How To Become A Firefighter

How to Become a Firefighter in the US

If you are thinking about how to become a Firefighter, then you first need to know all of the things that act as a prerequisite for the job. A firefighter is a stressful job that involves a lot of physical work. So, it requires a person to be static at both the body and the mind. A firefighter must be good at working on a team since all fire departments have a group of people assigned to each crew of firefighters.

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Who Are Firefighters and What Do They Do?

Firefighters are those men and women who work for the fire department. In some countries, people refer them as Fire Brigades. So what do these firefighters do? Well, these are professionals who are responsible for putting out fires and respond to emergency calls that are related to floods and medical issues. From the first day of their jobs until the time they retire they face risks every day of their lives to save other lives (Human or animal), which is of extreme importance to them. They also save civil and government properties from a fire breakout. Like the police department and medical care, even firefighters are very important to society.

Firefighters seek exclusive training to extinguish fires that could be hazardous to life and mainly rescue people from these fire hazards. Now that technology and infrastructure are increasingly developing more and more emergencies related to fire are occurring. Hence the skills for these firefighters broadens up and admission is to save the life from a fire calamity. The word ‘firefighter’ was first noticed in Webster’s dictionary in the year 1903 but firefighters have existed way beyond that. They go back to the time of ancient Egypt.

History of Firefighters

In the year of 1648 in the U.S, Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam recruited four firemen (called fire wardens) to go around and check if people made use of wooden chimneys or thatched roofs. The purpose to instigate the surroundings was to check its usage when the government banned. Later on, citizens hired men to go on a rattle watch patrol so that if these men noticed a fire break out they would signal the citizens by spinning their rattle’s and everyone would get to work of putting out the fire by using pale’s of water.

It was only on January 27th, 1678 the first fire engine was launched in Boston with Thomas Atkins as the captain. Later the union fire department was established in Philadelphia in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin. Firefighters were previously called “Firemen” but since there are women firefighters who have joined the firefighting league, hence the name changed.

Who Was the First Woman Firefighter?

The first woman firefighter in the U.S was Molly Williams who was a slave and belonged to New York. She was known to be as good a firefighter as any fireman who fought fires in the early 1800s and then the list went on. However, Sandra Forcier was the first woman to be paid to put out fires. She was hired in 1973 in North Carolina as a Public Safety Officer, which is a combination of police work and fire fighting. She retired in 2004 as a Battalion Chief.

During World War II there were majority women firefighters as men were joining the armed forces to fight during the war. In Illinois, two fire departments were only of women firefighters’. This is during the war times. Presently there is an approximate of 6200 firefighters in the US who are full-time firefighters and an approximate of 40,000 women volunteer firefighters.

A Day in the Life of a Firefighter at Work

A normal day would begin around 8:00 am with of course firefighters working around the clock.  The new shift firefighters first change into their gear and only then relieve the previous shift guys from their duties because just in case there is an emergency call, whoever is ready leaves the premises on their rescue mission.

Anyway getting back to shift change; so once the previous shift relieves of their duties. The current shift firefighters will do a random check of their tools and protective gear they wear when on a rescue mission such as the turnout jacket, boots, pants, air supply, and personal alert devices. (In case a firefighter is caught under debris he/she can alert for the rescue with these devices).

What’s Next?

Now that they are ready they will check the fire truck as well just to see if it’s well equipped and in working condition. Every day, the firefighter cleans the fire truck, equipment cleaned and batteries change for radios and heart monitors (optional). These very same firefighters also have to clean their respective fire stations, bathrooms and kitchens like mopping, vacuuming, dusting and arranging. After this getting-ready and cleaning process, there is a huddle between the firefighters and the Chief Officer of that particular fire station. He gives out the agenda for the day’s activities. Now they are all set and wait for an emergency call. They will always respond first to fire and medical emergency calls.

All through the day, they would be working by either attending to fires in buildings, technical rescues or attending to medical emergencies or being present at locations of hazardous chemicals spill. In case they are not on an emergency call they conduct drills and training sessions within the fire station premises. They also have gyms on-site because it’s mandatory to do a one-hour physical fitness workout when on duty.

Classes Required to Become a Firefighter 

At times, to become a firefighter, especially in the United States of America, requires an age and schooling requirement, but it depends on the state or town you are applying for the job. In the US, applicants have to do CPR and first-aid at the fire department. Many fire departments require that their crews know how to be emergency medical personnel, too, because it is their job in many places now. While learning how to become a firefighter, it is a good idea to take these sorts of classes as that will help you to be accepted.

On the contrary, at some point, you should know all that counts in becoming a firefighter. These are Firefighter I and Firefighter II. The Firefighter I class has studied topics such as fire science, alarms, communications, fire hoses, and ladders, and the breathing gear used in the process. The Firefighter II class has other types of training that are required by some stations. It includes teaching the firefighters how to get people out of wrecked cars, how to use foam to put out fires, how to be around hazardous materials, etc.

Some places also require you to have a bachelor’s degree in fire science, at least if you want a chance to be promoted. These are great for those who want to be in the management jobs in firefighting. They will include training in things like administration, liberal arts, and social sciences.

