1. #1
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    Default Thinking of joining the Dark Side!!...Help!

    I have been a Law Enforcement Officer for several years, a few months back my now 18 year-old son gave me horrible news...he told me he wanted to be a Firefighter.

    I swallowed hard and told him that I would help him research his options and find out what he needed to do to get his foot in the door.

    After talking to some FD (Arizona) folks, researching community college programs and searching the web; I was able to give him some decent info. I also realized that just possibly I may be interested in a career change.

    No other job allows you to show up at someone's home, break down their door, flood thier home with water, cut holes in the roof and then have the homeowner actually thank you and bake you a freakin pie!!

    Seriously, my research for my son has really led me to think about changing careers. I am 38, in pretty decent shape (could be better) and have a spotless record with my agency (even a few good commendations).

    I got into Law Enforcement to help people. Lately, I really don't feel like I am helping anyone that wants to be helped. I am sick of the courts, sick of the PC approach to LE and sick of going to the same house to take the same husband away for beating the same wife.

    I guess my questions are:

    How old is too old to be a Firefighter?

    Will my background in LE assist me in getting hired on in a department (I have already had the academy experience, had a full background, poly, pysch tests)?

    What can I expect from the interviews, academy, first year on the job?
    Any response from those working in FF (especially Arizona) would be helpful.

    Also, I'm not really big on heights; how much work is done on ladders more than two stories? I am not at phobia stage with heights, I just prefer the ground if at all possible.

  2. #2
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    Seven years ago, I was in a similar situation as yours. 12 years in law enforcement; I wasn't burnt out of the job but I could see it coming on the horizon.

    I had been involved in fire/ems since I was 18, mostly as a volunteer and part-timer (I was 33 at the time I made the jump) and had even gone back to school and got my paramedic. The opportunity to make the jump came up at the town I was working for as a cop (they were upgrading their EMS transport and looking for medics) and I was right there.

    Since I already had a background in the fire service, I found the transition to be fairly easy. I know of several others who have made the change and I can't think of one who had any huge problems. Funny thing; I am not aware of anyone who has gone the other way (fire job to law enforcement).

    In my current department, most of the second story work is done by the truckies (and since I'm a medic I'm rarely on a truck) so I don't see much ladder work, although it does happen on occasion. I don't have any problems with heights and it doesn't bother me.

    If there's any specific questions you have, post 'em and I'll try to answer them best I can.

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    Comming from my experience as a former volunteer FF, EMT working for a private company, recently completing a FF I academy, and having a great desire to get on the job full time. I can say your chances are good, not great, just good.

    Your setbacks could posible be your age, and lack of EMS training. Some departments have cutoff ages for applying so you may have to check that out. Plus many are looking for EMT's; a Medic license is a golden ticket but is not required.

    The testing process is highly compeditive, odds are comparable to being drafted to the NFL or NBA. Your history and experience you should help you with the testing process; math, reading, writing, psych portion, physical abilities and medical portion. You wont be able to skip any portion of the testing process, but it also should no be much of an obstacle for you. The academys' are similar to boot camp; which test desire to to the job, discipline, endurance, retention and ability to execute all functions of the job under extreme fatigue. Probation is a way to see how well you function as a firefighter work under stress, respect your station and duties, and live amongst your brothers. Remember you'll be with these people so much they'll become family. As far as your fear of heights. look at the tallest building in and near the community you'll be applying for, expect to work on the top of it. many departments require you to learn how to work on and off their average and possibly tallest ladder. a mother holding here infant over the 3rd story balcony is no time to find out if your really afraid of heights. truckies are not always available, you may have to proudly make a split decision rescue. Also, get to know your system and community. 10-20% calls are fire related and reducing every day. expect to be consistently awaken in the middle of the night by someone you've come to know on a first-name-basis because their back is hurting, again!

    Make the change because it is your desire, not because your fed up with your current job and think the new one is much cooler. There are some downsides working for the fire department. It's not for everyone.

  4. #4
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    Ever think about doing Fire Investigations your background would be a good fit.

    Just a thought

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    Don't join the Dark Side, join the Light Side....volunteer.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sepalmer View Post
    Ever think about doing Fire Investigations your background would be a good fit.

    Just a thought

    I haven't really thought about doing inv., I actually have certs for arson investigations. Investigators are there after the incident, I would much rather be there during it.

    I spent some time yesterday at a station, these guys work their butts off even when not on a call. I like that, I also like the fact that they have so much pride in what they do.

