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How to Become a Fire Fighter – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a fire fighter and save live/properties? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirement to become a fire fighter.

Fire is one sure way to destruction. This is because of the disastrous way in which fire ravages people and things. To the unlearned mind, the question, “What is fire fighting?” come to fore. Or put another way, “Can one fight fire?”

As innocent as the questions seem, they are far from what fire fighting suggests or what it is. It is basically about putting out a looming fire that might pose a great danger to all that comes across it. Before we look at the meaning of “Fire Fighting”, let us take some time to look at its essence.

Imagine if there were no fire fighters? Imagine if there was no profession for fire fighters? Could you imagine the level of wanton destruction of lives and properties that would have been taking place anytime there was a fire incident? But because there are Fire fighters, the level of destruction caused by fire have been reduced and yet continues to be reduced.

What is a fire fighter?

A fire fighter (otherwise called fireman or firewoman) is a rescuer extensively trained in fire fighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten property and civilian or natural populations, and to rescue people from dangerous situations, like collapsed or burning buildings or crashed vehicles.

Another way to define who a fire fighter is that a fire fighter is a person who works at a fire department, either as a volunteer or by profession, who fights fires and rescues people and animals from fires. Yet another definition says “Fire fighters are civil servants who risk their lives to help fight fires and handle other emergencies within a community.” So the importance of fire fighters cannot be over emphasized, because of their training to help rescue those who are in danger of fire.

Fire fighting definitely goes beyond pouring water into or upon fire when it’s raging; there are techniques and professional know-how that must be followed and adhered to in order to fight fire effectively. One must also bear in mind that not all fires are the same or have the same level of effect; hence cannot all be fought using the same methodology.

What method you use to fight a fire that starts as a result of electrical fault is not the same that you will use with the one that has to do with chemical combustion.

Duties of a Fire Fighter and their Job Description

Every profession has its own way of operation. As such; there are several roles that are being played. This is the same with the fire fighting profession. The following are the job description of a fire fighter, though not limited to these points.

  • He/she prevents fire damage by conducting surveys and inspections for hazards; enforcing codes.
  • Prepares citizens to prevent fire damage by developing and conducting educational and training programs.
  • Ensures availability of water at fire scenes by testing hydrants; requesting and expediting repairs; verifying repair.
  • Minimizes fire damage by responding to alarms; driving and operating equipment; regulating water pressure; combating and extinguishing fires; rescuing and reviving people.
  • Ensures operation of equipment by completing preventive maintenance requirements; following manufacturer’s instructions; troubleshooting malfunctions; notifying supervisor of needed repairs; evaluating new equipment and techniques.
  • Maintains operations by following policies and procedures; reporting needed changes.
  • Provides information by completing reports.
  • Maintains technical knowledge by attending educational workshops; studying publications; participating in scheduled drills.
  • Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed.

Equipment and Tools of a Fire Fighter

There are quite a number of tools and equipment that fire fighters use in the discharge of their duties (maybe too numerous to mention here); some of these equipment are big and massive like water trucks while others are small, like the boots. It is very vital that before you start this trade, or rather before you engage in this trade; that you are fully equipped to face any danger and hazard. The following are a glossary of tools and equipment that is used by fire fighters…

  • Adapter
  • Air Pressurized water
  • Automatic distress Signal Unit
  • Aerial Fire Apparatus
  • Aerial ladder
  • Aerial ladder platform
  • Air monitoring meter
  • Airbag
  • Attack hose
  • Attic ladder
  • Automatic sprinkler
  • Bomb line
  • Booster hose
  • Branch pipe
  • Bresnan cellar nozzle
  • Bulk tank
  • Bunkers
  • Cellar pipe
  • Charged line
  • Check valve
  • Cistern
  • Claw tool
  • Closet ladder
  • Combination nozzle
  • Compressed air foam system
  • Deck gun
  • Deluge gun
  • Denver door opener
  • Detection system
  • Distributor pipe
  • Eductor
  • Eckert hook
  • Ejector pump
  • Elevator key
  • Encapsulated suit
  • Encoder
  • Extinguisher
  • Fire alarm control panel
  • Fire axe
  • Fireboat
  • Fire damper
  • Fire department keys
  • Fire bike
  • Fire streams
  • Fog nozzle
  • Glas-Master tool
  • Gamewell
  • Gate valve
  • Gravity tank
  • Green line
  • Ground ladder
  • Halyard
  • Hand squirt
  • Handtub
  • Hard suction hose
  • And the list goes on

