Firefighters represent the branch of the emergency services that are primarily responsible for tackling fires, both within urban areas and the outdoors. However, they also assist police and ambulance crews in other emergency situations, such as serious road traffic collisions or logistically challenging rescue situations.
Duties and responsibilities
- Respond promptly to, and tackle, serious outbreaks of fire
- Attend serious road traffic collisions and use specialist equipment to extract patients
- Attend other relevant callouts as and when requested
- Assist other emergency services personnel during major incidents
- Provide and deliver fire prevention and awareness training to the public
- Provide specialist medical assistance and treatment in the absence of paramedics
- Constantly check, test and maintain all equipment, including trucks and hoses
- Inspect and enforce fire safety standards in residential and commercial buildings
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Days, evenings, weekends and holidays
Firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts followed by 48 hours ‘off’, although some fire departments – particularly in busier areas where callouts are more frequent – have opted to implement 12-hour shift patterns.
When not on callouts, training exercises or maintaining equipment, firefighters are generally afforded some degree of downtime. Due to the intensely physical nature of the job, many fire stations also contain gyms and workout areas.
Firefighters are often exposed to traumatic situations, leading to a tight-knit sense of camaraderie within the firefighting community.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Most fire departments require a minimum of a high school diploma, although some candidates also choose to pursue an additional associate degree in fire science in order to boost their application.
All potential firefighters must undergo a rigorous selection process, including basic psychometric tests, a psychological evaluation and, in some instances, a written exam. There is also a series of physical tests that assess your levels of stamina, strength and endurance.
If successful, you will then attend a designated firefighting academy, followed by a posting to a fire station.
Fire departments operate within a designated rank structure, meaning there is the opportunity to gain additional responsibility, from shift leader right up to station chief level and beyond. There is also the opportunity to obtain advanced medical qualifications, receive management training or forge a career as fire safety consultant.