Becoming a Firefighter is not for everyone, this much is clear. You have to be someone with drive, persistence, stamina and a strong mental constitution to even think about taking on this challenging career. There are so many different factors that impact you as a firefighter and no amount of training can truly prepare you for what you are going to see when you get out into the field. That being said, you still need training, I’m going to cover what you can expect once you are in attendance at the fire academy of your choice.
As discussed in our main article, firefighting training usually consists of courses, exercises and training functions that can add up to close to 600 hours depending on your state requirements. Typically most firefighting academy training courses take place at varied times during the week. Some states do full time academies but the majority of them do 10 hour weekend days with one weekday every week to two weeks. Firefighting training academies usually break down their training into the following segments to split them up and encourage people to learn in whatever way fits them the best. Most states require you to obtain both Firefighter I and Firefighter II curriculum training classes before you can be employed as a full time firefighter. Other states let you become employed with Firefighter I certification while you work on Firefighter II certification as long as it’s obtained in 6 months to 1 year.
Here’s a breakout of some of the classes you will end up taking as a firefighter during your firefighter I training period:
- Firefighter/Firefighting History
- Fire Station Orientation
- Fire Behavior
- Fire Suppression I Training
- How to use a Ladder Appropriately
- Search and Rescue Guidelines
- HAZMAT Handling and Awareness
- First Aid (Most departments recommend you have your EMT Certification)
- Hose Operation
- Water Supply Locations
- Hose Handling and Water Stream Control
- Fire Extinguisher Training
- Rope and Knot Training
- Burn Building Training
- Building Layout
- Wildland Firefighter Basics
- Heat Management
- Stress Management
Now that we’ve covered some of the Basics of the Firefighting I training course, I also want to touch base on the typical requirements for the second segment of most academies, which is the Firefighting II certification. Some academies will let you attend Firefighting II classes while performing your job duties as an active firefighter. Other states like California, will require you to have your Firefighter II training certification completed before you can become employed as a full time firefighter.
Below is a list of what you can expect to learn when you are working towards your Firefighter II certification getting you one step closer to getting your badge:
- Firefighter I Basics Review and Application
- Firefighter Safety Best Practices
- Fire Suppression II Training
- Vehicle Rescue including training with “The Jaws”
- Fire Causation Investigation
- Command Systems Response
Now that we’ve reviewed the fire academy firefighter training requirements, you should have a good overview of what to expect when enrolling for fire academy training. This is by no means an all inclusive list as some counties and ordinances have their own pilot programs and training guidelines, but it’s a great basic overview of the general training requirements that most fire academies cover. Obviously nothing will help prepare you to become a firefighter more than learning time on the job and experiencing real world firefighting exercises, but the fire academy in most states do their best to ensure that all entry level firefighters get their careers off on the right foot.
How about Firefighting Training Reciprocity?
Reciprocity is a term used when firefighters want to move states. Many states will allow your training certification to transfer states. You need to make sure that if you are a career firefighter that’s already employed full time and been through the academy, that you don’t double up and have to go back through the rigors of training a second time. Your best bet is to make sure that you check with the firefighting department in the area you are looking to transfer to in order to make sure that they accept out of state transfers without getting additional certification. Most states will allow the certifications of Firefighter II to cross state lines as satisfactory as long at you were trained in your prior state with IFSAC firefighter II certification compliant Fire Departments.
Now that you know what to expect in the training academy, the next step falls on you. Go out and study, get prepared, and get ready to take the next step in your career. Being a firefighter is both a challenge and a privilege. With hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck, there is absolutely no reason you can’t take that next step to land your dream job.