of the actions (the issue of mutual trust between volunteer firefighters, the responsibility for each other and the sense of “brotherhood” that appears despite the quality of private relationships, as well as using synonyms for volunteering related to affiliation: “belonging”, “family” etcetera). Social reasons are great motivators to join volunteer firefighting communities (Francis and Jones, 2012), including a desire to make friends or feel a sense of comradery (Gazzale, 2019). This resembles discussions regarding small group dynamics understood in the tradition of Shils and Janowitz (1948) in the context of military forces. The role of the primary group, especially in offering positive reinforcement, and providing a sense of power, is crucial in forming the loyalty of its members. Hence, care for the quality of the atmosphere between volunteers and integrating volunteers in order to get to know each other’s strengths, limitations and needs could support the mutual understanding in action and encourage the volunteers to stay engaged (discussion on the importance of affiliation and a sense of belonging in volunteer firefighting can be found in, for example, Yarnal et al, 2004).

Implications for research and practice

The novelty of the present study lies in getting the ‘insider perspective’ on volunteer firefighting within the volunteer process model framework, accompanied by functional theory-related motivations to volunteer. The study gained qualitative data from the Polish volunteer firefighter population, to date rarely investigated in the international volunteering literature, and found out how the lived experiences of volunteers relate to the abovementioned theoretical models. This can enable the forming of new hypotheses for more large-scale, quantitative studies, also in other regional contexts, as well as compliment the traditional variables used in operationalising the volunteer process model with other relevant aspects that emerge from these data. Table 2 shows how the data from the current study relate to the volunteer process model and functional theory, and how they provide evidence to support or develop these frameworks in the volunteer firefighting context.

Table 2:

Integration of data from the current study with the volunteer process model and functional theory

Stage of the volunteer process model
AntecedentsExperiencesConsequences
Original elements of the theory (Omoto and Snyder, 1995)Personal and contextual factors existing prior to joining the organisation. Motivations.Satisfaction resulting from volunteering. Integration within the organisation.Time spent volunteering. Changes in beliefs and attitudes. Intentions to continue volunteering
Emerging themes that fit the theoryThe context of joining and continuation: the social environment and personality factors. Relationships with the local community. The self-enhancement value of volunteer engagement.Coping with volunteering demands. Relationships with the local community. Team spirit. The self-enhancement value of volunteer engagement.Skills acquired during volunteer engagement. The self-enhancement value of volunteer engagement. Synonyms for volunteer engagement.
Data from volunteer firefighters – congruent with the theoryThe role of close social circles encouraging people to join the volunteer firefighting community (social function/motive in the functional theory). Altruistic attitudes are important to start/continue engagement (values function/motive in the functional theory). Ego concerns – finding ways to overcome one’s own problems or seek recognition within one’s own community (protective and enhancement motives in the functional theory).Relationships and trust between firefighters are crucial for action success.Increase in the levels of hard and soft skills.
Data from volunteer firefighters – development of the theoryFamily traditions of volunteer firefighting – in some cases causing immersion in the firefighting world even prior to joining; in other cases, no traditions and learning from scratch (two ‘groups’ of novice volunteers can occur). Local community safety concerns as antecedents of engagement.Successfully coping with the emergency situations constitutes roots of their satisfaction. ‘Volunteering–life balance’ is important to avoid burnout. Activity rooted in the community – reinforcement from the community is an important experience. Firefighters, even if not liking each other in private, prove maximally reliable during emergencies (role of trust, sense of brotherhood).Self-enhancement and image concerns are not only antecedent, but also a result of engagement. Forming own definition of volunteer firefighting as a consequence of engagement (own internal image of the activity) – crucial aspects in these definitions are: relationships within the organisation and community-centred service.

Based on the data, several practical implications from the antecedents and experiences stages of the volunteer process model for volunteer firefighters’ managers can be derived so as to enhance the positive volunteering consequences for firefighters and the organisation:

From the antecedents stage:

  • Pay attention to the good fit between personality/motivations and the volunteer firefighter work when recruiting and training new firefighters.

  • Pay attention to the social support provided by volunteer firefighters’ family and loved ones so that their engagement can be sustained.

  • Care for the community embeddedness of the whole volunteer firefighter community, so as to provide a friendly background (contextual factor) for volunteers to work in.

