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This interview was conducted with a firefighter in the Southeast.  The interview was anonymous because he provided detailed information on his salary.  

What do you do for a living? I’m a firefighter

Firefighter

How would you describe what you do?

As a firefighter I do everything from fight grass fires, house fires, rubbish fires, car fires, anything that can catch on fire we’d be called for it. We go to medical calls, any time ambulances are called out we go to it. We do everything from heart attacks to small injuries to car wrecks. Anything an ambulance would be called for we help out with.

Quick Facts!

How much do firefighters make a year? Starting out salaries will make you around $32,000 depending on your location. To see what this firefighter said he makes click here.

How to become a firefighter? You’ll need a high school education or GED, a clean record, and a lot of heart. Becoming a firefighter is highly competitive. To see what this firefighter had to say about getting started and the requirements to become a firefighter click here

Everybody here is an emergency medical technician so we go with ambulances on those calls. We also do swift water rescues, we’ve got all kinds of swift water equipment for like cars that are swept off low-water bridges and stuff like that. Pretty much if anything happens where someone needs to get rescued we’re the ones who get called.

What does being a firefighter entail?

We work 24 hours on, 48 off so that’s ten 24 hour shifts a month. I got here this morning, this is a Sunday, at eight o’clock and I work until eight o’clock on Monday morning. Then I’ll be off all day Monday, all day Tuesday, then I’ll come back to work on Wednesday and I’ll work 24 hours on Wednesday and get off Thursday and Friday come back to work on Saturday. So that’s how our hourly schedule goes.

We get here in the mornings at eight o’clock, check our trucks, all of our equipment, our gear, our breathing apparatus and anything that we wear.  Once our shift starts we can do everything from public education, teaching fire safety in the schools, to doing pre-fire plans with the businesses in the City of Fayetteville. We make sure we know where the entrances and exits are, how the buildings constructed, where the fire department connections are, like if we assist the sprinkler system. We check hydrants, anything of that nature. Every week we do some kind of training whether it be go out and pull hoses, to auto extrication training, to swift water rescue training or high rope rescue training. If we’re not making calls during the week we’re probably training. We usually cut that down by five o’clock or six o’clock in the afternoon, and then we’ll just kind of have our own time, we’ll get caught up on paperwork around here, watch TV, eat supper you know, go to bed. Then we get up again in the morning and get our trucks washed up and cleaned up and go home at eight o’clock. We make emergency calls all in between that time. Anytime there is a medical call or a fire anything we respond on it.

How did you get started or how do you become a fireman?

I worked for the emergency medical service for 10 years prior to coming here, and I worked for all these guys on medical calls and I just decided I wanted to be a firefighter. Then I went, applied, and took the test. The testing process is a competitive testing process. You’ve got to be under 31 years old and have a high school education, and at least be an emergency medical technician(EMT) and you have to take a civil service exam, and after

I also like the work schedule, the ten 24 hour shifts a month gives me a lot of time to do things with my family and kids and wife that a lot of other people can’t do.

you take that exam they rank you on your score best to then worst and then you take a oral interview with the Civil Service Board and the city and they rank you and then you take an oral interview with the Fire Department Board, and they rank you, then you take a physical agility test that consists of several different physical things they have to do, and then they rank you, and then they add all those points up and they rank you one through however many passed the written test and that’s how you get hired.

What do you like about what you do?

I like the helping in the community. I like the camaraderie with these guys that I work with. We work 24 hours a day with each other. We spend as much time with these guys as we do with our families, firefighterwe build friendships, these are guys that you trust and are good friends that you just can’t replace. I also like the work schedule, the ten 24 hour shifts a month, gives me a lot of time to do things with my family kids and wife that a lot of other people can’t do.

What do you dislike?

We go on a lot of calls where we risk people’s lives running across town with our lights and sirens on, we risk our lives doing that just for nothing, most people call fire trucks just for nothing, petty things. It’s just ridiculous for them even to call. But that’s just part of the job, it’s just inherent that way that those kinds of things happen.   Also a lot of times we put in long hours, a lot of times will be here for 24 hours we may not sleep for two hours the whole time. We’ll be up all night doing fighting fires or whatever maybe takes place. That’s just part of the job. If you’re going to talk about dislikes that would be really the only things that I dislike about it. That’s just part of it though, if you can’t do that you don’t need to be doing the job.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

We get paid an hourly rate and it really doesn’t matter what the hourly rate is because we work so many more hours a week than what a normal person does because we work 24 hours shifts and we always work over 40 hours a week.

How much money do you make as a fireman?

A new hired firefighter around here will make a salary somewhere in the range of $32 to $35,000. I think last year I made $41,000.