How to Become a Fire Fighter – A Complete Guide

The Labour Market situation

  • U.S Market Situation

In the United States being a Fire fighter is as strong and important as being a Police officer; hence the desire by many to join the noble profession. As a matter of fact, it is a thing of joy to enroll to be a fire fighter. This is because of the point that one is invariably enrolling to save lives.

The United States Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) said the employment of fire fighters was projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations between the years of 2012 – 2022, with a growth rate of seven percent. It is estimated that about 20,300 new intakes will be employed during the decade with the Local government being the highest employer and others working for the state or federal fire services or other private outfits.

There is a very strong pension plan for fire fighters in the US and this makes it very alluring for job seekers. On the average, $48,270 is the annual salary. Being a civil service profession, career-wise fire fighters can grow through the ranks and then advance in career by becoming:

  • Fire inspector
  • Fire investigator
  • Forest fire inspector and prevention specialist
  • Hazardous material worker
  • Fire captain
  • Fire chief
  • Risk assessor with an insurance company
  • And so on…

UK Market Situation

In the UK, there are those fire fighters referred to as the Whole-time fire fighters (They do this job full-time and usually work in the urban areas). Then there are the Retained fire fighters who work on part-time. They tend to respond to calls when there is an emergency and typically live close to fire stations.

In the UK, the starting salary for a trainee fire fighter is £21,583 per annum and rises to £28,766 when he/she gains full competence. At the highest level of the career ladders the salary could be as high as £55,018.This juicy package makes fire fighting profession attractive in the UK, hence there is high prospect for the profession and those who intend to join and become fire fighters.

In the UK there is also the Chief Fire Officer’s Association which is an umbrella body for fire fighters in the UK.

  • Canada Market Situation

The National Occupation Classification gives the following as occupational titles for fire fighters in Canada:

  • Airport fire fighter
  • Fire captain
  • Fire Fighter
  • Shipboard industrial fire fighter
  • Lieutenant
  • And so on (This list does not include Forest fire fighters)

In Canada, the practice is not as it is in the UK or USA. They have been able to inculcate into their citizens the mentality of fire prevention, hence a larger percentage of the fire fighters in Canada don’t work at fire fighting full-time. And about 90% of fire fighters in Canada work in public administration, while some were in the manufacturing sector and airports.

It is very important to note that the salary for fire fighters in Canada is not even across all the territories. But in Ontario the average annual salary is $45,929. Generally in the Canadian state, the fire fighting job is looked upon as a very vital job; and the reason is because of the lives and properties that are saved.

  • Australia Market Situation

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) is the national peak body for fire safety that provides information, services and education to the fire protection industry and the community and is represented across Australia by active members employing over 18,000 individuals representing every aspect of the fire protection industry.

These members include manufacturers, and suppliers of fire protection products and services, fire-fighters, building owners, insurers, designers and building surveyors, government and legislators, educators, bushfire consultants and anyone else working as part of the fire protection community to provide a safer environment for all Australians.

However, the different states control the fire service just like the police department. There are full-time fire fighters and volunteer fighters. For example, the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service does that. And anyone employed on the full-time arrangement must be ready to work anywhere he is posted to.

The average salary for fire fighters in Australia is AU$58,000 per annum and with years committed to the service the salary could rise to as high as AU$83,000 per annum. Fire fighting is popular amongst many Australians because of the pay package and other fringe benefits that come with it.

