Thread: Newbie needs advice
08-05-2010, 11:35 AM #1
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
Newbie needs advice
I have a full time job and have decided recently to volunteer as a firefighter for a local volunteer department. I have limited knowledge about the industry but have been reading magazines and the forums on here to educate myself. I have had no "hands-on" training yet so this is going to be a challenge for me but I am ready.
I haven't started my initial formal school training. In the meantime, I would like to educate myself as much as possible. Any ideas of books, magazines, websites, or anything else that might help educate myself for this? Any advice is much appreciated too!
I am extremely excited to start the training but just want to know as much as possible before I begin.
08-05-2010, 05:46 PM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2009
I personaly do not like these books, but they are a good beginning resource::
are you able to just set at the station you are going to volunteer at??
if so just set around and watch what is going on, and ask a few questions
and if they will let you get your hands dirty
is the volunteer department going to be the one that you reference about training??
08-05-2010, 05:46 PM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2009
check your local libary for books
08-05-2010, 07:07 PM #4
Don't ever take anything you read and tell someone at a scene that they did it wrong based on your book.
You'll find out real quickly what a smooth bore nozzle feels like.
See if anyone at the station is willing to be your mentor and listen and watch closely.Steve Dragon
FFII, Fire Instructor II, Fire Officer I, Fire Appartus Driver Operator Certified
Volunteers are never "off duty".
08-06-2010, 09:41 PM #5
You don't really say if you're pursuing a full-time career or not, so I'll assume that the plan is to keep your day job and be a volunteer.
You're off to a great start perusing these forums. If you can filter out some of the bickering that sometimes goes on, you're bound to pick up on trends, past and present, great articles on Firehouse.com and who's who in the fire service. If you haven't already, I suggest you subscribe to Firehouse magazine as well. Fire World, Firehouse Central Exposition, East meets West, FDIC-East or West, and EMS Expo are all good conferences to go to for their seminars and symposiums. Many have volunteer tracks as part of their offerings.
If you have an opportunity, if you ever visit the big city nearest you, arrange a ride-along so you can get a taste of how career firefighters operate. This will give you a good point of reference of how other departments work, if yours is not so busy! Good Luck!!
"Purpose, Truth and Passion Yield Power and Dominion IN ACTION!!!"
08-19-2010, 12:36 PM #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2010
if the dept. you volunteer at allows you to hang around there, i'd recommend you go through all the rigs and compartments..chances are their are tools in there that you have never heard/seen of. find someone willing to teach and ask questions. i guarantee you they'll appreciate the initiative you are taking to learn...if their is someone else there thats new as well, get together and quiz each other on whats in what compartment and names and uses of tools...and remember, there is always something to learn.
08-22-2010, 09:01 PM #7
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
Thanks all for the insight guys. It is not a full time position or paid department so staying at the station is not an option. I plan on just listening to others and buddying up with people to get more knowledge. Thanks for the book references too.
08-23-2010, 09:45 AM #8
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
If you can get your hands on the books they are going to use for your training, start reading through them. They are a good foundation so you will at least understand some of the basic terms and tactics. You'll still obviously need the hands on and instruction, but it should help you pick it up quicker. (I read the book before I started testing since I had no fire experience, a few days before we covered the material in the academy and then reviewed it during the actual chapter. Helped me retain the info a lot better.)
Also, find out when the guys are washing the trucks. Go over and help them. If there's someone there that's willing to answer some questions (hopefully everyone would be), ask them "what does this do" or "when would you use this." If they have a standpipe in their station, they might even set up a line for you to play with a little bit.
09-05-2010, 10:36 AM #9
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Here is a great place to start:
This sample Firefighter Two-Year Plan was developed with input from Mike
Sarjeant, a Deputy Chief on the Long Beach, California, Fire Department.
If still in high school look into a Regional Occupational Program
Many local fire departments have community outreach recruitment
Graduate from high school or obtain your GED.
A diploma is much preferred.
Talk with a counselor at a community college that offers fire science
Set up a course curriculum that allows you to obtain a two-year degree in
fire science. If the local college does not offer a fire science program, find
one that does.
This curriculum should also allow you to complete the prerequisite courses
for a fire academy.
