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How to Get Started as a Career Firefighter

December 5th, 2013 Fireman Pete No comments

These days firefighters do a lot more than put out fires. They rescue people, they direct fire prevention programs, they handle hazardous chemicals and they do inspection or investigation. In addition, firefighters do maintenance work and cleaning of their hoses and other equipment so that they will be prepared to respond swiftly when there is a fire emergency. Also, cities depend on firefighters to provide emergency medical transportation during natural disasters or other occasions when they are needed.

Firefighters work 56 hours per week or more if needed; much depends on how often fires occur in their locale. Firefighters work in a fire station with other firefighters, and they are paid approximately USD $47,000 per year or more. The demand for firefighters is projected to grow in the coming years. If you are interested in getting started as a career firefighter, the following are steps that you need to take.

Decide What City You Want to Work In

Determine what city you want to be a career firefighter in. Go to the city personnel offices in order to find out if there are any plans to hire firefighters in the near future. Also, at the city personnel offices, ask general questions about what the application process will be like.

Meet Minimum Requirements

Be at least 21 years old. In some locales, you could potentially be a volunteer firefighter when you are as young at 18 years old; however, being a full-fledged firefighter typically occurs at age 21 or older. Get at least a high school diplmoma. College is not required; however, if you go to college, fire science would be a useful major. Have a record that is clear of felonies or chronic drug abuse. Having a valid driver’s license is necessary. Also, be certain that you are willing to tolerate the extreme levels of stress that come with this job.

Being a firefighter is psychologically and physically demanding. Fear cannot limit you, and you have to be strong enough to carry hoses and other equipment that you need to carry to put out fires and do other aspects of this job. Being a career firefighter is a 24-hour a day job. You could get called to go fight a fire at any time. This is an active job; you will not be doing a lot of deskwork. You need to have a genuine desire to serve others; you must be willing to risk your own life in order to save others’ lives.

Get Paramedic Training and Pass Exams

Before applying to be a career firefighter, get a paramedic’s license. Many fire departments happen to be actively seeking licensed paramedics. So, you will greatly improve your chances of acceptance for firefighting training if you already have a paramedic credential at the time you pursue being a firefighter.

Take and pass the required exams. The nature of the exams will vary depending on the locale. Sometimes you might be required to pass a civil service test. Other times you might have to pass a firefighter’s entrance exam. Cities tend to develop their own tests in order to assess candidates’ aptitude in a way that fits their particular locale.

Candidates are required to go through a background check, a polygraph test, a drug test, a psychological assessment and an interview. Also required is the Candidate Physical Ability test (CPA); this test assesses candidates’ endurance, flexibility, strength and general fitness. Exam results are used to rank candidates. If a candidate is offered a job as a firefighter, there is a post-hire medical exam.

First Year of Work

The first year of work as a career firefighter will be probationary. Adjusting to the stressful 24-hour schedule will be most difficult. You will find it very challenging; perseverance will be necessary. As a newly-hired firefighter, everything that you do on the job will be evaluated. Then, if you manage to get through the first year of firefighting work successfully, depending on the locale, there could be an additional state written exam and a practical certification exam.

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Milkwaukee County suburbs fire departments strugle with diversity

May 24th, 2009 Fireman Pete No comments

Out of the 600+ firefighters that work in the Milwaukee County suburbs, only one is African-American, according to a Journal Sentinel survey. That lone African American firefighter was hired, in West Allis, just nine months ago. The survey was done after a suburban fire chief was suspended last month for using racial slurs. The results led some African- American leaders to demand that suburban departments do more to attract African-Americans to firefighting.

According to census figures show that nearly 12,000 African-Americans live in the 18 Milwaukee County suburbs.  That accounts for about 3.3% of the total population while the 1 firefighter accounts for just 0.15% of the firefighters. Wauwatosa Fire Chief Dean Redman said suburban chiefs want their departments to better reflect the communities they serve. The survey results, Redman said, might be what it takes to spur suburban departments to action, perhaps by collaborating to promote firefighting among minority youths.

According to suburban fire chiefs a lack of qualified applicants, and not racism, is the major reason so few firefighters are black.  It’s hard to say what the cause is fore sure but racisim coming fromt he top levels of the fire department probably does not do anything to encourage African Americans to apply for positions with the department. What needs to be addressed, say some African-American leaders, is why the number of applicants is so small. Attention to fire departments and race rose after South Milwaukee Fire Chief Jay Behling admitted using the N-word five times in front of employees at his firehouse in February. The 25 member firehouse in South Milwaukee is all white and officials there don’t remember a black firefighter ever having a position there.

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Indiana City Lays off 10% of fire department

May 24th, 2009 Fireman Pete No comments

In yet another budget cutting effort by a local government the city of Kokomo Indiana has decided to lay off 12 of their 112 firefighters.  The primary job function of those being laid off was abulance service but they also served in firefighter efforts as well.  The ambulance service is being outsourced to the local hospitals but the work they did assisting in firefighting will not be replaced.  The move is expected to save the city $850,000 per year.  Blake Granson whose brother was one of those included in the layoffs said “We don’t have enough firefighters to protect the citizens of Kokomo,”  and “It’s just going to be a real ugly situation.” Granson went on to say “Somebody’s going to get hurt or killed, and then they’re going to say, ‘OK, we messed up,’” Granson said. “We need to bring these people back on.”

If the cost cutting ends up putting human lives in danger is it really worth it?

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