How to Become a Firefighter
Firefighters are on call 24/7 to fight fires, rescue people and animals, and protect property. They work behind the scenes as well, preventing fires through surveys and inspections and training people to avoid disasters. They also respond to medical emergencies and perform first aid. They are often certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Their job sometimes overlaps with police and other first responders.
The smell of smoke, the sound of crackling and exploding glass and light bulbs, the taste of soot in your mouth – these are the physical sensations of being a firefighter. And the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when you save a life is just as powerful and memorable.
To be a firefighter, you need to be physically fit and have excellent stamina. You also need to be good at making quick decisions under pressure. Firefighting is a dangerous profession, and firefighters must be prepared for the possibility of injury or death.
Once firefighters receive an alert on their pagers that there is a fire, they suit up and head to the scene. They may drive one of several types of fire trucks — pumper trucks that carry water, “aerial ladder” trucks that extend ladders to upper floors of a building, or rescue trucks that transport injured people to the hospital.
As they approach the scene, firefighters must assess the situation and determine whether it is safe to enter. They have to make many quick decisions under intense pressure, such as determining how to quickly evacuate the building and what routes to take to do so. They must also evaluate the scene and identify the cause of the fire and how to extinguish it.
After they reach the scene, firefighters fight the fire by spraying water or a fire-retardant chemical. They may use a water hose or a fire hydrant to do so. They may also break windows to gain entry to a burning building or cut through walls and ceilings to reach a fire in hard-to-reach areas. Firefighters also clean up the scene, removing debris and contaminated materials and restoring undamaged items as they go.
In addition to fighting fires, firefighters respond to medical emergencies and educate the public about fire safety. They also investigate the causes of fires and prepare detailed incident reports. They often inspect buildings and other structures, ensure hydrants are working properly, train people in fire prevention, and help enforce fire codes and regulations.
To become a firefighter, you need to complete an extensive training period before becoming certified. You must pass a written exam and a physical examination. You must also meet minimum age and height requirements. Then you’ll need to be hired by a local fire department. The selection process is competitive, and firefighters are usually on a 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule. During this time, they’re required to attend training sessions, drills, and community talks. In some departments, you can earn promotions by serving as a volunteer firefighter or by taking a promotional exam.