The Legend of the Firefighter
Being a fire fighter is a job many children dream about. It has been a very important profession since the founding of our country, where most structures were made of wood. There are many misconceptions about becoming and being a firefighter. Let’s take a look at the life of Mike, a firefighter in Massachusetts:
My Journey to Becoming a Firefighter
“It all started by the time I entered high school. I knew I wanted to be in public service but wasn’t really sure about the path I would take once I got to college. My parents were pressuring me to study computers, and since my local school had a great computer science program I gave in. I put in the work and got my degree, but didn’t find the work rewarding. I felt something was missing.
My break came when a friend suggested I take the civil service exam to be a fire fighter. I didn’t actually get hired the first time I took it, but the fire was lit so to speak. I went to a local trade school to get my EMT basic certification and started working on an ambulance on my off days.
I eventually went full time on the ambulance as I was drawn to the excitement and unpredictability. This transition also allowed me to start volunteering at a local fire department. The fire department helped me get my fire fighter 1 and 2 certifications, which gave me the basic training I needed to get the job.The next time the civil service exam came along, I made the cut with my score.
The addition of the certifications helped give me enough points to edge out the others who were in my previous situation when I first took the exam.
My dream was finally coming true. 5 years in and I can say it is everything I hoped for and more.
A Day in My Life as a Firefighter
I work a rotating schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. My day starts at 8am. Everyone starting their shift with me meets at the designated spot for roll call with the shift captain. After we are all accounted for, its time to make sure we have everything in order for the day ahead.
I start with checking my own gear that I wear on a call. Then the entire crew checks the trucks, the equipment and the supplies. We have to ensure everything is accounted for and in proper working order.
After the personal and house gear has been checked, it’s time for housekeeping. We live at the firehouse and the same things that need to be done at our homes to keep them in order also have to be done at the firehouse. Sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, we do it all just like has to be done at home.
After cleaning, we get together as a group and get an agenda for the day from the shift captain. We may have training or errands to run for the firehouse. We also try to work in time to work out. We have a small gym at the firehouse and it sees a lot of use.
It is critical that we maintain a high level of fitness in order to perform at a high level in stressful condition.
Calls can come at any time throughout the shift. We usually find a way to accomplish all of our set activities, but it can be challenging on those day when calls come in one after another. There is a built in level of flexibility for this.
We have lunch and dinner along the way depending on what happens between our duties and calls. We aim for noon and 6pm, but it isn’t usually like clockwork. I come prepared with a few bars and shakes in case we stay busy and I can’t have a sit down type meal.
We usually get to sleep around 10pm if we aren’t on a call. There is no guarantee we are going to get much sleep. I try to make sure I am fully rested when I arrive to keep from getting too fatigued.
Career and Education Considerations
“Now that I am settled into my career, I can look at where I really want to get. I want to be an officer, maybe even a chief one day.”
My department has a stipend built into our contract that pays me an extra 5% if I receive my bachelor’s in a related field so going that route make sense especially since it will also give me extra points on the promotional exams along the way.
I do have a larger goal, which is to eventually get a master’s degree. My department doesn’t pay anything for receiving it, but I know it will give me an edge as I advance in my career. Some guys even talk about retiring from the department and then applying to be a chief in another state so they can get their retirement plus a chiefs pay for a few years.
I want to have that kind of option down the road. A Master’s of Public Administration seems to make the most sense based on my research so far as it applies to fire service and also a lot of other types of things.”