What education, school, or skills are needed to be a firefighter?

To even apply for a job he has to have at least a high school diploma or a GED and you have to at least be an emergency medical technician before you apply, and of course no felonies or anything like that. You have to be at least younger than 32 or 33. A lot of people don’t get in that try. The city tests twice a year and they rank you from that test, if you’re not in the top three there’s a good chance you’re not going to get hired. When I tested there were a hundred guys testing with me, I think there were six of us were hired.

A big city somewhere else they may have 1500 people test and only hire six. It’s very competitive.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Being able to keep control over your emotions. When things are very stressful you tend to want to get excited, you get to doing things too fast, and not thinking about what you’re doing, and that can get you hurt. You’ve got to kind of step back and take a look at everything before you just bail off in it; and I think that’s one of the hardest things for people learn. They(rookies) get here and get excited, go running into a house fire and they don’t pay attention to something and get themselves hurt. I think that can be one of the more difficult things. That and learning to live with this schedule, a lot of people can’t work a 24-hour schedule. You know a lot of guys’ wives don’t like them gone like that.

What is most rewarding?

There are so many things to me. I’ve always done this kind of work one way or another. I guess it’s just the helping of the people, when you see that little kid comes up to see the fire trucks he looks at us like, you know you’d think he saw Superman.  It’s rewarding to see little kids faces, and you know just talk to younger people about what we do, they’re really interested in it.

What advice would you offer someone considering becoming a firefighter?

I’d say you need to keep your record clean, it’s a competitive testing process and they do a background check on you. If you’ve had a felony or DWI’s or anything like that is going to be a strike against you compared to the guy who’s just as good and has a clean record, they’re going to hire him over you. I think a guy also needs a hospital education, you can go to the community college and you can get an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science, or you can get an Associate’s Degree in anything, but especially in Fire Science or Emergency Medicine. You can get an Associate’s Degree in Paramedics and you can be a paramedic, and that would definitely help you along. You also have to be 21 to take this job. So if a guy can get out of high school and keep his nose clean he could possibly get on a volunteer fire department, or go to a community college and get his EMT or get his Associate’s Degree in Firefighting. Someone like that is going to have a lot better chance at getting hired when it comes time for the test to take place.

Are there any perks to this job?

Oh, I don’t know, yea there’s perks to it. Sometimes we get treated better at places, especially if we’re on duty, and people see us in uniform. We go somewhere to get something to eat and we’ve had people buy your meals, we try to keep people from doing that but yea there’s nice things like that you might call a perk. If somebody has a bunch of food leftover from a party and brings it by that’s always nice. Especially to the guy who’s working Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day or New Year’s Day, or something like that. And people in the community will come by and bring things of cookies and tell us they appreciate what we do and give us stuff like that. I guess you’d call that a perk.

How much time off do you get/take?

Right now a guy with less than 10 years on the job gets eight 24 hour vacation days off a year. Plus the regular time that he gets off and then of course you acquire sick leave just like any other job. It goes up though, the longer you’ve been here the more time you get off.

What is a common misconception people have about firefighters?

That we just sit up here and watch TV, and eat, and only go when there’s a fire. When really a lot of times we’ll go all day and never sit down even if there’s not a fire.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I want to be a company officer someday. You test for any position here just like you do when you get hired. When I got hired I was in a competitive test. You’ve got to have three years on before you can test for driver, I did that and tested for driver and I got promoted to driver. Now you have to have six years on duty, and a full year as a driver before you can test for Captain. My goal is to make it to Captain and have my own company. And then someday later on down the road when I’m not able to fight fires anymore I’d like to go to the training division.

What else would you like to know about what you do?

I think the main thing is, especially if this is going to be on a website for people looking to do this job, is that you should keep your record clean and try to get as much education as you can, especially if you’re a young guy who’s not old enough to actually get on yet. Try to educate yourself as much as you can about this job, and the things that will help you along in this job, and then try to get in as early as you can. It’s a younger guy’s game, the older you get the harder it is to get up in the middle of the night and go fight fires. So I’d say if a guy wants to do this he needs to try and get in as young as he can.

