What Does a Firefighter Do?

Firefighters perform emergency medical and fire suppression duties to protect lives, property and the environment. They may also be called on to respond to other kinds of emergency situations, such as chemical or hazardous materials spills. They also operate and maintain fire equipment and inspect its condition on a daily basis. They occasionally deliver fire safety education to community groups. They may even fight wildfires on government or private lands as members of specialized teams.

When firefighters are at work, they must be able to absorb and apply the knowledge they have been trained in an extremely stressful and confusing situation. In the field, they are often commanded by a watch commander or crew commander. They must have the ability to work well as part of a team in difficult circumstances, but can also function independently when necessary.

They must be physically strong enough to carry 80 to 100 lbs of equipment into and around burning structures. They must be able to climb ladders, use power tools, break down doors and windows and enter buildings without harming themselves or others to rescue people or recover valuables. They must be able to locate water sources and connect hoses to them with considerable strength and effort. Firefighters also clean up fire scenes to reduce structural damage and contamination from chemicals, gases and other substances.

The job requires the physical condition of someone who is able to run, crawl, jump, climb and stoop repeatedly for long periods in various weather conditions. It is essential that they be able to do this while wearing heavy protective equipment. Exposure to heat, smoke, fumes, electrical hazards, heights and other hazards is common in this occupation. The physical demands of the job can lead to back problems, musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Firefighters must meet the minimum educational requirements of a high school diploma or equivalent and pass a strenuous physical examination to become certified. They must also pass a background check and drug screening. They may be required to take continuing education classes in order to keep their certification. Firefighters are employed by local, county, state or federal fire departments, wilderness fire agencies, construction trades, fire-equipment manufacturers and insurance companies.

Whether they are at the fire department or responding to an emergency, firefighters must be highly motivated individuals. They are often selfless and are prepared to put their own lives in danger for the benefit of others. They are also tenacious and have the ability to think clearly under pressure. They prefer work that is mentally stimulating and physically challenging.

They are happiest when they can be useful to other people and enjoy tasks that require attention to detail, the use of their hands, the ability to solve complex problems, and working under stressful conditions. They are often very loyal and will remain with their department for a long time. If you want a challenging career with many opportunities for advancement, consider becoming a firefighter.

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