Firefighters – Opportunities To Become A First Responder

By Marly Tisney

If you’re interested in firefighting, but you can’t see yourself as someone who runs into burning buildings to save people’s lives, don’t rule out the entire career just yet. From paramedics and engineers to fire chiefs and captains, there are many different types of firefighters, and knowing about them may help you decide which one you’d like to become.

Mike Carey from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Mike Carey from Flickr’s Creative Commons

An entry-level firefighter often has to learn how to use firefighting equipment. This includes tools such as hoses, ladders and safety gear. Many of the duties consist of helping with accidents and cleaning up dangerous situations such as gas or oil spills.
Firefighting Engineer
The firefighting engineer drives the fire trucks wherever they need to go. They also work on the trucks as needed when there is a mechanical problem. Although some engineers will participate in fire situations, they normally only work on the trucks to make sure everything is operational for the firefighters.

The lieutenant or captain of a fire crew is in charge of every situation. At the scene, this person will command the firefighters. He also has the difficult job of deciding who may not be cut out for the job, since he oversees the logistics of every scene.

Fire Chief
Every fire station has one person who is in charge of everyone, including the lieutenant. Fire chiefs often don’t respond to emergency situations; instead, they stay back to manage fire station operations. They ensure everyone is doing what he is supposed to and that the fire station runs smoothly to be ready for emergencies.

Firefighting Paramedic
Most fire stations have at least one paramedic. This person rides along with the fire crew on every call to help the people injured at the scene. They are first responders, and they often get there before the ambulance.

Urban Firefighters
This type of firefighter works in large cities. They are the most common type of firefighter. They respond to all sorts of emergencies, from accidents to fires.

Rural Firefighters
These firefighters work in rural areas, and they often respond to out-of-control brush fires, house fires, accidents and medical emergencies.

Wildfire Firefighters
Instead of running into burning buildings, these firefighters run into the woods. The summer months are the busiest for these firefighters since that is when most wildfires occur. With this type of firefighting, many different tools are used when extinguishing fires, such as helicopters and parachutes. Within this type of firefighting, there are many different types of firefighters. For instance, smoke jumpers leap out of airplanes to attack fires inaccessible any other way. There are also hand crews, rappellers and helitacks.

Preparing for a Firefighting Career
Most fire departments require firefighters to have a degree. Depending on the type of position, a fire science degree or an emergency management masters degree may be needed. To find out, speak to your local fire department.
To maximize your opportunities, consider becoming a volunteer firefighter. These positions sometimes require a degree, but not always. Some fire departments will bring on a volunteer to shadow experienced firefighters in order to learn the tricks of the trade. Not only does volunteering give you an inside look into the career, but it also provides valuable experience to add to your resume.
Only you can decide which career is best suited to your goals in life. Being a firefighter is a highly rewarding career but one that presents a lot of stressful situations — make sure it will be the right fit for you. Take some time to research and decide before pursuing your degree or additional training.

About the Author: Contributing writer Marly Tisney has a master of public administration degree and works as a rural fire chief. She heads the volunteer firefighting campaign in her small community in order to support those considering becoming firefighters.


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