Should I be a Firefighter?
#1
Question 
Hello,

As the title says, I'm considering making a career change into firefighting, and would appreciate your input. 

I am a healthy 26-year-old currently working with emotionally disturbed children in a public school. I have a B.A. in History and have worked in public school classrooms since I graduated college in 2017.  

We've just been on a 3-week Christmas break, so I've had a lot of time to reflect.

I do not like my job. It is politically charged (especially toward leftist gender politics) and I think that I've come to the conclusion that my desire to work with youth is actually a desire to raise children of my own. I can't even say that I enjoy teaching anymore because of how liberal our curriculum is and how liberal the education field is in general. 

The only positive I can think of about the job is that I get to be a role model and friend to those troubled youth who might not have friends or role models outside of school. But I can't help them in the faith-centric way which I think would be best for them. 

Basically there's nothing that compels me to want to come in to work everyday, so I've been exploring other careers.

I've thought about teaching in a Catholic school, but I've heard that sometimes they aren't any better than public schools. Plus the pay is very low. 

What I know that I can't do is sit at a desk behind a computer all day, I'd get too restless; I enjoy being active and exercising. I also have a service-oriented personality so I think that firefighting could be a good fit for me. I fantasize about working more with my hands, being in good shape, and being able to serve the common good. I'd imagine that firefighting would allow me to do all of these things, while also being a less politically-charged job. 

Basically my only goal in life is to work a job that I like and be able to raise and support a devout Catholic family. I'm praying for all of God's graces to help me achieve this goal. 

Please share with me your thoughts. Are there any other careers you think could be a good fit for me? Thanks for your reply!

God bless you,

AdmiresAquinas
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#2
I wouldn't necessarily give up on teaching. A private Catholic school would probably be a good fit for you, but yes, the pay likely wouldn't be very good.

You impress me as being more blue-collar, so firefighting might be a good pick if you can handle the physical demands required to get such a job. Outside of that, other trades such as carpenter, plumber or electrician sound right up your alley. Tradesmen can usually get decent wages if you're willing to go where the work is.
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#3
Hi AdmiresAquinas,

I will do my best to help you. This is based off of my own experiences in the trades as well as being a volunteer fireman. I will give you what I know and what I experienced, as well as some possible avenues for you to take (do with it what you will).


I don't know where you are from, or what the departments around you look like, but in general, they are moving in similar directions these days. About 90% of calls are not for fires. REMEMBER THIS.

Many people sign up for departments to fight fires and they may never see one. Each department is run similar to others - while also being its own authoritative body. So for example you may have a volunteer dept. that is in town that is run differently than the dept. 15 miles away in town B. It is based off of SOG's - your standard operating guidelines. If you really want to know how a department is run, this is what you need to read.

SOG's give you the understanding and line-up of what to do in each situation generally speaking. There is always theory and then there is practice, but I'm not getting into that right now. For example, you have a fire in the ditch from someone's cigarette. It's not near any watersource. Your SOG will tell you that the first rig to roll out will be your grass rig/brush rig and tender/tanker, or truck 1, etc.. Or you may role out all of them anyway because it is rural. Then, you may call town B for help and they may show up or may not. Rural departments are really just getting by these days. But anyways, your SOGs tell you what you need to roll out for each situation generally speaking.

Now an avenue for someone in your situation may be to get on with a volunteer dept. Then, you may continue building your teaching experience as well as see what it is like to be with a dept. It's not career and you don't get paid. You give a lot. It is tiring. You may not feel like responding to a call, but the reality is when you sign your name onto a dept., you are signing your character. That means that you are saying you can count on me. This is no joke. I'm not trying to dissuade you from doing it, I really think you should look into it. However it can be tiring.

Here is my experience. 6-7 months on a volunteer dept.
8 calls.
I responded to 3 of them. The other 5 happened when I was at work on a jobsite 30 miles away from the department.
Of the 8 calls, I believe none of them were fire related. Some had to do with smoke coming out of HVAC systems, or gas. Others had to do with a vehicle accident on icy roads, etc...

However, much of my time with the department was spent in meetings, training, self-study for classes (you need to be able to become a student again and have the work-ethic for it), volunteering to fundraise, responding to emails and group-texts, cleaning, projects around the departments. Basically, another full-time job in which I am not being paid. My benefit was knowledge and experience though, and a chance to give back to the community.

Now when you apply to a department or get on with one, just keep in mind that much of your time that is spent at the department may not have to do with responding to calls. It may mean on a monday night after you're done at work, that you have the monthly business meeting that is only supposed to last an hour, but ends up being 3. You get home at 10 at night. Maybe you haven't even had supper yet. It could mean giving one of your saturdays away to help clean checks and check hoses because departments need their hoses to be in good condition. And yet, you may never even use some of the hoses that you check. This is service, it's a mix of all, good and bad. I think you should still check it out though.


If you apply to a career dept., they may not accept you. And this isn't necessarily a strike against you. It is always the there was someone who was a better fit. The way departments are moving these days are rather a combo of: (in this general order) - 1. Public Safety/EMS calls 2. Fire Suppression, 3. Odds and ends.

