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400 Terms Every Firefighter Candidate Should Know

Becoming a firefighter is like learning a new language. Many candidates think that it is easy to become a firefighter, and there is not much to learn.

Once they start taking fire technology classes at the local community college or get hired by a fire department and have to now retain and understand the masses amounts of technical information that is thrown to them, they soon understand it is not as easy as they may have perceived it to be.

If you are one of those folks that think they know it all, please think again. There are numerous terms and phrases unique to the fire service and to our industry.

Fully understanding those terms and being able to provide a personalized definition should someone ask (such as during an oral interview or during your probationary process), will help lead to your success as a firefighter.

At the bare minimum, every firefighter needs to know and understand the following words or terms, and also have a definition they can offer (that doesn't sound like it was straight out of the dictionary) to an oral board or to their probationary officers they work under.

In alphabetical order, here are some words to know and understand (to successfully become a firefighter):

  1. Accountability
  2. Adaptable
  3. Adverse Impact
  4. Aerial Device
  5. Aerial Ladder
  6. Aerial Ladder Platform
  7. Aggressiveness
  8. Alarm Assignment
  9. All Clear
  10. Anchor Point
  11. Area of Origin
  12. Arson
  13. Assisting Agency
  14. Attic Ladder
  15. Automatic Aid
  16. Automatic Sprinkler System
  17. Backdraft
  18. Backfire
  19. Balloon Frame Construction
  20. Base
  21. Beam
  22. Beam Raise
  23. Bed Section
  24. Belay
  25. Bight
  26. Boiling Point
  27. Booster Line/Hose
  28. Boundary Drop
  29. Bowline
  30. Budget
  31. Building Construction
  32. Bumper Line
  33. Burn Index
  34. Burning Out
  35. Capital Budget
  36. Caring
  37. Cellar Nozzle
  38. Central Station Alarm System
  39. Chain of command
  40. Chain Saw
  41. Chief Officer
  42. Circular Saw
  43. Class A Fire
  44. Class B Fire
  45. Class C Fire
  46. Class D Fire
  47. Class K Fire
  48. Cockloft
  49. Code 2
  50. Code 3
  51. Code 4
  52. Cold Trail
  53. Collapse Zone
  54. Combustible Liquid
  55. Combustion
  56. Command
  57. Command Post
  58. Command Staff
  59. Commitment
  60. Commitment to life-long learning and education
  61. Communication
  62. Company
  63. Company Officer
  64. Compassion
  65. Concrete Tilt Up Construction
  66. Conduction
  67. Confined Space
  68. Confinement
  69. Control Zones
  70. Convection
  71. Cooperating Agency
  72. Cornice
  73. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
  74. Crowd Control
  75. Cryogenic
  76. Cultural Diversity
  77. Customer Service
  78. Decay Phase
  79. Deck Gun
  80. Decontaminate
  81. Dedication
  82. Defensive Mode/Strategy
  83. Deluge Sprinkler System
  84. Demobilization (or Demob)
  85. Dependability
  86. Determination
  87. Direct Attack
  88. Directive
  89. Discipline
  90. Division
  91. Division of Labor
  92. Diversity
  93. Dogs
  94. Double Female
  95. Double Male
  96. Dry Barrel Hydrant
  97. Duff
  98. Ego (or lack of)
  99. Egress
  100. Emergency Operations Center
  101. Emergency Traffic
  102. Empathy
  103. Employee Assistance Program
  104. Entitlement
  105. Escape Route
  106. Ethics
  107. Evacuation
  108. Expectations
  109. Exposures
  110. Extinguishment
  111. Extended Attack
  112. Extension Ladder
  113. Extrication
  114. Fast Attack
  115. Finance Section Chief
  116. Fire
  117. Fire Attack
  118. Fire Department Connection
  119. Fire Flank
  120. Fire Flow
  121. Fire Investigation
  122. Fire Line
  123. Fire Load
  124. Fire Mark
  125. Fire Prevention
  126. Fire Tetrahedron
  127. Fire Triangle
  128. Fire Watch
  129. First Due
  130. First Responder
  131. Fixed Temperature Heat Detector
  132. Flameover
  133. Flammable Liquid
  134. Flash Fuels
  135. Flashover
  136. Flashpoint
  137. Flat Head Axe
  138. Flat Raise
  139. Flexible
  140. Fly Section
  141. Fog Nozzle
  142. Folding Ladder
  143. Forward Lay
  144. Four-Step Teaching Method
  145. Four-Way Hydrant Valve
  146. Free Burning Phase
  147. Friction Loss
  148. Fuel
  149. Fuel Type
  150. Fusible Link
  151. Gang Nail
  152. General Staff
  153. Goals
  154. Good listener
  155. Grommets
  156. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter
  157. Ground Ladder
  158. Group
  159. Gusset Plate
  160. Halligan
  161. Harassment
  162. Hard Suction Hose
  163. Hazard Assessment
  164. Head Pressure
  165. Header
  166. Heat Detector
  167. Heat Transfer
  168. Heel
  169. Helibase
  170. Helicopter Tender
  171. Helispot
  172. Helitack
  173. Helitanker
  174. Honesty
  175. Honor
  176. Horizontal Ventilation
  177. Hose Lay
  178. Hydraulic Ventilation