Benefits of Being a Fire Fighter

Every profession has its own pros and cons. This also holds sway in the fire fighting business. We will however, look at the benefits of being a fire fighter. There are quite a number of benefits that come with being a fire fighter apart from the pay and job security. They include the following…

  • The joy and satisfaction of helping people
  • You enjoy the benefit of working in a team, rather than working alone and this to an extent gives confidence for safety when combating fire
  • A decent pay package
  • Vacation pay
  • Health insurance
  • Early retirement (though depending on country)
  • A good pension plan

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming a Fire Fighter

Every profession has its own challenges, so it is with fire fighting. For some it could be the fact that they have to put in some long years in the garnering of skills to operate in particular field, to come it may be the teething stage problem that befalls all businesses. Some of the factors that discourage some people from considering fire fighting as a career include:

  • Fear of injury/death during firefighting operation
  • No observation of public holidays (as you never can tell when there will be a fire disaster)
  • Not being sure of whether you are too old or too young to enroll in the fire service (but this can be taken care of by simply going to the fire service department to find out)
  • Lack of confidence in oneself to be able to withstand the rigors that firefighting demands
  • Fear about whether one can build wealth via the profession

How Much Do Fire Fighting Professionals Earn

It is the wish to be in a trade that guarantees good profit. This means that no one might like the idea of being in a profession that doesn’t guarantee a good lease of life. The fire fighting profession is one that does help one make a living. The question therefore is; ‘how much really do professional fire fighters make? Here are good examples;

  • How Much Fire Fighters Make in the United States

In 2011, the Bureau of Labour Statistics discovered after a research that the lowest-paid fire fighter, made less than $22,480 a year. On the other hand, the highest-paid earned over $75,520 every year. The general schedule of these fire fighters includes 24-hour shifts on duty, followed by 48 to 72 hours off. Yet another schedule has to do with a 10-hour day shifts for three or four days, and then a 14-hour night shifts for as many nights, as well as a three or four days off.

  • How Much Fire Fighters Make in the U.K

After the fire fighter training, the trainee fire-fighter may be positioned to earn about £20,896 a year. Furthermore, there are incremental considerations on each level as the folk proves his or her competence. An adequately qualified fire-fighter can earn £27,851, with middle level officers such as a Watch or Station manager earning from £31k – £40,000.

Now, to the managerial positions; like the Group or Area Manager; they can expect to earn about £41k – £53,000 per year. Being that the fire fighter job is always unpredictable, there may be cases of overtime working, which attracts earnings like £14 – £27 an hour, depending on position and competency.

  • How Much Fire Fighters Make in Canada

The average pay for a Fire Fighter in Canada is C$59,093 per year. It is generally expected that people in this job don’t have more than 20 years’ experience. There also up-to-date figures that states that the highest hourly average (median) wages are earned in Canada, cost $38.00 per hour and the lowest average (median) wages earned is at $28.04 per hour.

An archetypal full-time yearly salary for this occupation is in the region of $60,000 – $70,000. There are ample jobs for fire-fighters in Canada and the government of Canada estimates that there will be too few job seekers in this line of profession, as there would be job openings due to expansion claims and retirements.

  • How Much Fire Fighters Make in Australian

In Australia, the average salary for a Fire Fighter is AU$57,713 per annum. It is also synonyms for fire fighters to move to other professions if they have more than 20 years’ experience in this career. The Australian defence job website puts it this way;

  • “Salary while undertaking Military (Recruit) Training: $1,321 per fortnight ($34,460 per year).
  • Salary while undertaking Initial Employment Training: $1,511 per fortnight ($39,383 per year).
  • While under training, you will also receive $365.93 per fortnight ($9,552 per year pro rata) Trainee Allowance.
  • Salary (excluding allowances) on completion of Initial Employment Training: $1,888 per fortnight ($49,228 per year).”

It further explains that a fire-fighter will receive Service Allowance of $497 per fortnight ($12,924 per year), except while undertaking Military (Initial) or Employment training. This allowance is intended to reward a member for the exclusive requirements that service life may impose on an individual and his or her family.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Fire Fighter?