Many of your calls will be drug overdoses and heart attacks, EMS emergency related. Look into getting EMT. You can go paramedic from there if you wish some day, but it is almost a requirement nowadays to have EMT when you apply to a career if you want a chance.

Fire Suppression is the main goal, but as a home can burn full on within 2 minutes, it may already be done by the time you get there. With the growth of lightweight construction and the fact that almost everything nowadays, from the carpets to thin dry walls, burn fast, and not just on fire, but you also have to account for the cocktail of gases (phosgene, HCN, etc..), homes burn faster and fire depts. are struggling to keep up.

Now in the event that you arrive to a structure fire. To go in you need FF1. FF1 is interior fire fighting that is your basic rules. FF2 has a bit more about leader ship and chain of command, IC, and builds upon FF1.



I apologize for the length. But I hope it really helps.

In short, I think you should go volunteer.

Here are the credentials you need at the very least:  ICS FEMA - this is incident command system basics - your department will show you how to get this.

FF1 to actually go into the structure and carry the hand/attack line.

You can drive truck and run hose and run the tanker and deck gun without FF1 or FF2 on a volunteer dept. Yes, it sounds bad, but depts. need help and they will train you.

But eventually you want FF1, and FF2.
EMT/Basic CPR
Hazmat Cert.

Check out Code 3 podcast by Scott Orr. It will help give you a broad swath of info for the fire service.




I am not career though, I was only a volunteer. I currently as my main job deal with plumbing and sprinkler systems.

Here's the deal with the trades. They are lucrative in a couple ways. Many people see the $ signs but don't know the cost.

1. Trade Unions - The reason why if you look up how much does trade x make per hour and it is around the 20's for starting out. This is the average based off of trade unions. Trade unions pay you high amounts per hour. However you pay union dues. Since the unions have all endorsed Biden/Harris and have been for the past few years, I would really pray about this. After much prayer and thought, I went non-union. I just think that even if I make less, it is better to maintain my moral integrity. I'm not giving dues to socialists.

2. Start your own company - You need to have the experience and license.

3. This one isn't so lucrative, but it is a combo of finding decent pay, but also a decent trade-off. The reason there is so much substance abuse and divorce rates and stress in the trades is because of high hours and high travel. If you want to find a trade that is conducive to raising a family, you really need to also be interviewing your potential employer. It may be better for you to take decent pay per hour with a typical 8 hour day - 5 day/ per week, low travel job. Now I get it, it may only be 17-$18 per hour starting, but you also need to have a work life balance.

Lastly, guard yourself on the jobsite. Pray for your coworkers daily and pray for purity. You will hear things you will never be able to unhear.

I hoped this helped. God Bless, I will pray for you.

















Also, everyone's journey is unique, and there may be a tendency to do what others have done, but you need to first and foremost follow God's will in your own life.
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#4
(01-10-2021, 03:03 PM)AdmiresAquinas Wrote: Hello,

As the title says, I'm considering making a career change into firefighting, and would appreciate your input. 

I am a healthy 26-year-old currently working with emotionally disturbed children in a public school. I have a B.A. in History and have worked in public school classrooms since I graduated college in 2017.  

We've just been on a 3-week Christmas break, so I've had a lot of time to reflect.

I do not like my job. It is politically charged (especially toward leftist gender politics) and I think that I've come to the conclusion that my desire to work with youth is actually a desire to raise children of my own. I can't even say that I enjoy teaching anymore because of how liberal our curriculum is and how liberal the education field is in general. 

The only positive I can think of about the job is that I get to be a role model and friend to those troubled youth who might not have friends or role models outside of school. But I can't help them in the faith-centric way which I think would be best for them. 

Basically there's nothing that compels me to want to come in to work everyday, so I've been exploring other careers.

I've thought about teaching in a Catholic school, but I've heard that sometimes they aren't any better than public schools. Plus the pay is very low. 

What I know that I can't do is sit at a desk behind a computer all day, I'd get too restless; I enjoy being active and exercising. I also have a service-oriented personality so I think that firefighting could be a good fit for me. I fantasize about working more with my hands, being in good shape, and being able to serve the common good. I'd imagine that firefighting would allow me to do all of these things, while also being a less politically-charged job. 

Basically my only goal in life is to work a job that I like and be able to raise and support a devout Catholic family. I'm praying for all of God's graces to help me achieve this goal. 

Please share with me your thoughts. Are there any other careers you think could be a good fit for me? Thanks for your reply!

God bless you,

AdmiresAquinas

I am married to a firefighter/paramedic, and was myself a volunteer firefighter/EMT for six years. I stopped volunteering because I started to have children and you can't really run out to calls in the middle of the night when you have infants. :) Here are some thoughts:

There's nothing quite like being a firefighter. It is absolutely a young man's game and you will probably be in your element if you do decide to join a department. You'll love the comraderie and the sense of purpose. You'll also have to get some kind of EMS certification, though, so make sure you're cool with that.

Make sure your future spouse is cool with you missing birthdays/anniversaries/family celebrations while you're on shift. And make sure she's not lying about being cool with it. :D

It's very hard on the body so make sure to take care of your health. Joint health especially.

