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FLARE score: The 10 best states for firefighters in 2017

FireRescue1.com looked at economic and fire industry data to determine the states offering the most for firefighters.


By Alex Bryant, FireRescue1 Contributor 

Landing a career in a firefighting offers a lifetime of rewards. Finding a job can be tough though. And landing a firefighting job that pays enough to cover your expenses can be even more difficult. FireRescue1.com used five factors that affect the quality of work and home life for a firefighter. Using these factors, we developed a Firefighter Livability And Related Employment (FLARE) score for every state. Look at the interactive map at the bottom of the article to see how your state fares. 

How We Determined the Top States for Firefighters and FLARE scores

Opportunity, cost of living and on the job safety all play a role in the best states for firefighters. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Opportunity, cost of living and on the job safety all play a role in the best states for firefighters. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

FireRescue1.com took into consideration employment rates, wages, cost of living, job availability and safety to calculate FLARE scores. States with the lowest FLARE score are the best states for firefighters. The lowest FLARE score on our list was 11.2 and the highest was 37.2. 

Employment per 1000 jobs
Using occupational employment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we determined which states had the highest rates of career firefighters amongst their working population.

Median wage
Finding a job is certainly important, but earning a competitive salary is also crucial for firefighters. We looked at the BLS data to find the median annual wage for firefighters in each state.

Cost of Living Index
A high median annual wage means nothing if the state is too expensive. We looked at the Missouri Economy's Cost of Living Index of each state to determine states with the lowest cost of living and allows firefighters to stretch their paycheck a bit further. 

Fire departments per state
By combining the number of fire departments with the employment per 1000, we were able to get a clearer picture of optimal states for firefighting. We used FEMA data to find the total number of fire departments in each state that were mostly or completely career fire departments. Volunteer fire departments - which are extremely valuable but aren’t a paying career option - weren’t included in this figure. We’ve also included wildland fire departments and their employment opportunities. 

Wildfires per state
Even though wildland fire departments boost employment levels in the state, wildfires are one of the most dangerous types of fire and can cost billions in property damage. For this reason, states with higher susceptibility to wildfires received a lower FLARE score. We used National Interagency Fire Center data, to find which states had the most and least wildfires in 2016. 

The Top States for Firefighters

10. Florida
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 21.6
Florida ranks second in the country for career fire departments and eighth for employment rate. The median wage for firefighters is a respectable 21st, making Florida relatively affordable. The deterrents for the Sunshine State was the amount of wildfires relatively high cost of living.

9. Massachusetts
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 21.4
The biggest benefits for firefighters living in Massachusetts is that it ranks fifth in the nation for employment, eighth for median wage and sixth for career fire departments. That makes up for the fact that The Bay State has the fifth-worst cost of living in the country. Despite its small size and colder climate, Massachusetts ranks 12th for most wildfires.

8. Texas
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 20.6
The Lone Star State has the third highest number of fire departments in the country. Texas also has the most wildfires in the nation. Texas earns a spot on this list because its living wage is attractive. Texas ranks 18th for median wage and eighth for cost of living.

7. Kansas
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 20.2
Kansas suffers from the worst median wage amongst our top FLARE score states, ranking 37th overall. Their ranking is buoyed by the seventh lowest number of wildfires in the country, and top 20 rankings for cost of living (12th) and employment (18th).

6. Missouri
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 20.0
Missouri ranks well across four categories, coming in the top 10 for both the number of fire departments and cost of living. However, the Show-Me State shows a lot of wildfires - the seventh highest in the country.

5. Rhode Island
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 19.2
The smallest state in the country is a big area for firefighters, with the second-best rate of employment in the nation. It is also in the top 10 for both median wage and fewest wildfires. Unfortunately, the Ocean State doesn’t fare well for the cost of living, ranking 42nd in the nation.

4. Michigan
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 19.0
Like other states in the Great Lakes region, Michigan benefits from having few wildfires, the 15th fewest in the country. However, the real benefit of the Wolverine State is the high amount of fire departments and the low cost of living - finding a job might be easier, and the paycheck might last longer. 

3. Indiana
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 13.8
Indiana ranks in the top 10 for both wildfires and cost of living, while their employment and number of fire departments are also within the top 20. Like their neighbor Ohio, Indiana’s weak spot is its median annual salary, clocking in at a still respectable 22nd.

2. Ohio
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 13
Ohio also has strong rankings across the board. The only major blemish is ranking 27th in terms of median wage. However, of the top 10 overall states, Ohio has the second-best rate of employment for firefighters, ranking third amongst all states.

1. Illinois 
Firefighter1.com FLARE score: 11.2
The Prairie State benefits from ranking in the top half of all states for every single metric to land atop this list. This includes being in the top five for both fire departments and wildfires per state. The one thing keeping Illinois from improving its FLARE score is its relatively expensive cost of living, ranking 25th out of 50 states.

If your state didn’t rank in the top 10, check the map below to find your state’s FLARE score and where it ranks.

 

There are many elements that go into having a great firefighting job. Understanding how these elements stack up can help you land the perfect job protecting members of our communities.
 

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