  179. Ignition
  180. Ignition Component
  181. Ignition Temperature
  182. Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health
  183. Incendiary Fire
  184. Incident Action Plan
  185. Incident Base
  186. Incident Commander
  187. Incident Command System
  188. Incipient Phase
  189. Increaser
  190. Indirect Attack
  191. Information Officer
  192. Initial Attack
  193. Initiative
  194. Inspection Hole
  195. Inspector's Test Valve
  196. Integrity
  197. Interior Attack
  198. Investigate
  199. Ionization Smoke Detector
  200. Isolate
  201. Kelly Day
  202. Kernmantle Rope
  203. Lapping
  204. Large Diameter Hose
  205. Lateral Transfer
  206. Leadership
  207. Leeward
  208. Level I Staging
  209. Level II Staging
  210. Lightweight Construction
  211. Load Bearing Wall
  212. Local Alarm System
  213. Liability
  214. Life Safety
  215. Line Item Budget
  216. Lobby Control
  217. Local Alarm System
  218. Lock Out/Tag Out
  219. Logistics Section Chief
  220. Loyalty
  221. Lower Explosive Limit
  222. Lower Flammable Limit
  223. Management By Objectives
  224. Manual Pull Station
  225. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
  226. Masonry
  227. Master Plan
  228. Master Stream
  229. Maturity
  230. Mayday
  231. Mechanical Ability
  232. Michigan Vs. Tyler
  233. Mitigate
  234. Mop Up
  235. Motivation
  236. Mushrooming
  237. Mutual Aid
  238. Negligence
  239. Organized
  240. Obedience
  241. Objectives
  242. Offensive Mode/Strategy
  243. Operational Period
  244. Operations Section Chief
  245. Outside Screw & Yoke Valve
  246. Overhaul
  247. Oxidizer
  248. Parallel Attack
  249. Parapet Wall
  250. Passion
  251. Pawls
  252. Performance Evaluation
  253. Persistence
  254. Perseverance
  255. Personal Accountability Report
  256. Personnel Accountability System
  257. Photoelectric Smoke Detector
  258. Pick Head Axe
  259. Pike Pole
  260. Placard
  261. Plan Check
  262. Planning Section Chief
  263. Plectron
  264. Point of Origin
  265. Post Incident Analysis
  266. Post Indicator Valve
  267. Preconnect
  268. Preaction Sprinkler System
  269. Pre-Fire Plan
  270. Primary Search
  271. Private Hydrant
  272. Progressive Discipline
  273. Progressive Hoselay
  274. Property Conversation
  275. Prusik
  276. Public Education
  277. Public Information Officer
  278. Public Safety Answering Point
  279. Pump and Roll
  280. Pump Panel
  281. Punctual
  282. Purlin
  283. Pyrolysis
  284. Quint
  285. Radiation
  286. Rapid Intervention Crew/Team
  287. Rate of Rise Heat Detector
  288. Rate of Spread
  289. Reasonable Accommodation
  290. Record Keeping
  291. Reducer
  292. Rehabilitation (or Rehab)
  293. Rescue
  294. Residual Pressure
  295. Resource Management
  296. Response Time
  297. Responsibility
  298. Reverse Lay
  299. Ridge
  300. Riser
  301. Risk Management
  302. Rollover
  303. Sacrifice
  304. Safety
  305. Safety Officer
  306. Safety Zone
  307. Salvage
  308. Scene Assessment
  309. Scene Management
  310. Scene Size-up
  311. Secondary Search
  312. Sector
  313. Sexual Harassment
  314. Shelter In Place
  315. Shoring
  316. Single Resource
  317. Size Up
  318. Smoke
  319. Smoke Alarm
  320. Smoke Detector
  321. Smoldering Phase
  322. Solid Stream / Smooth Bore Nozzle
  323. Span of Control
  324. Split Lay
  325. Spontaneous Combustion
  326. Spotting
  327. Staging
  328. Staging Area
  329. Standpipe
  330. Stang Gun
  331. Static Pressure
  332. Still Alarm
  333. Stop Drop and Roll
  334. Straight Ladder
  335. Strategic Plan
  336. Strategy
  337. Street Box
  338. Strike Team
  339. Stud
  340. Studious
  341. T-Card
  342. Tactics
  343. Target Hazard
  344. Task Force
  345. Teamwork
  346. Technical Rescue
  347. Tenacity
  348. Thermal Balance
  349. Thermal Imbalance
  350. Tiller Truck
  351. Tilt Up Construction
  352. Time Management
  353. Topography
  354. Tormentor Pole
  355. Tower Ladder
  356. Traffic Control
  357. Training
  358. Transfer of Command
  359. Trench Cut
  360. Triple Combination Pumper
  361. Trunked Radio System
  362. Truss
  363. Turnout Time
  364. Two-in, Two-out
  365. Type I Construction
  366. Type II Construction
  367. Type III Construction
  368. Type IV Construction
  369. Type V Construction
  370. Type I Engine
  371. Type II Engine
  372. Type III Engine
  373. Type IV Engine
  374. Under Control
  375. Unified Command
  376. Unity of Command
  377. Upper Explosive Limit
  378. Upper Flammable Limit
  379. Utilities
  380. Utility Rope
  381. Validity
  382. Values
  383. Vapor Density
  384. Vapor Pressure
  385. Ventilation
  386. Vertical Ventilation
  387. V Pattern
  388. Water Flow Alarm
  389. Water Gong
  390. Water Hammer
  391. Water Shuttle
  392. Water Supply
  393. Water Tender
  394. Water Thief
  395. Wet Barrel Hydrant
  396. Weather
  397. Windward
  398. Work Ethic
  399. Working Fire
  400. Wye

