Fighting a blazing fire, thick smoke, and debris, firefighters go all the way to stop fires and save human lives. This dangerous job idolizes firefighters as they put themselves in harm’s way to save others. Being a firefighter isn’t easy apart from rushing into flames to save lives, they also have to be constantly fit, carry heavy gear, and above all professionals at their trade.
The dangerous job of a firefighter
Job description: A firefighter (or fireman’s) job is to control and extinguish fires that threaten people or property, and to rescue people trapped by fires, car accidents, etc… Firefighters deal with hazardous materials (gas leaks, chemical spills,etc…) and are tasked with the prevention of fires. Firefighters also instruct the public on fire safety issues. Firefighters use their fire trucks, public hydrants or any other water source available to them to put out and control fires.
Work environment: At the scene of a fire, firefighters will face blazing heat, thick smoke, scorching flames, structurally unsafe buildings, and will have to operate with heavy equipment (up to 150 pounds, or 70 kg) under intense and stressful conditions. Firefighters may also find themselves at the scene of accidents, rescue trapped, injured people.
Fatality rate: The fatality rate for firefighters is surprisingly low, and stands at around 3 fatalities per 100,000 fire incidents, making this job much less dangerous than it is widely considered. This is a testament to the professional nature of firefighters and their strict attitude to safety measures and procedures.
What makes it a dangerous job: Firefighters are at risk of suffocating, receiving lung and respiratory system damages, burns, injuries sustained by structural collapses, and heart attacks (the most common cause of on-duty fatalities for US firefighters).
Hours / Lifestyle: Firefighters work in teams, and are usually a tight bunch. Firefighters usually work in shifts, including weekends and holidays. Also, a firefighter may be on call even when not on shift.
Pay: Each department, state, and service have its own pay grade, so for more accurate information check with the department you are interested in. However, new firefighters (up to a year) can look to earn between $29K and $45K.
More experienced firefighters (5 to 9 years of experience) can earn $35K to $56K.
Also, firefighters who work more than a certain number of hours a week are usually paid overtime – again, terms and rates are different for each department.
Requirements: Basic requirements are usually – 18 years of age, a high school education or equivalent, a clean criminal record, possess physical strength, stamina, coordination, and must pass a drug screening test. Requirements may vary between departments. Firefighters must pass rigorous certifications as well.
Training: During training, recruits learn about firefighting techniques and fire prevention, emergency medical procedures, tools such as axes, chainsaws, fire extinguishers, ladder skills, and basic hose and hydrant techniques – including Live Fire training. Many departments also provide on the job training for new recruits, after they graduate from the fire academy.
Career opportunities: Firefighters can advance in the ranks of their organization, to become lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs and fire chiefs. Opportunities vary among departments and agencies.
Job opportunities: Firefighters are needed on a federal, state and municipal level. Firefighters also serve at airports and branches of the military (Army, Airforce, Navy, and Marines).