Different countries have different rules, but because of the nature of job fire fighting is, it requires a whole lot of training to get newly recruited personnel ready to do the job. So, when you look at it from the time of getting degrees (for those who choose to go through this route) and specialized fire fighting training at the fire department, one will be looking at a period of 3 to 5 years or even more in some cases. However, all this boils down to the person involved.

What price are you willing to pay? How far are you willing to push yourself? To what extent are you willing to distinguish yourself as a fire fighter? All these are questions that when you consider may help you reduce significantly how long it will take you to become a fire fighter.

Educational Requirements Needed to Become a Fire Fighter in the U.S, UK, Australia and Canada

In various climes and places, there are several requirements that may be needed to start a trade. In the case of the fire fighting profession, the case is the same.

  • In the US, a candidate must be at least a high school graduate and must pass fire academy training to be enrolled in the fire fighting department.

In the UK, a degree or HND is not essentially necessary but in the universities of Lancashire and Wolverhampton prospective candidates could enroll for BSc (Hons) Fire and Leadership Studies and BSc (Hons) Fire and Rescue respectively. Though they are also not guarantees for entry into the fire and rescue service, but aim to equip with necessary skills needed to pursue a career in the fire industry.

The situation in Canada is slightly different. The minimum training required by government regulations for this occupation depends on the size of the municipality doing the hiring: Those with fewer than 25,000 inhabitants require successful completion of a 275-hour training program (Fire-fighter I), which can be taken on the job. And this is usually on a part-time basis – volunteer.

For municipalities between 25,000 – 200,000 inhabitants, another 120-hour training program is required (Fire-fighter II), which can also be taken on the job and for part-time positions. However, larger municipalities also require an Attestation of College Studies (AEC) in fire safety or even a Collegial Studies Diploma (DEC) in fire safety.

The case of Australia shows that you can work as a fire fighter without formal qualifications. You will receive on the job training. Applicants usually go through a multi-stage selection process which can include written tests, psychological testing, interviews, physical aptitude testing, a medical examination, referee checks and criminal history checks. Successful applicants from these stages then undergo 16 weeks training at the State Training College in Alexandria, Sydney.

Is a Professional Certification Needed to Become a Fire Fighter?

There are trades that makes it mandatory that for one to be able to successfully operate in that field, as we’ll as compete favourably with competitors, professional courses has to be pulled off. It is vital to note that Professional certifications are not necessary to become a fire fighter. The most important things are the trainings you receive, most of which are on the job or in a government fire fighting training department or institute.

How Much With It Cost You to Obtain a Certification or Degree?

  • In the United States

It might amaze you to know that there are various schools and steps needed in becoming a fire fighter in America. There are courses that last for 15 months and the fire cadet may be required to attend classes for over eight hours a day, five or more days a week. This is very vital because many departments now require hiring only those that have completed all their training. This is so that they can be certified by the state.

A good number of community colleges offer fire service classes. This program differs depending upon the type of school. As such; it is expected that a basic fire-fighter certification may require about thirty college credit hours., and a minimum of two semesters (or one year), to qualify for state certification.

  • In Canada

If you are looking to become a fire fighter in Canada, then it becomes really important that you check your financial situation before commencing the training. If you are such a person who do not have adequate funds, then it may not be ideal to enroll in a three-year, full-time post-secondary fire program. You may want to deliberate on taking a shortened program, a correspondence program or the option of completing your course over a protracted period of time.

  • In the UK

Becoming a fire-fighter in the UK Fire and Rescue Service isn’t a child’s play, this is because you will need to spend months and years applying and getting yourself ready before you can launch out as one. First off, you will need to have the minimum requirement, which will then help you scale through to the next level.

You will need to give ample details about yourself and why you want to be a fire rescuer. The fee involved in this exercise, might be well over a 1000 pounds, as the courses you would be subjected to take are protracted.

