Once a year, the volunteers come around to each home and collect a donation to support our local contingent, the "station" (a single space garage) and the engine. It's fun to see them riding the truck around the neighborhood, lights flashing, knowing that they aren't on the way to a fire. The engine is small (we've got narrow roads after all) but it is located less than half a kilometer from the house. Of course, being a volunteer unit, it can take time for them to respond, but I'm glad that they are there just the same to try to help save lives and property until the big stuff arrives from town.
They also drive around the neighborhood from time to time ringing the bell to remind people to be careful and hand out pamphlets and stickers on fire safety in the home.
A couple of things have struck me as odd. The fire cisterns throughout Japan are marked with a circular red sign with white lettering which says in Japanese AND English "Fire Cistern". If you look at the large version of the picture above you can see that the caps say "Volunteer Firefighter" in English. How the use of English for these purposes came about I do not know. I speculate it was instituted after WWII during the American occupation, which is when the municipal fire department model was adopted.
Anyway, thanks volunteers. You can always count on our support.