From the experiences stage:

  • Motivate volunteer firefighters by creating a friendly organisational climate, including paying attention to both novice firefighters who already know the specificity of the work (for example, they have a familial tradition of this activity) and those who enter the activity without such experience.

  • Enhance teamwork and friendships also outside the emergency context so as to build mutual trust between the firefighters.

  • Create opportunities for volunteer firefighters to show themselves within their communities so as to gain a positive reputation and recognition, which is a form of reward for their efforts and a reinforcement to continue engagement.

Strengths and limitations of the study, and future research directions

One of the strenghts of this study is the fact that it provides a qualitative insight in order to reconstruct the individual lived experiences of the participants (Smith et al, 1999). The study results do not allow for generalisation at the population level, but instead offers an opportunity to explore the participants’ perspectives and to suggest ways to extend the existing theories. In line with IPA, sampling was purposive and investigated a defined, homogeneous population, focusing on the quality of data over quantity: young adults, who are important targets of volunteer recruitment and retention strategies (Shields, 2009). Existing and well-established theories (the volunteer process model and the functional theory of volunteering) were applied to the data, which were obtained in an unrestricted manner (in comparison with questionnaire-based methods) – namely through interviews. Another strength of the study is the gender balance of the respondents, despite the underrepresentation of women in firefighting activity (Ainsworth et al, 2014). The use of the online method also enabled us to recruit firefighters from across Poland, from very small rural areas to large cities. The opportunity for the interviewees to participate in the study from home probably limited the stress that might have occurred when visiting an unknown place for the interview.

Some of the strengths of the study serve also as its limitations. First, the sample was relatively small, not being fully representative of the whole population of volunteer firefighters. By their nature, qualitative studies, although focused on gaining insight into a targeted problem, are not generalisable to the population compared with quantitative or experimental methods. Second, the low number of participants followed the rules of the IPA methodology applied, and the final number of volunteers interviewed was additionally constrained by the research project; however, this could have resulted in the exclusion of the perspectives of people who might have provided other insights into the investigated problem. Third, the evidence is limited to the Polish context; in countries where volunteer firefighters function under other circumstances or legal regulations, the evidence could differ. Fourth, the use of an online tool made it difficult for the interviewer to fully control the situation (for example, distractors, given that the participants participated from their home). Fifth, the information was gathered from young adult volunteer firefighters specifically, and thus it is directly relevant to this group only and not, for example, to volunteer firefighters from other age groups, professional firefighters or other groups of volunteers. Sixth, the relatively low number of negative experiences shared by the participants could have been an effect of response bias and that only people satisfied with the service volunteered to be interviewed. Finally, the chosen psychological framework used for the study overlooks the organisational culture aspects of volunteer engagement, focusing on personal factors instead. However, the data can still be useful for deriving inspiration for future studies in this field and related ones.

Given the value that firefighting has for the safety of communities (Henderson and Sowa, 2018), future research should continue to explore the volunteer firefighting phenomenon. Studies assessing the effectiveness of positive development interventions, which might enhance the retention of volunteers, would inform the practice of the management and coordination of volunteer firefighters. Cross-national comparisons, taking into account differences in the organisation of the firefighting service in various countries, could be very valuable. Moreover, longitudinal studies, both qualitative and quantitative, could deepen the knowledge about the personal meaning of volunteer firefighting and the factors that influence the decision to continue or discontinue this service.

Conclusion

Volunteer firefighting in early adulthood can be a source of personal satisfaction and positive experiences. However, to retain volunteer firefighters, it is worth paying attention to:

  • the support the volunteer obtains from their circle of close others;

  • the effectiveness of the volunteer’s coping skills;

  • the rewards, especially non-material (for example, gratitude and recognition), that a volunteer obtains from the community they serve;

  • the quality of relationships within the firefighting brigade (especially in relation to trust);

  • the personal development aspect, in relation to both hard and soft skills;

  • how a volunteer makes meaning of their own service.