 

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Trevor October 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hi my name is Trevor I am 20 yrs old and I am currently in college getting my AG Technician Degree, I graduate in may and was wondering how to get started to become a full time firefighter, and would like to know the benefits and income or salary. I have been wanting to be one for a while now and have been working for greenway for a while they sent me through college to get my degree but would love to be a firefighter I have come to figure out doing what u don’t like is so fun and I belive doing something u love would be great and less stressfull. With any info anybody could give me please get back to me with my email, trevor.hood@ymail.com

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Lajoy Clark October 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I want to be a firefighter. In my community there is only one female firefighter and she is getting up in age, and after talking to her I felt inspired. I’ve wanted to be a paramedic since I was in the eighth grade and a firefighter since I was in 15. When I was searching for a career that would suit me I wanted something where I could help people, a job that was totally selfless, yet adventurous….and I couldn’t find anything more fitting than a firefighter paramedic…I graduate twice this year, once from high school and for college. I’m currently in med pro an d med term classes, all getting me ready for my EMT classes. I can’t wait to join the heroes who have inspired me so much…I lost my grandfather to stage 4 cancer last week, and one of the the things I’ll never forget was when I used to tell him everyday that I was gonna be a firefighter. He bought me some weights for lifting and told me to make him proud…he told me he would be waiting in the porch for me waving as I went by, sirens blaring….unfortunately he will never get to see his little girl follow her dream, but that only further motivates me. I hope to her from other future firefighters and hopefully actual firefighters…..never give up

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Tyler September 14, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Hi, I’m 16 and a junior in highschool. I make good grades but really the only thing I want to do for a career is a firefighter. I’m currently taking a First Responder off campus class and next year I’ll be taking the EMT class my senior year, both will allow me to get licensed once I’m 18. My only concern is that the firefighters in my area start below $24,000 I was told it was around $21,000 but I was posting this asking on some advice of what I should do. I don’t personally think that their starting salary would allow me to get my own place for some time and I don’t want to live with my parents till I’m 30.

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Julia August 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Hey all,
My name is Julia, I’m 16 years old and will be a Junior in high school in the fall. The first job I ever wanted to have was a firefighter, that was when I was 5 years old. I have just begun looking into community colleges with firefighting programs; especially firefighter-paramedic programs.
I am wondering what would be the best path to take, would a two year degree that gives paramedic certification along with Firefighter I and II certs. be a good place to start? Or is there something else that would be better!
Thanks! :)

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Jose October 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Hello my name is jose this was a very good interview and very informative. I am 18 and did not graduate so I am now trying to get my ged and I will. I have a job which I dislike and it teaching me that education is a must no matter how complicated it is. Being a firefighter is a dream. I love helping people and saving lives will be a life fulfilling accomplishment. I suffer from depression and each time I get down I think of being a firefighter. I know it not easy to be one but nothing in life that is worth getting is easy I think it’s harder to see your dreams for away with time. I am getting informed and well it is not easy but I’m sure if I put my mind, body and soul I can achieve it. I am 6 ft and weight 140 lbs. would that be a problem? Follow your heart and complete your dreams it won’t be easy but its much dragging tem around.. Thank you for info I appreciate it :)

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Johnny October 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi Jose, being 6ft and 140 lbs shouldn’t be a problem as long as you are strong enough to pass the PT test. I suggest you look up the qualifications in your area F.D. for what they are looking for. Depression is hard on anybody. Just think of others that don’t have arms or legs to even try out to become a firefighter. It is good to have dreams. But when reality hits you in the face and nocks you down you have to be grateful for all you do have. I have a younger cousin who has taken all the ff courses and passed them with flying colors. Only to finds out he has a heart problem right before his final exams. He never showed any signs. Healthy as a horse. He got pretty down on himself and still wants to be a FF, now he just has to take meds for his condition. I am not sure if he will be able to get on with my FD but he will still try. He is a smart kid so I know I will do well in anything he puts his mind to. I am replying to you more so because you said you suffer from depression. I’ve seen a lot in my career and the one thing I want you to remember when you are down is to be grateful of everything you do have, think positive. Look at your hands, your legs, cause there are veterans coming back home who are missing parts but they are grateful to be alive to see their parents, families, kids, friends. A lot of the times I have to till my patients these things when we arrive on scene so they can calm down instead of panicking. I hope you fulfill your dreams of being a FF, but if for some unknown reason you can not. It will not be the end of the world and there are plenty of other ways to help people. ;-)

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Neil Thomas August 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Hey my name is Neil Thomas. Im 18 years old just coming out of high school. I learned alot about what it means to become an firefrighter though this interview! Im in the Washington D.C. cadet program. Im very excited to become an firefrighter it always been an childhood dream. This interview was very important and was inspiring to me.

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Lauren S May 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I thought this interview was very inspirational….. I am currently an 18 year old female that volunteers with my local fire department. I will be going to college this year and was wondering what would be a good degree other then a fire science or medical degree that would benefit me in the fire service? Thank you!!