Take an Emergency Medical Technician Course (EMT).
This will accomplish a few things. First of all, it is a course required by most
departments. It will also let you know if this profession is for you. If you find
you can’t handle the sight of blood or helping people during crises, the fire
service may not be for you.
Enroll in a state certified fire academy.
Many departments require completion of a Firefighter 1 Academy prior to
taking the entry-level exam.
Completion of a fire academy prior to being hired will greatly enhance
a candidate’s chance of successfully completing the fire department’s
academy. Many fire departments have a 25-30% failure rate.
Find out if your community has either a fire department volunteer
program or Fire Explorers.
Volunteering in the fire department is an excellent way to gain real life
experience. This exposure will also allow you to determine if this is
indeed the right career choice for you.
Volunteer in your community.
Find something that you are interested in and volunteer your time:
church, sports, hospital, YMCA, Red Cross, etc. It doesn’t matter.
Get involved. Volunteering is something that should be done because
it’s the right thing to do, not because it will look good on a firefighter
application. Firefighters are self-motivated and have historically been involved in
their communities. The perception is that if you are helping out in your
community now, you will be the type who will likely continue to stay
involved after you are hired, helping out in various committees and
groups both on and off the job.
Visit the local fire stations.
Interview the firefighters and elicit their help in planning your career
path. It is a tremendous compliment to the firefighters to have someone
aspire to be in their position. Visiting the fire stations will help you learn
about the job and the culture of the fire service. In addition, you will
learn of things that you could be doing to enhance your chances of
getting hired. Ultimately, when the department hires, you will be in a
good position since the firefighters have gotten to know you and have
taken the time to mentor you. There is nothing better than a “home
Prepare for a fire department interview.
Consider the reasons why you want to become a firefighter and be
able to express them. Do your research and learn the rules of the road
concerning the interview process. Participate in “mock” interviews with
Start a log that includes everything you have done to prepare yourself.
Include details, dates and names of instructors. Include any personal
experiences that may be pertinent to becoming a firefighter.
A few examples of this could be:
You witnessed a car accident and were able to render aid.
You volunteered your time at the Boys and Girls Club.
You experienced a life-changing event.
You were voted most inspirational on your athletic team or your fire
Your high school athletic team won the championship.
You were a lifeguard at the city pool.
Anything that you think might be significant. There are no rules. Write
This information will go on your resume, or may be speaking points in
an interview. This is preparing you to answer difficult questions in an
interview, such as, “Please share with the panel a stressful time in your
life and how you dealt with it.”
The log should just be an easy and accessible memory jogger for you. If
you are comfortable with a pencil and notepad, keep them in your room
in a convenient spot so you won’t forget to use them. If you are more
comfortable on the computer, then use it to formulate your thoughts
Get in shape.
Firefighting is a very physical job requiring peak physical strength and
endurance. If you are not in good physical condition, it will become very
evident during the physical ability testing or the pre-hire medical exam. It
is also important to look as if you are physically prepared for the job.
If you see a firefighter who looks out of shape, don’t look at him and
think, “If he got hired, so can I!” Odds are he was in better physical
condition when he was first hired. You are trying to do everything you
can to improve your chances. This is a very important part that you
have complete control over.
Look the part!
The rule of thumb in an interview is to hire someone who you can see
becoming a member of your crew tomorrow. A candidate who walks
in with excessive facial hair, large tattoos or body piercing that is not
permitted by the department’s policies presents as a candidate who
is not ready for the position. Do not make the mistake of saying that
you will remove them when you are ready to be hired. You are making
a statement. It is important to understand that the fire department is a
paramilitary organization. These will definitely not improve your chances
Invest in a suit and tie. Although not required for the interview, a
candidate who does not wear one stands out. First impressions are
critical. Make sure the suit is conservative, not flashy.
Dress professionally whenever you will have contact with members of
the department. This includes station visits. Remember, it is important
to make a good first impression.
Enroll in a service that lets you know which departments are testing.
There are several businesses on the Internet that will inform you of
which departments are testing and what their requirements are.
Most departments test every two to three years. They will then hire from
the “eligibility list” until it expires. The window to file an application is
usually very small, ranging from as short as one day to as long as 30
days. Once the filing period is closed, the department will not accept
any more applications. If you don’t have a subscription to one of these
services, you will miss a lot of opportunities.
