Firefighters perform many job duties, including fighting building and forest fires, providing emergency medical assistance, and aiding victims. The job is quite dangerous and requires a spirit of public service and sacrifice. Aspiring firefighters must usually pass written and physical exams as well as hold an emergency medical technician certification.
Professional firefighting is a physically demanding and very dangerous career. A high risk of death is common due to incidents such as walls falling or floors collapsing after being damaged by fire. Firefighters wear heavy protective gear in order to shield themselves from heat and flames. They commonly work 50+ hours per week in varied schedules far from the norm of 9-5 workers. Professional firefighters may also find themselves coming into contact with dangerous materials such as poisons, chemicals, potential explosive gases, and radioactive substances.
Firefighters provide a wide range of emergency services. In addition to putting out fires in buildings and forests, they are also often the quickest responders to such emergencies as sudden serious illnesses, accidents, or car crashes. There they act as emergency medical personnel to help stabilize situations.
The act of fighting fires takes much complex strategy and physical endurance. Fire often traps victims inside burning buildings and necessitates that firefighters assist with their removal. Firefighters must consider how much of a building can be saved or salvaged in the event of a fire. They must obtain a building layout to determine where structural damage will compromise the integrity of the building and endanger entering personnel. Firefighters must be familiar with tools including hoses, hydrants, axes, chainsaws, and other instruments to clear forest areas or bust into buildings.
Firefighters must pass both written and physical examinations in order to be considered for employment. Written exams test individuals on their knowledge of basic building codes/layouts, medical procedures, and strategies for fighting forest fires. Physical exams test the strength and agility of potential firefighters. Alertness, coordination, and self-discipline are all necessary for safe and effective firefighting. A continuing commitment to physical fitness is also vital.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 90% of all firefighters are employed by local governments (www.bls.gov). These employers usually require their firefighters to be certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Most only require the basic level of certification but some larger departments which serve highly crowded metropolitan areas require advanced paramedic training. While high school diplomas were previously the norm for firefighters, some college education and even full college degrees in fire science are increasingly common.
Salary of a Firefighter
According to the BLS, www.bls.gov, the occupation of firefighter is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. The average firefighter earned $18.43 per hour in 2004.