Now for the important part. Being in emergency services changes you, and it's not always for the better. It could be a chance for you to grow in your faith but it could also weaken it. You see the dredges of humanity. You will have babies die in your arms. You can develop horrible PTSD. There's a reason there's such a high suicide rate, for EMS workers especially.

Make sure you pray about this vocation. If you do choose it, all the best! And in the words of one of my captains: "Don't chug ice water after a structure fire. And don't eat no Captain D's, neither." XD

And as far as other jobs, are you certified in anything? You could probably go out and be a certified welder, or car mechanic, or some other kind of technician if you have any spare time.

ETA: I didn't mean to insult your B.A. in History by asking if you were certified in anything. I have a B.A. in English and heaven knows I haven't used that for anything. :D
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#5
I'd say give it a try. Try to get a ride along with your local fire department and pick their brains about the job, if you can.

Years ago I rode with San Antonio Fire Department for a few months during paramedic training and learned a lot. Great bunch of guys with camaraderie similar to the military.

If I hadn't been in the Army, I certainly would have applied.
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#6
It mostly depends on where you live, and what departments you are looking at. Each specific regional area seems to have some peculiar needs based off of demographics and geographic things. But there are several common "things" that are the same all over the US and several "things" you can do to improve your test taking and getting hired.

1) Get your Paramedic License. Do not waste anymore time on fire science related course other than maybe your Firefighter I certification at the local state level. Every fire department sends their probationary firefighters to their own academies. So even if you come to the table with an AS in Fire Science, they are going to send you to a 6-18 week internal academy before sending you to the floor.

2) Get your Paramedic License. Between 70% to 80% of the call volume is EMS. Departments want Paramedics. They can train anyone to fight fire their way. But getting your Paramedic opens up more testing slots for a myriad of departments, and saves the department money by not having to send their personnel off to a Paramedic course while on the department dime.

3) Get your Paramedic License. It can take years to get hired by fire departments. The civil service testing exams are tricky things. Racial quotas, budget demands, intense competition, and increasingly difficult testing processes. I distinctly remember going to tests for departments like San Francisco FD, Oakland FD, LA City FD, Long Beach FD, and a host of others where there were literally thousands of applicants for maybe 10-20 slots for the year. They have changed a little bit now in how they score points, with the majority of written exams and physical agilities being "Pass/Fail" now as opposed to carrying the points forward as a way of eliminating applicants in the process. The last few tests I participated in, this time as administering them, we were only scoring the Oral Boards for points. Point being, while you are testing and learning how to test and interview, you can make a modest living as a Paramedic while you wait for (years potentially) to actually get hired on.

4) Get Your Paramedic License. Some bigger departments do their own ambulance transport. Departments like FDNY, Chicago, Detroit, LA City, Seattle, and others. Often, because there exists such a shortage of Paramedics, but an overwhelming number of just Firefighter applicants, the "backdoor" into these departments is to get hired on as a "single role" Paramedic and then after a few years, lateral into that department's suppression side by getting put into their fire academy and transferring to the floor.

5) Get your Paramedic License. Avoid getting bogged down in the "Volunteer Firefighter" pathway. Good people. Salt of the earth. They do a great service for their local communities. And sometimes you can gain a little experience and insight. But by and large, with bigger departments, they could care less. And some even will shy away because they attribute bad habits in your training with local and smaller volunteer departments. Whether any volunteer firefighters on this thread agree, it is what it is.

6) Get your Paramedic License. Most departments now conduct extensive and exhaustive background checks and employ polygraph testing. 32-page background packets are the norm now. Keep your credit score as high as you can. Limit how many jobs you have. Departments want normal and dependable. They run from drama. Delete now any social media accounts and past posts. They will check. If you live at home with your folks, stay there. Show a stable and non-nomadic existence. If you have your teaching job, stay in it until the Paramedic License is in your hands and you can move into an ambulance position working 911 as a Paramedic, and then stay in that slot. Show loyalty to a position and company. Get in, and stay in, in good physical shape. Fire Department physical agility tests have gotten easier and are now essentially the same, but they are still arduous. Quit all tobacco products. No DUI's or any previous convictions for theft or drugs. Military service, and especially combat tours are highly favorable. Remember, they are dealing with thousands of applicants. Testing is expensive for a city or county. If they can whittle down a list of candidates from 5,000 to 200 to save money, they will. Its not personal, its just a reality. So do not give them a reason to cut you until they the portion of the application process where they can finally get to know who you are.

7) Get Your Paramedic License. Even with your best efforts, and being honorable and hard working, you may never get hired. I have good friends who started the process with me way back in the early 1990's, who never got hired. But by getting their Paramedic License, they were able to make some money and they used it as springboard for moving upwards in a Physician's Assistant program or they obtained their RN. And the money is better for those two over most FD's anyway. You may unfortunately find yourself after ten years, still grinding away on 911 box shifts, and never getting that call from the Chief. And you just start to burn out. So with your teaching degree, and a medic license, you may find doors open into PA programs and RN degrees.

Private Message me if you have more questions. I am a retired Fireman/Paramedic with 25-years on the line in SoCal.
Did I mention to get your Paramedic License?
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