Talk to your family.
The decision to become a firefighter is a monumental one. It will most
likely be a long road that requires a lot of time and sacrifice. If you don’t
have a family or friend support network, it will become extremely difficult.
Most importantly, if your spouse does not support your decision, you
are destined for failure.
Surround yourself with reputable people.
A firefighter position is a life choice, not just a job. You must be prepared
to live your life with excellent moral and ethical values. For this you will
need the support of family and friends who are good role models. If your
friends are not a positive influence in the community, you may want to
find a new set of friends. Remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather
flock together.” A background check will scrutinize not only you, but also
the company you keep.
Learn a trade.
Woodworking, framing, electrical, plumbing, welding and automotive are
all common examples of a trade. Firefighting is a very physical job that
requires good psychomotor skills and a hands-on approach. Typically
those who have learned a trade possess these applicable job skills. If
you know how a building is constructed, you will be able to predict how
a fire will travel through it. If you know where the electrical and plumbing
is typically run behind the drywall, you will most likely know where it
would be safe to open it up. You will also have become very comfortable
with power tools. The importance of being able to work with your hands
cannot be overstated.
If you don’t currently have this kind of experience, start taking classes
in a trade at your community college. You will at least learn the
basics. Back this up with some real life practical experience. It will be
invaluable knowledge and will play out well in an interview. Mechanical
aptitude cannot be learned in an Internet class or while sitting behind
Improve your public speaking skills.
If you are uncomfortable getting up in front of a group, you must take
steps to overcome your fear. The largest percentage of the testing
process is the interview and ultimately a large part of the job deals with
public speaking! You won’t talk a fire out, but you will talk to different
groups about how to prevent them. If you can present yourself well in
an interview, you are leaps and bounds ahead of the others who can’t.
Even if the other candidates have more experience than you, the job
will usually be awarded to the candidate who can present him or herself
in a clear and concise manner.
If public speaking is your downfall, it is imperative to join Toastmasters
or take some courses at your community college. A speech and debate
class is an excellent way to get over the jitters. Acting or drama classes
can also be an excellent way to feel more comfortable in front of a
Teaching others can also help you learn to think on your feet. Whether
you are teaching CPR and First Aid or your local Sunday school class,
it will help you learn to present information clearly and field questions.
A typical interview question might be, “What do you consider a weakness
about yourself?” Your answer could be, “I used to feel uncomfortable
getting up and speaking in front of a group. I knew this was a very
important part of my chosen vocation. I took several classes at my
community college to help improve my comfort level. Since then I feel
much more confident in my ability to speak in public.”
You can have all of the best traits in the world, but if you can’t effectively
convey them in an interview they will go unnoticed. Now that’s turning
a negative into a positive!
Maintain a clean driving and criminal record.
It goes without saying that firefighters are held to a standard that is
much higher than the average citizen. The road is littered with firefighter
candidates who have failed their background check due to a poor driving
or criminal record.
Maintain a good credit history.
Your credit history is a reflection of your reliability, honesty, organization
and attention to detail.
Update your resume.
Make sure your resume has no technical or grammatical errors, is well
organized and comprehensive. Ask reliable friends or family to proofread
Improve your Education
Got to school! Earn your Associates degree. If you already have one consider earning your Master’s degree. You must understand that many Chief Officers either are currently working on a Bachelors, had one when they started in the fire service, or earned one while working as a firefighter. You are in a bad position when asked about your educational plan and you do not have one.
Recruit fire academies are very academically challenging. You must have the academic background to make us believe that you can read technical information one night and be tested on it the next day. Additionally, we are looking for people who we can send to Paramedic or Hazardous Materials School. The more education you have, the better chance you will have of making it through tough academic programs.
Consider Becoming a Paramedic
A paramedic license will absolutely help you stand above the competition on most fire departments. DO NOT go to paramedic school just because you think it will help you get hired. Go because you like running EMS calls and would like to better be able to treat sick people.
Paramedic school is very tough. Do not go unless you are a very strong EMT and are ready!
Division ChiefPaul Lepore
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