10 signs that you may be ready to become a firefighter
If you recognize more than a few of the following traits in yourself, head over to headquarters and grab an application
Watch the four-part video series that tackles the key steps to becoming a firefighter:
Part 1: What to expect from a career in the fire service
Part 2: 11 critical steps on the path to becoming a firefighter
Part 3: Getting into a fire academy
It wasn‘t easy to narrow down the list to 10 ways to know if you‘ll make a good firefighter. But if you recognize more than a few of the following traits in yourself, head over to headquarters and grab an interest card because you just may be ready to be a firefighter.
1. You can cook
Not just boiling water or making mac-n-cheese (which also requires boiling water), but actual cooking. Grilling isn‘t cooking either, but it‘s a good start. If you find yourself able to put together a menu, prepare proteins, starches and vegetables all on a timeline, then you‘ll be ready to cook in the firehouse.
2. You understand how things are built
Being a firefighter requires a working knowledge of construction practices as well as a little bit about all trades. It is important to understand how a house is built to properly enter it when it is on fire. In addition to houses, you‘ll need a good working knowledge of cars, trucks, farm equipment, manufacturing equipment, pretty much anything with moving parts. After all, someone is eventually going to get parts of those parts stuck in parts of the machine and you may need to get parts out.
3. Blood doesn‘t bother you
I‘m not talking about the simple drop of blood from grandma checking her blood sugar. I‘m talking about blood pouring from an open wound, showing parts of the anatomy never meant for sunlight. If you can look at a wound such as that and think, “Wow, look at all those inner workings. Fascinating.” you‘ll do just fine.
4. You enjoy driving on the wrong side of the road
Firefighters go code 3 for groceries. Driving a giant fire engine through traffic sometimes means weaving and opposing traffic. While it is very important to do so only in extreme cases when no other options exist, the first time you pull left and around the median, it is pretty cool.
5. You have enough tools to fix or make damn near anything
Being able to take things apart properly also means you can put them together. It also means you are handy with your ... well ... hands. That‘s something that will come in ... well ... handy.
6. You don‘t mind sweating a lot
While our police brethren are soaking alive in their kevlar, we have the luxury of only having to gear up when it‘s really, really warm inside. Turnout gear can weigh upwards of 30 pounds dry, and it restricts your movements considerably. Now that you‘re bundled up we‘ll get you inside a burning building where temperatures at floor-level — where you‘ll be crawling — can reach upwards of 400 degrees. Sweating is an understatement, so if you don‘t like warm places perhaps we can get you a gig on the ambulance where you'll find yourself standing across the street.
7. You can take a joke
Firehouse humor can be mean. When you spend this much time with people they become your family. Family can say mean things from time to time. Even though we follow our employer‘s rules, you‘ll still get a nickname you hate, have your hobbies ridiculed, and you may even hear jokes between others that make your skin crawl. If you can take a joke, you‘ll be fine. If reading this sentence made you uncomfortable, perhaps we can get you a shift at the kiosk in the mall selling sunglasses.
8. You have a touch of OCD
Many folks talk about wanting to get into the fire service to get out of the routine and never have the same day twice. Adorable. Our day is built on routine. Completely. Shift change is at 8, briefing at 8:30, chores until 10, then shopping, lunch is at 12, drill at 4, dinner at 7. Each morning‘s chores must be completed in a certain fashion. If someone comes from another house and doesn‘t clean the mirrors properly they‘ll end up doing it again. We're not talking about the clinical OCD that makes you touch the doorknob three times, but instead the kind that makes you have to arrange the medical supply room properly.
9. You don‘t have to sleep a full night to function
Firefighting requires physical fitness, proper diet and adequate sleep, but our schedule seems to fly in the face of that logic. While we seem to get plenty of time to exercise and eat a somewhat balanced diet, sleep is a variable we cannot control. Night runs aren‘t dispatched using soft music and a snooze bar. Alarms at night come in with piercing bells and all the lights turned all the way on. I‘ve been hearing these bells for 20 years and I still jump a little bit when awakened in the early morning hours.
10. You want to give back to the community
Oh, bull. If that was the case you‘d volunteer at the library. You want a fire job because of the schedule, the retirement and the opportunity to drive a big red truck on the other side of the road: code 3 to the grocery store.
When you go in for the interview, after having explained your experience building things, your desire for fitness, and your ability to make a pesto pasta from memory, tell the interview panel why you‘re a good fit for them. Everyone wants to be a firefighter. Tell them why they want you as a firefighter for the next 30 years.
If you exhibit the traits above, you might just want to ask around and see if your local fire department is hiring. Who knows, you just may be lucky enough to get in line with the 15,000 other folks trying for the same job.
This article, originally published February 2015, has been updated.