A Career As a Firefighter Requires Physical Fitness and a Will to Face Danger

Firefighters are called upon to deal with a wide variety of emergency situations. They respond to fires, rescue people from wrecked cars or collapsed buildings, and help clean up hazardous materials spills. According to a Harris poll, firefighters are considered one of the most respected careers, along with doctors and scientists. The job requires physical fitness and a willingness to face danger. A person interested in becoming a firefighter should attend a local fire academy or other post-secondary school, although a college degree is not always required. The applicant must undergo a rigorous selection process that includes an oral interview, background investigation and drug screening.

Fire fighters are trained to quickly assess a situation and determine the most appropriate response. Upon arrival on the scene, they must evaluate the fire’s properties, the likelihood of its spread, and any other relevant information, such as the presence of hazardous chemicals or electrical systems. Once the scene is secure, they direct other members of their team in extinguishing the fire and rescuing trapped victims.

When they are not on call for a fire, firefighters spend most of their time at their fire station. This is where they regularly inspect equipment, train for emergency responses and practice drills. The job often entails long shifts, which can last up to 24 hours. The schedule can be unpredictable, as emergencies can occur at any time of the day or night. Sleep may be interrupted frequently, and the firefighters must be expert at getting dressed in their turnout gear and onto their emergency vehicles as quickly as possible.

Some firefighters are specially trained to work in hazardous materials units, which can be called to control or clean up chemical accidents, oil spills and other toxic incidents. These types of calls are less frequent than fires, but still a significant part of the workload.

In addition to fighting fires, other responsibilities of the fire department include performing inspections on commercial and residential buildings, and providing public education about fire safety. Firefighters also help to establish fire prevention programs in schools and community centers, and they participate in hazardous waste removal operations.

A career as a firefighter can be extremely dangerous, and there are many ways that firefighters can become injured or killed in the line of duty. Firefighters may suffer from smoke inhalation, heat stroke or exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals. Some firefighters are also at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or psychological trauma.

A person interested in becoming a firefighter must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and complete post-secondary training. The requirements vary by state and fire agency, but most include a combination of technical school or community college courses and hands-on practical experience at a firehouse. Some states require that applicants also have an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, which can be obtained through a community college or technical school program. The interview process for a firefighter usually consists of a written exam, an oral interview and a physical aptitude test.

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