Funding

This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland in the form of a subsidy for the maintenance and development of research potential at The Maria Grzegorzewska University in 2020; grant no. BNS 118/2020. Primary investigator: Iwona Nowakowska.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

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    • Export Citation
  • Gazley, B. (2013) Predicting a volunteer’s future intentions in professional associations: a test of the Penner model, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(6): 124567. doi: 10.1177/0899764012453207

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gazzale, L. (2019) Motivational implications leading to the continued commitment of volunteer firefighters, International Journal of Emergency Services, 8(2): 20520.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greene, D.A. and Hendershot, M.E. (2017) Exploring the retention calculus: the motives, expectations, and satisfaction of South Carolina volunteer firefighters, International Fire Service Journal of Leadership & Management, 11: 2738.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harp, E.R., Scherer, L.L. and Allen, J.A. (2017) Volunteer engagement and retention: their relationship to community service Self-efficacy, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(2): 44258. doi: 10.1177/0899764016651335

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartenian, L.S. and Lilly, B. (2009) Egoism and commitment: a multidimensional approach to understanding sustained volunteering, Journal of Managerial Issues, 21(1): 97118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henderson, A.C. and Charbonneau, E. (2016) Examining conceptualizations of emergency response in public administration research, Public Administration Quarterly, 40(3): 55988.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henderson, A.C. and Sowa, J.E. (2018) Retaining critical human capital: volunteer firefighters in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Voluntas, 29(1): 4358. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9831-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huang, Q., An, Y. and Li, X. (2020) Coping strategies as mediators in the relation between perceived social support and job burnout among Chinese firefighters, Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105320953475.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huynh, J.Y., Xanthopoulou, D. and Winefield, A.H. (2013) Social support moderates the impact of demands on burnout and organizational connectedness: a two-wave study of volunteer firefighters, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(1): 915. doi: 10.1037/a0030804

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hwang, S. (2008) Utilizing qualitative data analysis software: a review of Atlas.ti, Social Science Computer Review, 26(4): 51927. doi: 10.1177/0894439307312485

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunikowski, G. and Rostek, K. (2017) Analiza porównawcza modeli systemów ratownictwa w Polsce I w wybranych krajach [A comparative analysis of rescue system models in Poland and selected countries], Cracow Review of Economics and Management, 11(959): 93108.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lazarus, R.S. and Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping, New York, NY: Springer.

  • Leonard, R. (2002) A qualitative exploration of women’s volunteering in human services, Third Sector Review, 8(2): 3150.

  • Lourel, M., Abdellaoui, S., Chevaleyre, S., Paltrier, M. and Gana, K. (2008) Relationships between psychological job demands, job control and burnout among firefighters, North American Journal of Psychology, 10(3): 48996.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacNeela, P. (2008) The give and take of volunteering: motives, benefits, and personal connections among Irish volunteers, Voluntas, 19(2): 12539. doi: 10.1007/s11266-008-9058-8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Malinen, S. and Mankkinen, T. (2018) Finnish firefighters’ barriers to volunteering, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 47(3): 60422. doi: 10.1177/0899764017749890

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marjański, A., Staniszewska, K., Marjańska, J. and Nowak, N. (2016) Ochotnicze Straże Pożarne w systemie zarządzania kryzysowego Polski [Voluntary fire brigade in emergency management in Poland], Przedsiębiorczość i Zarządzanie, 17(5): 31536.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marta, E. and Pozzi, M. (2008) Young people and volunteerism: a model of sustained volunteerism during the transition to adulthood, Journal of Adult Development, 15(1): 3546. doi: 10.1007/s10804-007-9033-4

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marta, E., Guglielmetti, C. and Pozzi, M. (2006) Volunteerism during young adulthood: an Italian investigation into motivational patterns, Voluntas, 17(3): 22132. doi: 10.1007/s11266-006-9015-3

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mayr, M.L. (2017) Transformational leadership and volunteer firefighter engagement: the mediating role of group identification and perceived social impact, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 28(2): 25970. doi: 10.1002/nml.21279

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLennan, J. and Birch, A. (2005) A potential crisis in wildfire emergency response capability? Australia’s volunteer firefighters, Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards, 6(2): 1017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLennan, J., Birch, A., Beatson, R., and Cowlishaw, S. (2007) Factors impacting on recruiting and retaining Australia’s volunteer firefighters: Some research evidence. Australian Journal on Volunteering, 12(2): 5969.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mitchell, T.R., Holtom, B.C., Lee, T.W., Sablynski, C.J. and Erez, M. (2001) Why people stay: using organizational embeddedness to predict voluntary turnover, Academy of Management Journal, 44: 110221.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ng, T.W. and Feldman, D.C. (2014) Community embeddedness and work outcomes: the mediating role of organizational embeddedness, Human Relations, 67(1): 71103. doi: 10.1177/0018726713486946

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nowak, E. and Nowak, M. (2011) Zarys Teorii Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego [Theory of National Security], Warsaw: Difin.

