The primary duty of a firefighter is to save lives, protect property, and serve the community. As you gain more experience there will be other job opportunities within the fire department. Other roles and additional responsibilities can include the following:
Driver/operator – drive the fire truck (apparatus) to onsite emergency , operation of fire pumps and aerial ladders. This can be a full time role in some fire departments or rotated among firefighters.
Company officer – normally a captain or lieutenant responsible for the apparatus, and leads the on shift team both at the fire department and onsite emergency. The officer is normally tasked with initial fire planning, safety, and general activities of firefighters on the apparatus.
Incident commander – responsible for management of all incident operations and onsite emergencies. After overall strategy is determined this role is normally assumed by the battalion or district chief
Fire marshal/fire inspector – surveys local businesses and residences and enforces public safety and fire codes.
Safety officer – monitors overall operations to ensure safe practices. The safety officer may halt firefighting operations, until unsafe practices are corrected. Senior ranking officer may also take this role or until another officer is assigned these duties.
Training officer – responsible for training new and updating existing firefighters when required.
Dispatcher – takes calls from public, dispatches emergency response units, provides callers with medical information until emergency response units arrives.
Fire apparatus maintenance – responsible for maintaining and repairing fire apparatus and EMS vehicles. Equipment manufacturers normally provide training to firefighter of equipment including engines, aerial ladders, and fire pumps.
Fire protection engineer – reviews building and sprinkler plans to ensure they are constructed and installed to code. This type of function normally requires an engineering degree.
Hazardous material (HAZMAT) response – specialist trained to identify hazardous materials, control spills, extinguish fires, decontamination, and clean-up.
Scuba dive rescue – fire departments near large bodies of water may have scuba dive and rescue companies. Firefighters are trained to use SCUBA apparatus for search and rescue operations in lakes and any other waterways including under ice.
If you’re ambitious, take advantage of learning and training as much as possible within your organization. The fire service offers many opportunities during your career as a firefighter. You should always look for ways to improve your skills.
“How much do firefighters make?”. Entry level firefighter salary depends on location. In general big cities and suburban area fire departments will pay more than rural or underdeveloped areas. Annual starting salary can range from $30,000 to mid $40,000. Benefit packages normally include medical coverage, paid vacation, pension, and other benefits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 33-2011 Firefighters May 2012, there were 297,7000 employed firefighters. The mean hourly wage was $23 and mean annual wage of $47,850. Below are the top 5 states with the highest firefighter employment level.
Top 5 states with the highest firefighter employment level and annual mean wage:
California – $72,540 − 26,550 employed firefighters
Texas – $46,790 − 24,880 employed firefighters
Florida – $51,190 − 23,780 employed firefighters
Ohio – $42,660 − 18,410 employed firefighters
Illinois – $47,560 − 16,700 employed firefighters
According to the bureau the top 5 – paying states were California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Connecticut. Higher paying salaries are normally to compensate for higher cost of living. Salary increases can be expected with advanced specialized training and increased management responsibility. In my opinion, firefighters are underpaid for the amount of risk and long hours on the job. As many firefighters work 24-48 hour shifts they also get 24-72 hour rest periods. During these rest periods many firefighters can earn extra income by doing small handyman jobs or starting other small businesses. Some of these successful businesses include Firehouse Subs, firehousemovers.com, and trainingdivision.com. You’ll find many on your firefighter team have an entrepreneurial spirit and find creative ways to make extra income. You’ll learn the many new skills during your employment can be used for opportunities in the future. The key is to keep learning and always strive to improve.
You should remember, becoming a firefighter shouldn’t be about the money. You should take the opportunity to become a firefighter only if you’re passionate about the job and serving others.
What other questions do you have about firefighter salaries? Please leave a comment and let me know.
For those wondering if a career in the fire service is for you. I’m excited to announce an ebook that will help you make that decision. The book should be out by Fall 2013. If you have any suggestions for the book, please feel free to leave a comment or a note on my contact page.
Back in the day most career fire departments had their own firefighter fitness test requirements. Most career fire departments now have candidate physical ability tests (CPAT) administered to prospective candidates. They include eight continuous on a path, exercise drills that must be completed in 10 minutes and 20 seconds and is pass or fail.
During the test, candidates are required to wear a 50 lb. vest. with long pants, shoes with no open toes, hard hat w/chinstrap, and gloves. Wearing jewelry is prohibited. The 50 lb. vest is used to simulate wearing self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
Each exercise station is separated by 85 ft. and requires the candidate to walk between each station. To ensure safety and minimize exhaustion, running between stations is not allowed.
Two stop watches are used, one used for official time and the other for back-up. Any time greater than 10 minutes 20 seconds is a fail. The firefighter fitness CPAT is challenging. To become a firefighter requires significant training in cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and endurance. Stop by often as we look to provide more information about firefighter fitness to help you become a firefighter.
Via Michael Webb: UPDATE MONDAY (9/5), @austintexasgov: AFD has reached adequate number of reserve firefighters, NO need to continue calling 978-1187 or 974-0400 at this time (Area code 512–same #). PLEASE CIRCULATE SO THE FIREFIGHTERS CAN DO THEIR JOB INSTEAD OF ANSWERING PHONES.
Spent Sun. – Tues. getting to see some of the new products and ideas in Fire Protection and Fire Prevention at the Boston Convention Center. Had a great time meeting with many fire chiefs, fire marshals, firefighters, vendors and suppliers in the Fire Industry. Of the notable products included: digital fire extinguisher training aids, a portable stove fire suppression system, and a cooling vest that can lower the body temperature 14 degrees. I will be posting individual posts about each so make sure to check in.