If any of the above items are new or foreign to you, please take the time to understand them and learn more about them. Doing so will increase your knowledge of fire science and the fire service in general, and help prove your commitment and dedication to the best career in the world. It is not uncommon to have people ask you what those above items mean, during an oral interview or during your probationary process. Don't be the one that says, "I don't know, but I'll get back to you," or the one that tries to B.S. their way through an answer because they have no clue what you are asking.

If you are planning to become a firefighter or if you already are a firefighter, you should have a personalized definition (as opposed to a standard textbook answer) and understanding of the abovementioned words, terms or phrases. You never know when you will be put on the spot and be expected to provide a definition. The choice is yours - be prepared or unprepared.


Steve Prziborowski is a Captain with the Santa Clara County (Los Gatos, CA.) Fire Department and has been in the fire service for 12 years. He is also the Fire Technology Coordinator at Chabot College in (Hayward, CA.), where he has been instructing fire technology and EMT courses for 10 years. He is a state certified Chief Officer, Fire Officer, Master Instructor, Hazardous Materials Technician, and state licensed Paramedic. He has an Associate's degree in Fire Technology, a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master's degree in Emergency Services Administration.

He also publishes a free monthly newsletter geared toward better preparing the future firefighter for a career in the fire service, "The Chabot College Fire & EMS News," that is available on his website at www.chabotfire.com

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