  • Nowakowska, I. (2020) Prosociality in relation to developmental tasks of emerging adulthood, Psychologia Rozwojowa, 25(4): 1525. doi: 10.4467/20843879PR.20.024.13432

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ogińska-Bulik, N. and Kobylarczyk, M. (2016) Association between resiliency and posttraumatic growth in firefighters: the role of stress appraisal, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 22(1): 408.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Packard, C.D. (2016) The power of connections: psychological sense of community as a predictor of volunteerism, The Journal of Social Psychology, 156(3): 27290. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2015.1105777

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Snyder, M. (1995) Sustained helping without obligation: motivation, longevity of service, and perceived attitude change among AIDS volunteers, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(4): 67186. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.671

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Snyder, M. (2002) Considerations of community: the context and process of volunteerism, American Behavioral Scientist, 45(5): 84667. doi: 10.1177/0002764202045005007

    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Perkins, K.B. and Metz, C.W. (1988) Note on commitment and community among volunteer firefighters, Sociological Inquiry, 58(1): 11721. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.1988.tb00258.x

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  • Perrott, S.B., Blenkarn, B.D. (2015) Motivation, sensation seeking, and the recruitment of volunteer firefighters, International Journal of Emergency Services, 4(2): 24257. doi: 10.1108/IJES-12-2013-0025

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  • Pietkiewicz, I. and Smith, J.A. (2012) A practical guide to using interpretative phenomenological analysis in qualitative research psychology, Psychological Journal, 20(1): 714.

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  • Rehberg, W. (2005) Altruistic individualists: motivations for international volunteering among young adults in Switzerland, Voluntas, 16(2): 10922. doi: 10.1007/s11266-005-5693-5

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  • Roccas, S. (2003) Identification and status revisited: the moderating role of self-enhancement and self-transcendence values, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(6): 72636. doi: 10.1177/0146167203029006005

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  • Rochester, C. (2006) Making sense of volunteering. A literature review. London: The Commission on the Future of Volunteering.

  • Ropęga, J. and Wilk-Woś, Z. (2018) Zarządzanie funkcjonowaniem i rozwojem OSP poprzez zastosowanie kultury organizacyjnej w celu wzmocnienia bezpieczeństwa mieszkańców gmin [VFB functioning and development management on the basis of organisational culture to strengthen the security of the commune residents], Przedsiębiorczość i Zarządzanie, 19(8): 12742.

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  • Sattler, D.N., Boyd, B. and Kirsch, J. (2014) Trauma‐exposed firefighters: relationships among posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress, resource availability, coping and critical incident stress debriefing experience, Stress and Health, 30(5): 35665. doi: 10.1002/smi.2608

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  • Schmidthuber, L. and Hilgers, D. (2019) From fellowship to stewardship? Explaining extra-role behavior of volunteer firefighters, Voluntas, 30(1): 17592. doi: 10.1007/s11266-018-0035-6

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  • Schnider, K. R., Elhai, J. D., and Gray, M. J. (2007) Coping style use predicts post traumatic stress and complicated grief symptom severity among college students reporting a traumatic loss. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(3): 34450. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.54.3.344

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  • Schnell, T. and Hoof, M. (2012) Meaningful commitment: finding meaning in volunteer work, Journal of Beliefs & Values, 33(1): 3553. doi: 10.1080/13617672.2012.650029

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  • Shields, P.O. (2009) Young adult volunteers: recruitment appeals and other marketing considerations, Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 21(2): 13959.

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  • Smith, J.A. and Eatough, V. (2006) Interpretative phenomenological analysis, in G.M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Schan and J.A. Smith (eds) Research Methods in Psychology, London: Sage Publications, pp 32241.

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  • Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. and Larkin, M. (2009) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research, London: Sage.

