Remember when you were a little tyke and you wanted to be a fireman? Well, they’ve got a new name kids - firefighter, and if it sounds like the job description for a super hero, you’re not far off.
With fire season upon us in California, firefighters are in high demand.
If you think this gig is about sitting in the firehouse all day making chili for the guys and waiting for an emergency, you’ve been watching the wrong movies. A firefighter is also some combination of emergency medical technician, paramedic, fire engineer, and wildland firefighter, to name a few. How many jobs can you name where you can go to work and be of service to people continuously? Whether it is rescuing people from a burning building, caring for their medical needs, extinguishing fires in a home or in a large office building, this profession is all about helping others.
That’s exactly why Josh Garson of San Diego who lost his job at a gym in 2009 thought he might make a good firefighter.
“I already had my degree, I love helping people, and I thought it would be easy to get in and get hired as a firefighter because I’m in great shape,” he said. “I found out it took a lot more brains than muscle to get hired on, but eventually I made it.”
Garson now works in the Temecula area and earns about $68,000 as a supervisor. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a firefighter position in California is $29,000, for a wildland firefighter to $76,000 for a fire management officer.
“Am I going to get rich from this job? Probably not,” Garson said. “But it’s the best career for me, and I could never walk away from it.”
Firefighters typically enter the occupation with a postsecondary non-degree award in fire science or a related discipline. In many jurisdictions, however, the entry-level education needed to become a firefighter is a high school diploma or equivalent. Most firefighters also must pass written and physical tests, complete a series of interviews, and hold an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. All firefighters receive extensive training after being hired.
Entry-level firefighters receive several weeks of training at fire academies run by the department or by the state. Through classroom instruction and practical training, recruits study fire fighting and fire prevention techniques, local building codes, and emergency medical procedures. They also learn how to fight fires with standard equipment, including axes, chain saws, fire extinguishers, and ladders. Firefighting demands a high level of dedication and professionalism for those who choose it as a career. A firefighter must possess the courage and stamina to risk their lives for the sake of others. They must study long hours and go through extensive periods of training to become effective and efficient professional firefighters.
There are courses taught at area colleges such as Grossmont College in East County.
Some fire departments have accredited apprenticeship programs that last up to four years. These programs combine formal instruction with on-the-job-training under the supervision of experienced firefighters.
In addition to participating in training programs conducted by local or state fire departments and agencies, some firefighters attend federal training sessions sponsored by the National Fire Academy. These training sessions cover topics including executive development, anti-arson techniques, disaster preparedness, hazardous materials control, and public fire safety.
The typical work schedule of a firefighter consists of two 24-hour days per week, for an average of 8 days per month. With this schedule, a firefighter has an average of 5 days off per week. And 99.7% of all firefighters ever hired are never laid off.
“I’m a firefighter because I get to save lives and property,” Garson said. “At the end of the day I can collect my paycheck with pride.”