Can You Become a Fire Fighter by Taking an Online Course?

There are schools that offer online courses on fire fighting/prevention techniques, but most still give at least two weeks of on the field training. So in reality, you cannot become a qualified fire fighter by taking only online courses. For you to arrive at this, you will be required to carry out some research on your own. This is because there are ample sites that offer such courses. You may also need to seek the advice of an expert, who will be able to put you through.

Career Opportunities for a Fire Fighter

There are a number of career options available to fire fighters and the range from …

  • Growing through the ranks within the fire service crew manager, watch manager, station manager, group manager, area manager, brigade manager chief fire manager…
  • Working as risk managers in insurance companies or other organizations
  • Working as fire/safety instructors in training institutes
  • Risk assessor
  • And so on

Skills and Personality Traits Needed to Succeed as a Fire Fighter

There are several skills that is required of any professional. These types of skills are such that will aid the success of the person and the people involved in it. Therefore, in the fire fighting career, there are several traits that you need to imbibe. They are:

  • Lifting-: A fire fighter must be strong enough to be able to lift items in fire situations. An object may fall on someone or be blocking the right of way of the officer and needs to be moved, so the fire fighter must have such skill.
  • Physical Fitness-: This is like the above but much more. Physical fitness also has to do with ability to be strong and endure pressure. Mental fitness is also part of this equation.
  • Decision Making-: The ability to take on the spot decision can mean the difference between life and death for a victim or an officer in a fire situation. Hence the fire fighter must be well developed to know how to take decisions.
  • Handle Pressure-: Fire itself during a disaster time is pressure. And with it comes different challenges that bring more pressure. The ability to respond and handle these myriad of pressures will go a long way to determine what happens next.
  • Emotional Control-: Someone who is not emotionally balanced and together cannot do well as a fire fighter. You must be in control of your emotions. You don’t allow your emotions get a better of you because that could lead to further loss of lives and property during a fire situation.
  • Integrity-: This is true for a fire fighter as it is for any other professional in any other professional line. Integrity with colleagues and victims is critical. Being absolutely honest is the key thing.
  • Effective communications skills-: The importance of effective communication skills cannot be over-emphasized. Whether with colleagues or victims, you must know what to say and how to say it so that what you are saying is not misunderstood, which could lead to disaster.
  • Ability to follow instructions-: Because you are not on the scene on your volition, there is a need to listen to instructions as given by your superior officer as not doing so could be counterproductive to the whole operation.
  • Teamwork spirit-: Fire fighting isn’t something one person could possibly achieve. It does entail that people work together as a team to take the credit together. Hence it will be very important that you possess a team spirit at all times.
  • Patience-: Fire fighting can sometimes appears futile, but truth is that with some patience here and there, one would win the race. So you have to be an extremely patient person to be a fire fighter.

Other traits include; Confidence and resilience, Adaptability and flexibility, Interest in promoting community safety, Deals with Uncertainty, Objectivity, Safety Management, Dependability, And so on…

Tips and Advice As You Become a Fire Fighter

Now there is a need to take into consideration the following piece of advice in order to succeed as a fire officer. You are first and foremost a life-guard officer, and so your job should be of uttermost priority to you. This means you have to   be wired to answer your call to   duty whenever the need arises.

Other people’s lives are placed in your hands, and doing all you can to ensure that is the most important thing to succeed in this fire duty. Not just rising through the ranks and growing in career. Put that into perspective and your success as a fire fighter will know no limits.

Having a positive heart to always succeed is yet another art you may want to imbibe. No matter how tough putting out fire might be, the truth remains that you have got to have a positive heart towards everything that you encounter on the job.

In Conclusion, If your desire is to help people, then you have to first realize that you have been called to serve your people. Those who are in the fire fighting business are always at the beck and call of those who may be in need of their services- and this can be at any time of the day or night. Fire fighting also offers that opportunity and satisfaction that comes from saving lives is unquantifiable and cannot be bought with money.

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