    So far as I can tell, there is no age cutoff for the agencies here and I am scheduling to get my EMT cert starting in mid June.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Don't join the Dark Side, join the Light Side....volunteer.
    Kinda hard to feed a family on the volunteer pay though.

    MadClown,

    Glad to see you have finally seen what firefighters and LEOs have in common...they both want to be firefighters.

    As for age we had a recruit join at 44. I'll take him on my truck in a heart-beat over some of these 2/20, I was a volunteer and see my stack of certs punks coming on the job. Plus he can outwork the 20 year old since he actually had to work the last 20 years and has not sat in front of a TV watching MTV and cartoons all day.

    Good luck. And if you want to relocate we are hiring again in the near future.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadClown View Post
    I haven't really thought about doing inv., I actually have certs for arson investigations. Investigators are there after the incident, I would much rather be there during it.

    I spent some time yesterday at a station, these guys work their butts off even when not on a call. I like that, I also like the fact that they have so much pride in what they do.

    So far as I can tell, there is no age cutoff for the agencies here and I am scheduling to get my EMT cert starting in mid June.
    While you are doing that, you should probably study for the enterance test too.

    Cause we all know, if you had scored higher the last time, you wouldn't have been a cop in the first place
    Co 11
    Virginia Beach FD

    Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. Which one are you?

    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.

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    No, you have it wrong, you are leaving the dark side to find the light. We had a local LEO transfer the to FD a few years ago-he was in his late 30's. He is a great asset to our FD .

    You have the advantage of relevant life experience and emergency response.

    As far as heights go, unless you have an unusual reaction to heights, don't worry about it. The fire academy will help you build confidence in heights and confined spaces/no visibility situations.
    -------------------
    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
    -----------------------------------------------
    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MadClown View Post
    I have been a Law Enforcement Officer for several years, a few months back my now 18 year-old son gave me horrible news...he told me he wanted to be a Firefighter.

    I swallowed hard and told him that I would help him research his options and find out what he needed to do to get his foot in the door.

    After talking to some FD (Arizona) folks, researching community college programs and searching the web; I was able to give him some decent info. I also realized that just possibly I may be interested in a career change.

    No other job allows you to show up at someone's home, break down their door, flood thier home with water, cut holes in the roof and then have the homeowner actually thank you and bake you a freakin pie!!

    Seriously, my research for my son has really led me to think about changing careers. I am 38, in pretty decent shape (could be better) and have a spotless record with my agency (even a few good commendations).

    I got into Law Enforcement to help people. Lately, I really don't feel like I am helping anyone that wants to be helped. I am sick of the courts, sick of the PC approach to LE and sick of going to the same house to take the same husband away for beating the same wife.

    I guess my questions are:

    How old is too old to be a Firefighter?

    Will my background in LE assist me in getting hired on in a department (I have already had the academy experience, had a full background, poly, pysch tests)?

    What can I expect from the interviews, academy, first year on the job?
    Any response from those working in FF (especially Arizona) would be helpful.

    Also, I'm not really big on heights; how much work is done on ladders more than two stories? I am not at phobia stage with heights, I just prefer the ground if at all possible.


    Couple of things -
    Your not too old. We have had several wrinkled rookies over the years. The only down-side for them is that they will have to work until they are 65 to draw a pension, whereas some of us that were lucky enough to start in our 20's will be retired and fishing at 55.

    It's okay to prefer the ground that being said I would take a long hard look at how much I prefer the ground. Climbing ladders is an essential firefighting task.

    Good Luck.

  11. #11
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    Retirement is the easiest part of this decision, our state FF's and LEO's are in the same retirement system, I don't lose anything for the switch.

    My biggest problem is finding an EMT class in Phoenix. I have checked every community college for classes and they are full. I don't want to wait until the fall to get started.

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    We have a saying here in our city. We tell the cops they couldn't beat the monkey playing checkers and that is why they got stuck as police!
    I have 4 generations of law enforcement in my family. My brother is an officer for the city I work for. I always had aspirations of going into law enforcement but did not have money for the academy at a young age. When I started volly'ing all the training was free. Eventually I tested for the neighboring city (where my uncle was a detective) and got hired. Love the job but every now and then I kick around the idea of going to the academy and doing police work p/t just to carry on family tradition. I currently have twin boys on their way into the world so they can split the jobs and flip a coin to see who wants to do what But seriously you can't go wrong. We had a guy hired at 45 years of age. If you have military time depending on pension laws you can buy that back and retire within your guidelines. You can't go wrong. Best job ever! Good luck.
    Local #10

    Charles Stephen
    Eric Jeffrey
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    My new twin boys that I love even more than being on the job!