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  • Snyder, M. and Omoto, A.M. (2008) Volunteerism: social issues perspectives and social policy implications, Social Issues and Policy Review, 2(1): 136. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-2409.2008.00009.x

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  • Stanley, I.H., Boffa, J.W., Hom, M.A., Kimbrel, N.A. and Joiner, T.E. (2017) Differences in psychiatric symptoms and barriers to mental health care between volunteer and career firefighters, Psychiatry Research, 247: 23642. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.11.037

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  • Talbot, A. (2015) The negative impacts of volunteering: a qualitative case study of one UK Scout group, Voluntary Sector Review, 6(2): 20920. doi: 10.1332/204080515X14362581760660

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  • Yarnal, C.M. and Dowler, L. (2002) Who is answering the call? Volunteer firefighting as serious leisure, Leisure/Loisir, 27(3–4): 16189. doi: 10.1080/14927713.2002.9651302

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  • Yarnal, C.M., Dowler, L. and Hutchinson, S. (2004) Don’t let the bastards see you sweat: masculinity, public and private space, and the volunteer firehouse, Environment and Planning A, 36(4): 68599. doi: 10.1068/a35317

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  • Yeung, W.J.J. and Yang, Y. (2020) Labor market uncertainties for youth and young adults: an international perspective, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 688(1): 719. doi: 10.1177/0002716220913487

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Appendix: Set of questions posed to the volunteer firefighters

  1. What is the scope of your tasks in the volunteer firefighter organisation?

  2. How often do you engage in working with the organisation?

  3. Is it the only volunteer activity in which you have engaged in your life?

  4. Why did you decide to become a volunteer firefighter?

  5. What were your expectations prior to joining the organisation?

  6. What are your expectations now?

  7. What is interesting in this work?

  8. Please recall the most interesting story from your volunteer firefighting.

  9. What is difficult about this activity?

  10. Please recall the most difficult situation from your volunteer firefighting.

  11. What type of contact do you have with the people you help through your volunteering?

  12. What is exciting about this work?

  13. How would you describe an ideal volunteer firefighter?

  14. Please look at your story as a volunteer firefighter. How would you describe yourself at the beginning and now?

  15. What did you learn thanks to volunteer firefighting?

  16. Would you encourage other people to join volunteer firefighting? Whom would you encourage and why?

  • Adamiak, P. (2012) Ochotnicze Straże Pożarne w Polsce – Raport z Badania 2012 [Voluntary Fire Brigades in Poland – Research Report 2012], Warsaw: Klon/Jawor.

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  • Adams, W.C. (2015) Conducting Semi-structured interviews, in K.E. Newcomer, H.P. Hatry and J.S. Wholey (eds) Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, pp 492505.

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    • Export Citation
  • Ainsworth, S., Batty, A. and Burchielli, R. (2014) Women constructing masculinity in voluntary firefighting, Gender, Work & Organization, 21(1): 3756. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12010

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  • Alfes, K., Shantz, A. and Saksida, T. (2015) Committed to whom? Unraveling how relational job design influences volunteers’ turnover intentions and time spent volunteering, Voluntas, 26(6): 247999. doi: 10.1007/s11266-014-9526-2

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    • Export Citation
  • Beatson, R. (2005) Recruitment and retention of female volunteer firefighters. Melbourne: School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beck, J., Chretien, K. and Kind, T. (2015) Professional identity development through service learning: a qualitative study of First-year medical students volunteering at a medical specialty camp, Clinical Pediatrics, 54(13): 127682. doi: 10.1177/0009922815571108

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    • Export Citation
  • Berliński, L. (2012) Zarządzanie i dowodzenie Ochotniczą Strażą Pożarną [Management and Leadership in a Voluntary Fire Brigade], Warsaw: Difin.

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    • Export Citation
  • Blaney, L.M., Wilde, D. and Hill, R. (2021) Transcending adversity: resilience in volunteer firefighters, International Journal of Emergency Services, 10(2): 16176. doi: 10.1108/IJES-10-2019-0055

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    • Export Citation
  • Britton, N.R. (1991) Permanent disaster volunteers: where do they fit?, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 20(4): 395414. doi: 10.1177/089976409102000404

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    • Export Citation
  • Brudney, J.L. (1990) Expanding the government-by-proxy construct: volunteers in the delivery of public services, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 19(4): 31528. doi: 10.1177/089976409001900403