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Dustin B July 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hey Lauren, the best thing that I can help you with is probably take a fire science degree at a community college or take a medical degree to help you out…. why I am saying this is because I am already doing both degrees right now and I love it!! these degrees help you with becoming a firefighter. No matter what, you have to become a EMT in order to become a firefighter ( depends on the state). But, if you do not want to do those degrees, I would then advise you to think about it one more time or probably get a mechanical/engineering degree, which might help you with becoming a engineer. :)

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Brandon February 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

hi im looking for the authors name for this article i need the first and last name to make a proper citation to avoid plagiarism….thank you

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trave45 February 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Brandon, this particular interview was done anonymously. Please cite the URL and website in your article. Thank you.

Aaron
JobShadow Team

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Nokubonga February 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

My name is nokubonga i am 18 years old i alwayz wanted to be a firefighter to risk my life to save others so the interview make me and inspires to carry on,on being a firefighter

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Kendall Smith December 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hey I’m 12 and i want to be a firefighter when i grow up and i want to know more information about firefighting. Can you send me more information to my email.

Thank You,
Sincerely,
Kendall Smith

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Patrick Borges November 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

hi, i have yet to have a conversation or talk to a firefighter yet and thought i would be lucky enough to get a couple of answers i need. First off, i am currently on the list for Peabody MA, about to get my associates degree in fire science in about a week and going to go for my EMT next. I was thinking about moving out of peabody where i have lived for 10 years. i am 22 years old and was wondering if i move out will i still have my preference in Peabody? And also, does your pay increase with the higher your education or does it only increase your chances of becoming a firefighter? Thanks for the help and god bless .

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Johnny Rod December 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi, I’v been a FF for 8 yrs now in Houston, Fire Dep. We don’t have lists down here. But if you get your certs as FF and EMT then you can apply anywhere really. Your 22 so you have plenty of time to get on. I had to google Peabody, Ma. You really have to talk to them and see if you can remain on the list even if you move. I’ve heard of guys interviewing in other states and still getting call backs from there first choice city and state. Just take into consideration that you would have to learn all new territorries, streets, hospitals, and if you move south. That changes everything you know. No forzen hydrents, ice on the road are rare, and winter days are about 2 weeks combined in total.

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Johnny August 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm

O and some dept. also hire 18 yrs. But this would mean you have to get your EMT cert. and a Fire cert while your in H.S. like over the summer or after school with night classes. It is possable if you take care of all your manditory H.S. classes to graduate first 3 yrs. Some schools allow you to go take college level classes while in H.S. your Sr. yr. at a community college. Check with your local C.C.’s first befor doing anything.

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Johnny August 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Hello, I’m 35 yrs old and I’ve been a firefighter for 8 yrs now and the one thing that hasn’t been cover in Military exp. Like Navy personel all have firefighting exp. You get FF training while in bootcamp. You can learn any job as a primary and when you get Honorably discharged alot of departments hire military vets that healthy and able and will train you. Usually big city Fire Departments. This is how I got on. Saw the World first then came on when I came back home. And yes keep a clean record and stay or get in shape before trying out. There is a lot of competion as you can all read.

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Zachary Kofsky May 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I am 17 and In my junior year of high school. I am currently a cadet in the local dept in my town. I have received FEMA certification. I have talked to my chief of doing firefighter 1 next year which is looking good.
Right now I live in a town in Vermont (not to big) but I plan on moving to Aberdeen MD after graduation and get involved with a dept there full time. What are some things I can do to solidify my chances?

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kelsi creighton January 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

hey im 16 and ive always wanted to be a firefighter. the interview just makes me want to be one even more

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Alex Wood December 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

To the young prospective firemen, to help get the experience for an application and make urself look better, look around ur community for a local volunteer fire department ans see if u can get on as a jr. That will help alot.

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Jon Langston November 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

Im a sophmore 16 years of age wanting to be a firfighter when i am older and help people.so what can i do to find out more about this carreer choice and what can i do do to increase my chances of being a fireman

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cullen blankenship January 25, 2012 at 8:51 am

To increase your chances to become a firefighter, be like me. I am 15 years old, a junior explorer at my local fire station. Get in contact with your local fire department and ask them if there are any opportunities to get interactive with them.

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Orlando Arevalo November 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Hey, I’m a sophmore in highschool and I am really interested in being a firefighter. What can i do to help my chances.

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Andres Patiño October 5, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Hi, I’m 16 years old and want to be a firefighter… This interview helped a lot! I just wanted to ask what I can start doing at age 16 that will help me get in 100% when im older. Thanks!!

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romeo brooks February 25, 2008 at 11:26 am

my name is romeo brooks, and i’m interest in this career job.
thanks

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