A firefighter works to extinguish and prevent fires, provides emergency medical services, rescues people and animals from dangerous situations, and protects property. Performing these duties requires physical strength, an ability to think quickly in a crisis, and excellent communication skills. Many firefighters also spend time educating their communities and engaging in outreach efforts. Firefighters need to complete extensive training to prepare for their careers.
A career as a firefighter is highly demanding and rewarding at the same time. As a firefighter, you may be called to work any time of day or night, including holidays, to respond to emergency calls. This can include brush or structure fires, automobile accidents, life-threatening medical emergencies, or false alarms. During an incident, you must be able to act rapidly, follow orders given at the scene by your superior officer, and make decisions under pressure. You must also be able to work in adverse physical locations and conditions, and operate and maintain equipment, such as fire hoses, ladders, and chemical retardants.
After arriving at a scene, you must assess the situation, select a nozzle based on the type of fire, and direct a stream of water or chemicals onto the fire. Depending on the type of fire, you may also use ladders to gain access to upper levels of buildings or assist individuals from burning structures. You must then remove smoke from the affected areas, and create openings in walls and roofs for ventilation, as well as salvage and protect undamaged materials. When you are done, you must write a report and return to the station for further instruction.
Having an education is important to becoming a firefighter, as most departments require you to have at least a high school diploma before you can test for the position. A college degree is helpful, too, as it can increase your employment opportunities in the future and help you to qualify for more advanced positions within your department.
Firefighters need to be physically fit, as they often have to perform heavy lifting and maneuver in tight spaces. They also must pass a strenuous physical examination and be drug-free before they can begin their careers.
In addition to physical fitness, firefighters must have excellent mental alertness, as they may be called to work in stressful situations that can cause emotional trauma. This stress can lead to long-term health problems, such as heart disease and cancer. The psychological toll of the job can be even greater for those who witness events such as death or serious injury to others.
A firefighter is a highly skilled professional who must possess an inquisitive and analytical mind, the courage to perform dangerous tasks under intense pressure, and a strong commitment to public service. It is also an extremely rewarding job, as you can make a real difference in the lives of your community members. In addition, a firefighter’s starting salary is typically quite competitive. This is particularly true when factoring in overtime and holiday pay.