Career Development

What Does a Firefighter Do?

Find out what a firefighter does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a firefighter.

Firefighters are responsible for protecting the lives and property of their communities by responding to emergencies, putting out fires, and performing other critical duties. They work under extremely demanding conditions—often risking their own lives in order to save others.

Firefighter Job Duties

Firefighters have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Conducting fire investigation in order to determine the cause of fires and explosions and recommending ways to prevent future fires
  • Performing emergency medical services such as administering CPR and other life support procedures
  • Inspecting fire equipment and maintaining records of inspection results
  • Performing fire prevention activities including conducting public education campaigns and inspecting buildings to identify fire hazards
  • Responding to emergency calls such as fires, natural disasters, vehicle accidents, explosions, and crime scenes in order to rescue victims and extinguish fires
  • Inspecting buildings for fire hazards such as blocked exits or overloaded electrical circuits
  • Operating fire trucks and other equipment used during firefighting operations such as ladders and hydraulic tools
  • Conducting fire drills in schools, businesses, residences, and other public places to ensure preparedness for emergencies
  • Inspecting commercial and industrial facilities for fire hazards such as flammable materials or combustible machinery to ensure that they are safe from fire

Firefighter Salary & Outlook

Firefighters’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $80,500 ($38.7/hour)

The employment of firefighters is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

The need to protect property and preserve natural resources will continue to drive demand for firefighters. However, budget constraints may limit the number of new firefighters hired by some fire departments.

Firefighter Job Requirements

A firefighter typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Firefighters need at least a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). Some fire departments prefer to hire candidates who have an associate or bachelor’s degree. Candidates can earn degrees in fire science, emergency medical services, paramedic or nursing.

Training & Experience: Firefighters receive most of their training through the fire academy and on-the-job training. The fire academy is a 16-week program that teaches firefighters the basics of firefighting, including fire prevention, firefighting techniques and emergency medical response.

Certifications & Licenses: To become a firefighter, you will need to pass an exam to earn a Firefighter I or Firefighter II certification, which determines the responsibilities you will have on the job. You can take classes to earn your certification before applying to jobs.

Firefighter Skills

Firefighters need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Firefighters use communication skills to relay information to their team, the public and other emergency responders. They also use communication skills to interpret and understand information from their team and other emergency responders. Firefighters use communication skills to instruct civilians on how to stay safe during a fire and to direct emergency vehicles to the scene.

Teamwork: Firefighters work in teams of two or more to complete their duties. They need to be able to work with others to complete tasks, enter burning buildings and perform emergency medical care. Firefighters also work with other emergency response teams, such as police and paramedics, to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Problem-solving: Firefighters use problem-solving skills to assess a situation and determine the best course of action. They use these skills to make quick decisions in emergency situations. For example, if a fire is spreading quickly, firefighters may need to act quickly to control the flames before they spread to other areas.

Physical fitness: Firefighters need physical fitness to perform their duties. Physical fitness can include stamina, strength, agility and flexibility. Firefighters need to be able to run up and down stairs, lift heavy objects and crawl through tight spaces.

Technical skills: Firefighters use technical skills to operate firefighting equipment, read maps and navigate through buildings. Technical skills are also important for understanding fire science and knowing how to handle emergency situations.

Firefighter Work Environment

Firefighters work in a high-pressure, dangerous, and physically demanding environment. They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and must be able to respond to an emergency within minutes. Firefighters work in teams of two or more, and must be able to work well with others in order to ensure the safety of themselves and the public. Firefighters must be in excellent physical condition and be able to lift heavy equipment, climb ladders, and perform other strenuous activities. They must also be able to work in high-stress situations and be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure.

Firefighter Trends

Here are three trends influencing how firefighters work. Firefighters will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity

The fire service is facing a major diversity problem. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 6% of firefighters are African American, and only 3% are Hispanic. This lack of diversity can have serious consequences for both the fire service and the communities it serves.

As more and more people become aware of this issue, fire departments will need to find ways to increase diversity in their ranks. This may include recruiting from different areas or changing the way they screen candidates. In addition, firefighters can work to promote diversity within their own departments by becoming role models for other employees.

More Women in Firefighting

The number of women in the firefighting profession is increasing every year. In fact, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters, the number of women in fire departments has increased by almost 50% since 2000.

This trend is likely to continue as more and more women realize that firefighting is a rewarding and challenging career that offers many opportunities for personal growth. As more women enter the firefighting profession, fire departments will need to adapt their policies and practices to ensure that all employees are treated equally.

Firefighters Will Be Asked to Do More With Less

As budgets get tighter, fire departments are being asked to do more with less. This means that firefighters will be required to take on additional responsibilities, such as emergency medical services (EMS) and public education.

In order to be successful in this new environment, firefighters will need to be well-rounded professionals who are able to handle a wide range of tasks. They will also need to be comfortable working in teams and collaborating with other members of the community.

How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighters have a lot of options when it comes to their career path. They can choose to specialize in certain areas, such as rescue or arson investigation, or they can become a fire chief. They can also move into other fields, such as law enforcement or emergency medical services.

No matter what direction firefighters decide to take, they should always stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques used in their field. They should also attend training sessions and workshops to improve their skills.

Related: How to Write a Firefighter Resume

Advancement Prospects

Firefighters typically are promoted to positions of greater responsibility as they gain experience. Some firefighters may eventually become fire chiefs or other high-ranking officials. Some firefighters leave firefighting to become fire investigators, fire inspectors, or fire prevention engineers. Others become instructors at fire academies or become sales representatives for firefighting equipment manufacturers. Some firefighters may wish to pursue careers in emergency medical services.

Firefighter Job Description Example

When seconds count, [CompanyX]’s firefighters are always ready to spring into action. We are looking for individuals who are passionate about helping others and have the courage to put their lives on the line every day. As a firefighter at [CompanyX], you will be responsible for responding to emergency calls, providing medical attention, and extinguishing fires. You will also be responsible for conducting fire prevention activities, such as presenting fire safety programs to schools and businesses.

The ideal candidate will have prior experience as a firefighter, EMT certification, and a valid driver’s license. He or she must be physically fit and able to lift heavy equipment. Most importantly, the ideal candidate will have the courage to put their life on the line to help others.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Respond to fire alarms and other emergency calls, including medical emergencies
  • Drive and operate fire trucks, pumps, hoses, and other equipment
  • Ventilate burning buildings to remove smoke and heat
  • Enter burning buildings to extinguish fires and rescue individuals
  • Climb ladders and use other tools to break through debris
  • Connect hoses to hydrants and operate pumps to direct water streams
  • Train regularly to maintain physical fitness and skills
  • Inspect equipment and perform maintenance tasks
  • Investigate the causes of fires to determine origin and identify potential hazards
  • Educate the public about fire safety, such as presenting about fire safety at schools or conducting home visits
  • Maintain records of activities, such as incident reports
  • Participate in continuing education and training to keep up with advances in the field

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Valid driver’s license
  • At least 21 years of age
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien status
  • Ability to pass a written entrance exam
  • Ability to pass a physical agility test
  • Ability to pass a medical examination, including vision, hearing, and physical ability
  • Ability to pass a background check and drug screen

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Associate’s degree or higher in fire science or related field
  • EMT certification
  • Paramedic certification
  • Hazardous materials certification
  • Technical rescue certification

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