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    I have seen this time and time again, Cops stnading on the side at structure fires. You can see that little twinkle in all of there eyes. They just wish they could be what they are watching. Seriously tho MadClown, good luck. I have a couple ex-cop buddies that are now good smokeeaters. I think it will help you, it will show an administration you can handle yourself in a stressful spot. Study hard, train hard, be humble. It will all work out in the end. And remember, Cops only became Cops because they got tired of failing the Firefighters exam. Stay safe brother and good luck.
    Gary
    Firefighter/EMT-B
    -------------------
    Stay Safe
    Leather Forever......F.O.O.L.S.

  14. #14
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    We all know God made cops so firefighters could have hero's!

    Seriously, since I started looking into this; I have become more and more convinced that this is the right switch for me. I still like being in law enforcement, I just don't love it anymore.

    I am at a point in my life where I want to still serve my community ( I know that sounds canned, but it's still the case) but just not in the same way.

    Law Enforcement is reactionary in nature, people call us when a crime is either being committed or has already been commited. 80% percent of the time when we arrive, we are no longer in a position to stop the crime from occuring. It's already happened and we are left with only a victim. We do get to catch up to the bad guys alot but it's not the same.

    Firefighting, EMS respond to people that need the help, the situation on their end only stops when they have FF/EMS on site.

    FF/EMS has alot more opportunities for community involvement than LE, They are in more proactive situations than LE and can garner greater support from those they are interacting with (ie: kids love FF, they are role models and kids don't want to let their role models down. Kids are influenced by LE only because they think we will arrest them if they go astray).

    I also think the training/career development aspect is great for FF, you are always training and learning. LE trains, but not near enough because we are so stretched.

    I am no longer in the thinking stage about this, I told my wife (she's always liked firemen better!) and have started working out like I did way back before the LE academy.

    If I can get into an EMT class this summer I will be elated, if not I will use the extra time to learn as much as I can about the gear and apparatus' used in this field.

    Any suggestions are welcome.

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    MadClown,
    What part of the country are you in. If you are in an area with volunteer departments, I would suggest joining one in the mean time. It will give you hands on experience and 99.9% of them will pay for your training and/or supply it. I found in my experience, the guys looking for jobs who have been volunteers previously seem to be much more prepared for application process and tend to shine in the administrations eyes. Thats what I did and I have been career for about 3 years now. Stay safe.
    Gary
    Firefighter/EMT-B
    -------------------
    Stay Safe
    Leather Forever......F.O.O.L.S.

  16. #16
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    You sound like you would be a great asset to the brotherhood ! Get on it man and start putting your app in places. Im sure somebody would snatch you up.

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    Cops and firemen are all alike. they both want to be a firefighter. Go for the change.

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    Maybe this will help in your choice, be sure to show this to your son.


    http://youtube.com/watch?v=4aGXovfjj-A

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=2bTnpoTWIvk

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=lE1qxIA59do


    Tell your son good luck, and what other jobs give you a pillow and blanket when you get hired.

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    Join the dark side? More like LEAVING the dark side.

    MadClown- Please PM me so we can chat on the phone. You have an awesome platform to start with.

    From another web board-

    Youre off to an excellent start. Right now your employeed as a public safety professional. Your mature, educucated, responsible, grounded and a family man. You have much more then the typical applicant.

    I see all of this just after reading your orignal post. Now, fine tune it all and bring it to an oral board. Use that foundation, its been done before. There is nothing thats gonna count against you unless your running from some sort of disipline problem at your current job.

    Next- Please dont make the common mistake most candidates do- Restrict themselves to jobs desired areas only. Pursue all the job openings you can. Too many Candidates shoot themselves in the foot by saying- "I want to only work at department X".

    An add from Bou-

    Also- Your age is NOT a negative factor. Its an edge. Who do you think is on hiring oral board. Not 20-25s years olds, no. Senior members of the department who will gravitate towards you building that bridge you need to score high marks.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 01-20-2008 at 01:33 PM.

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    I have talked to cops that said they did not like guns. I never really understood that until I became a firefighter. I don't like ladders but I will jump on one if need be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MadClown View Post
    We all know God made cops so firefighters could have hero's!
    We also know that if you could score a couple of points higher on the test you could also be a fireman ... I did the switch 23 years ago and never looked back
    IACOJ Membership 2002
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