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There were about 768,000 volunteer firefighters nationwide in 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Assn., a Quincy, Mass.-based organization that studies fire prevention and safety.
About 68% of all U.S. fire departments were made up entirely of volunteers in 2010, most of which were located in smaller, rural communities, according to the NFPA.
While volunteers play a significant role in less populated areas, the number of volunteer firefighters is declining over time, according to the Greenbelt, Md.-based National Volunteer Fire Council.
The number of volunteer firefighters has decreased 14% since 1984, mainly driven by increased training and scheduling requirements for volunteer departments, NVFC said in a recent report.
Decreased recruitment of younger volunteers has contributed to an aging volunteer firefighter force, according to NVFC. Among communities with 10,000 to 24,999 residents, 43.7% of firefighters were age 40 and older in 2010, up from 33.2% in 1987.