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Things a probie firefighter needs to know

You’ll need the right equipment, attitude and plenty of tips and tricks to get you ready


(Photo/Los Angeles County Fire Department)

Congratulations on passing the fire academy and achieving the rank of probationary firefighter! You’ve been issued your uniform, protective gear and a letter telling you what firehouse to report to. Should be a no-brainer on what to bring, right? You’d be surprised how many probies show up on day one completely unprepared for 24-hour life.

You’re about to get started on a long career in the fire service, but your first few days are going to be very disorienting. You’ll need the right equipment, attitude and plenty of tips and tricks to get you ready.

First Day in the Firehouse Checklist


This includes not just the pants and shirts you were issued, but three more pairs of underwear and socks, PT shorts, T-shirts, a sweater or jacket and a hat or cap.


You’re on 24-hour shifts now, which means you’ll be living at the firehouse. Pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, razors and shave cream (ladies too!), shampoo and conditioner, sun screen, hairbrush, deodorant and a small sampling of OTC medicine for sniffles, headaches and the like. Buy some inexpensive plastic slippers as shower shoes. Although you’ll be cleaning these showers every day for the foreseeable future, let’s avoid the yuckies on the shower floor.


While some stations share beds between members who don’t work together, some also issue a bed to all members to keep as their own. Until you know which situation you’re getting into, bring your sleeping bag and pillow. Once settled into the firehouse you can upgrade to sheets.

What else?

The towel is the most important thing in the universe. You’ll want one large bath towel and one smaller hand towel. The hand towel is handy (see what I did there) when shaving at the sink or to stand on with wet feet when getting dressed.


Skip on bringing the laptop or iPad until you’ve found your groove in the firehouse. You’ll have no time to surf the web or watch movies while constantly drilling, cleaning and learning. Your spare time should be spent learning your new job, not catching up on Season 3 of Breaking Bad.

It’s OK to bring your phone and for that reason, grab an extra wall charger and leave it at work. If you have to remember to bring it home, you’ll forget it.


You’ll be expected to cook. While the firehouse likely has a large selection of cookbooks, bring in your own recipes you’ve already tested. The worst place to try out new recipes is at the firehouse and especially as the new kid on the block. Go through your favorite dishes and be ready to change the portions. You may need to cook Grandma’s famous meatloaf at a single company for three people or at a place like our Station 7 which feeds 13 people everyday.

With the above list ready to go, pack all these items in a large duffel bag and set it near the front door at least a few days before your first shift. The day before your first shift, use everything from the bag to make sure you have everything ready to go. Oh, and you’re cooking!

Justin Schorr is a rescue captain for the San Francisco Fire Department, where he has served as a field paramedic and a firefighter, a field captain and an administrative captain. He is ARFF-qualified and oversees EMS response for San Francisco International Airport. Schorr spent 25 years in the fire service and is experienced in rural, suburban and urban firefighting as well as paramedicine. He runs the blog The Happy Medic.