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Firefighter

Firefighter

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Fireman, Municipal Firefighters

Job Description

Firefighters perform rescue and firefighting operations to include fires, vehicle accidents, and natural disasters. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Helping and saving others!
  • Good pay and job security
  • The rush! 
  • Work schedule: Might work 24-hour shift, then have 48 to 74 hours off or work 48-hour shift, then 96 hours off, due to the rigor of the job. With the time off, they have time to recuperate, take on side jobs which can supplement their income.  
  • Good retirement

“Volunteers make up 70% of the nation’s fire service. The fact that people are willing to do the job for free speaks for itself.” Jonathan Yi, Firefighter, Beaumont Fire Rescue

The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life

Note: Varies from station to station. 

  • 0700-0730: Arrive to station. Receive incoming report from the person you’re relieving. Check equipment.
  • 0800: Official shift change.
  • 0800-0830: Breakfast
  • 0830: Station duties
  • 0900-1200: Training: May include fire fighting techniques, medical knowledge and skills, hazardous materials, specialized rescue training, or management training.
  • 1200-1300: Lunch
  • 1300-1700: Training/Workout
  • 1800-1900: Dinner
  • 2000: Make bed
  • 2100: Official time you can sleep
  • 0700: Wake up tones. Clean the station. Clean apparatus. Give out going report of the day to your relief. 

Calls
The above schedule does not include the average 10-20 calls per day that are split between the fire stations in the area. The time spent on a call can vary from 30 minutes to several hours or more and may involve one or two engines or every piece of available apparatus. This can have a significant impact on the schedule for the day and many times training or maintenance must be rescheduled to another day. 

Skills Needed on the Job
  • Emergency medical treatment 
  • Firefighting
  • Understanding of fire protection systems, apparatus, equipment operations & maintenance
  • Public relations
  • Determination: Takes years until you get the job and hundreds of hours of training
  • Self-reliance: 
  • Bravery/courage
  • Physical aptitude
  • Awareness
  • Work well with a team
  • Good under pressure
  • Listening skills
  • Resourcefulness
  • Initiative
Job Responsibilities
  • Drives fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to emergencies.
  • Puts out fires using hoses and pumps.
  • Finds and rescues victims in burning buildings or in other emergency conditions.
  • Treats victims’ injuries with emergency medical services.
  • Prepares written reports on fire or emergency incidents.
  • Cleans and maintains equipment.
  • Conducts drills and training in fire fighting techniques.
  • Provides public education on fire safety.
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Dangerous and life-threatening
  • Physically and mentally demanding: The fire service is a paramilitary type organization. If you have issues with following orders or lack any type of initiative, this job is not for you.
  • Long hours when on call
  • Highly competitive to enter into industry and a lot of testing 

“As most career guys stay for 20 plus years, the turnover rate is low. I've tested with 7-8 departments before landing a spot but most of the time you’re competing with hundreds and thousands of guys testing for the same spots, sometimes a single opening. Once you do make it on a written list, you're competing again to secure a spot with physical agility testing, psychological testing, lie detector and multiple interviews. Once you make it, the testing isn't over. Most departments require 12-18 months of probation where you go through phase testing and basically prove your worth.” Jonathan Yi, Firefighter, Beaumont Fire Rescue

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…
  • Liked the outdoors! 
  • Liked adrenaline-filled activities! 
  • Enjoyed helping people. 
2016 Employment
327,300
2026 Projected Employment
350,900
Education and Training Needed
  • High school diploma or GED is mandatory. 
  • EMT/EMS (Emergency Medical Training/Services) Training and certification. 
  • Certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degree in Fire Science (which is associated with local fire department).
  • Pass the fire suppression examination for the state.  
  • Note: You will constantly be training on the job. 
Things to do in high school
  • If your high school has an EMS/EMT program, take it.
  • Volunteer at a local fire station.
  • Talk to your local firefighter and see if it is something you would like.
Education Stats
  • 20% with HSDiploma
  • 19% with Associate's
  • 16.2% with Bachelor's
  • 1.5% with Master's
  • 0.5% with Doctoral
Typical Roadmap
Firefighter roadmap gif
How to land your 1st job

1. Must fulfill requirements for your testing department.   See below for sample requirements. Requirements vary per state.
2. Pass written entry exams and being able to pass physical agility tests. You want to score high enough to make the list. The size of the lists usually varies depending on the department that is hiring. Placing top 10 is preferred.
3. Interviews (~typically 4, Sometimes multiple board interviews)
    a. Board Interview: Present yourself in front of a panel of 6-12. Includes various personnel from the department (chief, captain, firefighters, civilian staff). Questions range from job capabilities to personal worth. Stay calm and answer all questions in a clear way.
    b. Polygraph Interview: They look mainly for moral turpitude, honesty and integrity.  Lying, stealing, and drug use are usually what they focus on.
    c. Fire Chief’s interview: Will make you or break you. There is no telling what they might ask.  Chiefs has the ultimately say on whether you get in or not. Approval of City Manager.

Note: Even though you pass the written exam, physical agility test and board interview, you might be on a waiting eligibility list for awhile.

Sample Requirements

Recommended Tools/Resources
Words of Advice

“No guts, no glory… you are competing with hundreds and thousands of men and women. The real question is how bad do you want it. Do your job, don’t be lazy, keep your mouth shut, have initiative, and ultimately be an information sponge.” Jonathan Yi, Firefighter
 
"The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." Walter Lippman

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