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    • Export Citation
  • Carpenter, J. and Knowles-Myers, C. (2010) Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives, Journal of Public Economics, 94(11–12): 91120. doi: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2010.07.007

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    • Export Citation
  • Cheung, F.Y.L., Tang, C.S.K. and Yan, E.C.W. (2006) A study of older Chinese in Hong Kong: factors influencing intention to continue volunteering, Journal of Social Service Research, 32(4): 193209. doi: 10.1300/J079v32n04_11

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    • Export Citation
  • Cho, H., Wong, Z.E. and Chiu, W. (2020) The effect of volunteer management on intention to continue volunteering: a mediating role of job satisfaction of volunteers, Sage Open, 10(2): 2158244020920588. doi: 10.1177/2158244020920588

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    • Export Citation
  • Clary, E.G. and Snyder, M. (1999) The motivations to volunteer: theoretical and practical considerations, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5): 1569. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00037

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Corden, A. and Sainsbury, R. (2005) Volunteering for Employment Skills – A Qualitative Research Study, Heslington: Social Policy Research Unit.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cowlishaw, S., Birch, A., McLennan, J. and Hayes, P. (2014) Antecedents and outcomes of volunteer work–family conflict and facilitation in Australia, Applied Psychology, 63(1): 16889. doi: 10.1111/apps.12000

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    • Export Citation
  • Cowlishaw, S., Evans, L. and McLennan, J. (2010) Balance between volunteer work and family roles: testing a theoretical model of Work‐family conflict in the volunteer emergency services, Australian Journal of Psychology, 62(3): 16978. doi: 10.1080/00049530903510765

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    • Export Citation
  • Danson, M. (2003) Review of Research and Evidence on Volunteering, Stirling: Volunteer Development Scotland.

  • Dávila, M.C. (2009) Assessment of the volunteer process model in environmental volunteers, Revista Interamericana de Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 43(1): 1816.

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    • Export Citation
  • Dein, S. and Abbas, S.Q. (2005) The stresses of volunteering in a hospice: a qualitative study, Palliative Medicine, 19(1): 5864. doi: 10.1191/0269216305pm969oa

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    • Export Citation
  • Driskell, T., Salas, E. and Driskell, J.E. (2018) Teams in extreme environments: alterations in team development and teamwork, Human Resource Management Review, 28(4): 43449. doi: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2017.01.002

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    • Export Citation
  • Fahey, C., Walker, J. and Sleigh, A. (2002) Training can be a recruitment and retention tool for emergency service volunteers, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 17(3): 37.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Francis, J.E. and Jones, M. (2012) Emergency service volunteers: a comparison of age, motives, and values, The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 27(4): 238.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gambin, M., Sekowski, M. and Marchewka, A. (2020) Relations between multidimensional attitude toward death and psychological distress in firefighters, Death Studies, 15. doi: 10.1080/07481187.2020.1825297

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gazley, B. (2013) Predicting a volunteer’s future intentions in professional associations: a test of the Penner model, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(6): 124567. doi: 10.1177/0899764012453207

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gazzale, L. (2019) Motivational implications leading to the continued commitment of volunteer firefighters, International Journal of Emergency Services, 8(2): 20520.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greene, D.A. and Hendershot, M.E. (2017) Exploring the retention calculus: the motives, expectations, and satisfaction of South Carolina volunteer firefighters, International Fire Service Journal of Leadership & Management, 11: 2738.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harp, E.R., Scherer, L.L. and Allen, J.A. (2017) Volunteer engagement and retention: their relationship to community service Self-efficacy, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(2): 44258. doi: 10.1177/0899764016651335

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartenian, L.S. and Lilly, B. (2009) Egoism and commitment: a multidimensional approach to understanding sustained volunteering, Journal of Managerial Issues, 21(1): 97118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henderson, A.C. and Charbonneau, E. (2016) Examining conceptualizations of emergency response in public administration research, Public Administration Quarterly, 40(3): 55988.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henderson, A.C. and Sowa, J.E. (2018) Retaining critical human capital: volunteer firefighters in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Voluntas, 29(1): 4358. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9831-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huang, Q., An, Y. and Li, X. (2020) Coping strategies as mediators in the relation between perceived social support and job burnout among Chinese firefighters, Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105320953475.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huynh, J.Y., Xanthopoulou, D. and Winefield, A.H. (2013) Social support moderates the impact of demands on burnout and organizational connectedness: a two-wave study of volunteer firefighters, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(1): 915. doi: 10.1037/a0030804