Learning How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighter Training

Beginner firefighters have to undergo training from the fire department itself, and this will usually last for a few weeks. It has classroom training and also it has real-life training. It teaches people things like preventing fires, building code information, and medical emergency things. Plus, it teaches them how to use the firefighting gear like the saws, axes, and extinguishers.

Key Requirements to Pass

Those learning how to become a firefighter also have to understand that there are other requirements to be a firefighter in the US, such as those listed below must:

  • pass a physical examination
  • take and pass a written test
  • pass a medical exam
  • pass a background check
  • be a US citizen
  • pass the special firefighter agility test
  • Some places require passing a psychological test
  • Some places require passing a lie detector test
  • Must be able to handle extreme stress
  • Plus pass any special tests that the locality requires, at which you are trying to get a job at

The Written Exam

The typical written exam on how to become a firefighter has about 200 multiple choice questions that may be on the following topics:

  • Human Relations
  • Visualization
  • Spoken and Listening Understanding
  • Oral and Written Communication data
  • Solving problems
  • Judgment
  • Reading Ability
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Spelling
  • Math
  • Memory
  • Charts
  • Verbal Reasoning

The Interview

In many cases, the potential firefighter gets interviewed by several members of the fire department. It is a chance for the applicant to use their interviewing skills to impress the real firefighters so that they will be chosen for their coveted job of becoming a firefighter.

The Firefighter Psychological Test

Part of how to become a firefighter is passing the psychological test. Psychological tests are needed for the job of firefighter since it is a very stressful job. They don’t want someone on their staff that is unstable. The best bet for taking this test is to stay calm and think hard about the questions before giving your answers.

The Firefighter Agility Test

The physical agility test is the main sport in becoming a firefighter in the US Firefighters have to have the ability to be agile and handle heavy gear and clothing, for which they have to pass the agility test. One should be fit and healthy to appear for the test. To fight what comes forth, their endurance and heart should be willing to combat a stressful situation. The tough fight requires a lot of lung capacity and strong legs and arms, so you should ensure to handle it.

The Different Types Of Firefighter Jobs

Depending on where you get the job, being a firefighter can be focused on several different types of activities. For instance, city firefighters mostly handle structural fires, while country firemen may handle things like brush and wildfires. An Industrial firefighter handles things like forest fires and seeks employment by the federal government, while an industrial firefighter puts out chemical fires caused by explosions. All this shows that firefighters have to face different kinds of environmental conditions and handle a variety of job roles.

There are both paid and volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters don’t get paid, but are still trained and respond to local area fires where they live. You have to be quite dedicated to fulfil this dangerous yet fulfilling position for now and have a desire to help out your local community.

Lots of firefighters also find themselves handling things like auto crashes, rescuing people trapped in floods or fires. Also, responding to handle terrorist attacks. Due to this, they must keep up on their training and education so they will be ready for just about anything imaginable. They are on call 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Isn’t that insane?

Firefighting Is Rewarding

Having a career as a firefighter is rewarding for several reasons. It lets you rescue people and save their lives, and it makes you feel good that you can help other people. Plus, the job may have financial benefits such as a good pension after you retire. The paid positions also usually give the firefighters a good salary as well.

The bottom line is that becoming a firefighter takes hard work and dedication and a desire to be willing to put your life on the line to help save other people and their property. It is an active job that requires rigorous, physical work.

Hope this overview on how to become a firefighter has been helpful, and we encourage you to continue reading through this website for more in-depth information.

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How Much Does A Firefighter Earns in the U.S.?

Firefighter’s salaries range in-between $32,000 to $$47,000 avg per year. This is just the starting range, which totally depends on training, location and experience.  If you have one to five years experience your salary would range anywhere in-between $32,000 to $61,000. Now, these salaries are for full-time firefighters and not volunteers. Volunteer firefighters draw a lesser salary.

If a firefighter wants to increase his pay package then he would have to sit for a couple of written exams. Not anyone is given a chance to be a firefighter, but the ones with stamina and agility only. 

How to Become a Volunteer Firefighter

If your main line of work find relation to another field within fire department, your can become a volunteer firefighter which is part-time.

Even if you want to just be a volunteer firefighter you will still need extensive physical training, hard work and dedication to the job on being called. You cannot and should not make excuses. Smaller cities and towns usually rely on volunteer firefighters. You have to respond to emergencies at any time of the day because full-time firefighters need your assistance.

Being a volunteer firefighter you might earn a very small sum of salary, but the feeling to save the community is better than any monetary benefit.

What to Do?

So if you want to become a volunteer firefighter you must contact your local fire department. You just have to speak to the officer in charge and let him know about your interest. He or she will advice you what steps you need to take to seek preparation when on-call duty. Every state, town, and city follow a different application process so expecting something other. If in case you run out of luck in one fire department try another and so on.

The Hazards of Working as a Firefighter

Being a firefighter is challenging and an interesting job but it can be harmful to you as well.

Firefighters usually suffer with heart diseases. There have been many fatalities of firefighters on duty due to cardiac deaths. The reason for such deaths is the exposure to certain gases during a fire breakout like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Inadequate oxygen supply can also lead to heart injuries.

Firefighters also suffer with heat stress, caused due to their insulated clothing which prevents heat to escape after physical exertion. Another problem is structural collapse, which is  to die when a burning building collapses. 

These hazards shouldn’t be an obstacle for your dream to turn into reality. Every job has its own risks.

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