A lot of the job is boring. Cleaning the firehouse, running checks on the rigs and equipment, constant drills (although some can be fun, like rope rescue) – sorry, but there is no way to make sprinklers a fun topic to memorize. The TV shows and books don’t show how hard we work and under what conditions. Cameras don’t work in 500 degree fires, not to mention there’s not many film crews willing to go in. They show us kicking around the kitchen, joking around, or showing kids the fire trucks. They don’t show us picking up a teenager’s body parts after getting slammed into by a car going 70 mph. They don’t show you us taking a baby out of boiling water that the mother’s boyfriend had dropped him into. I can guarantee you, every firefighter will remember every kid he lost. We make a difference every day in people’s lives. That’s HUGE, as some famous guy is apt of saying. Firefighters are usually ranked first or second in job satisfaction. If someone stays more than two years, we generally have them until retirement. The first step in becoming a firefighter is to recognize the competitiveness for every open position. While many departments hire multiple candidates to run through the academy all at once, they’re selecting those few from thousands of applicants. So step one: make yourself the best candidate.
Step two is to enter the application process with multiple departments. This step can take several years. Like I said earlier, departments have thousands to choose from so chances are you won’t “get on” quickly or at your first choice department. It’s smart to apply all over so be prepared to budget for travel. Don’t get discouraged when you receive rejection letters with no explanation why. Just keep trying. Application processes vary by department but generally follow a similar outline. After application you’ll take a written test. This is usually a high-school level test involving logic, math, and verbal reasoning. Like a short SAT. After that comes the Physical Agility Test. The “PAT” can be a nation-wide standardized test (like the CPAT) or one designed by the individual department but they all test your ability and prowess for several tasks related to the fire service. Running, raising ladders, dragging 170 lb. dummies, and weighted stairs are all common tasks. Next up comes the interview itself. You will answer questions to a panel of department representatives. Wear a suit and have your answers already in mind! The panel will confer and select those that best present themselves and have the best attributes. The selected group is then forwarded to their team of background investigators who will go over your record with a fine-toothed comb. If you have a DUI or have been in trouble with the law in any way, this is where you’ll almost certainly lose your spot to someone with a clean record. There can also be lie-detector testing and chief interviews as well. Finally is a job offer pending results of drug screening.