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hwang, S. (2008) Utilizing qualitative data analysis software: a review of Atlas.ti, Social Science Computer Review, 26(4): 51927. doi: 10.1177/0894439307312485

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunikowski, G. and Rostek, K. (2017) Analiza porównawcza modeli systemów ratownictwa w Polsce I w wybranych krajach [A comparative analysis of rescue system models in Poland and selected countries], Cracow Review of Economics and Management, 11(959): 93108.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lazarus, R.S. and Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping, New York, NY: Springer.

  • Leonard, R. (2002) A qualitative exploration of women’s volunteering in human services, Third Sector Review, 8(2): 3150.

  • Lourel, M., Abdellaoui, S., Chevaleyre, S., Paltrier, M. and Gana, K. (2008) Relationships between psychological job demands, job control and burnout among firefighters, North American Journal of Psychology, 10(3): 48996.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacNeela, P. (2008) The give and take of volunteering: motives, benefits, and personal connections among Irish volunteers, Voluntas, 19(2): 12539. doi: 10.1007/s11266-008-9058-8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Malinen, S. and Mankkinen, T. (2018) Finnish firefighters’ barriers to volunteering, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 47(3): 60422. doi: 10.1177/0899764017749890

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marjański, A., Staniszewska, K., Marjańska, J. and Nowak, N. (2016) Ochotnicze Straże Pożarne w systemie zarządzania kryzysowego Polski [Voluntary fire brigade in emergency management in Poland], Przedsiębiorczość i Zarządzanie, 17(5): 31536.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marta, E. and Pozzi, M. (2008) Young people and volunteerism: a model of sustained volunteerism during the transition to adulthood, Journal of Adult Development, 15(1): 3546. doi: 10.1007/s10804-007-9033-4

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marta, E., Guglielmetti, C. and Pozzi, M. (2006) Volunteerism during young adulthood: an Italian investigation into motivational patterns, Voluntas, 17(3): 22132. doi: 10.1007/s11266-006-9015-3

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mayr, M.L. (2017) Transformational leadership and volunteer firefighter engagement: the mediating role of group identification and perceived social impact, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 28(2): 25970. doi: 10.1002/nml.21279

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLennan, J. and Birch, A. (2005) A potential crisis in wildfire emergency response capability? Australia’s volunteer firefighters, Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards, 6(2): 1017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLennan, J., Birch, A., Beatson, R., and Cowlishaw, S. (2007) Factors impacting on recruiting and retaining Australia’s volunteer firefighters: Some research evidence. Australian Journal on Volunteering, 12(2): 5969.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mitchell, T.R., Holtom, B.C., Lee, T.W., Sablynski, C.J. and Erez, M. (2001) Why people stay: using organizational embeddedness to predict voluntary turnover, Academy of Management Journal, 44: 110221.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ng, T.W. and Feldman, D.C. (2014) Community embeddedness and work outcomes: the mediating role of organizational embeddedness, Human Relations, 67(1): 71103. doi: 10.1177/0018726713486946

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nowak, E. and Nowak, M. (2011) Zarys Teorii Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego [Theory of National Security], Warsaw: Difin.

  • Nowakowska, I. (2020) Prosociality in relation to developmental tasks of emerging adulthood, Psychologia Rozwojowa, 25(4): 1525. doi: 10.4467/20843879PR.20.024.13432

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ogińska-Bulik, N. and Kobylarczyk, M. (2016) Association between resiliency and posttraumatic growth in firefighters: the role of stress appraisal, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 22(1): 408.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Packard, C.D. (2016) The power of connections: psychological sense of community as a predictor of volunteerism, The Journal of Social Psychology, 156(3): 27290. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2015.1105777

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Snyder, M. (1995) Sustained helping without obligation: motivation, longevity of service, and perceived attitude change among AIDS volunteers, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(4): 67186. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.671

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Omoto, A.M. and Snyder, M. (2002) Considerations of community: the context and process of volunteerism, American Behavioral Scientist, 45(5): 84667. doi: 10.1177/0002764202045005007

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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  • 1 The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Institute of Psychology, , Poland

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