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How To Become a Firefighter in Minnesota

Minnesota is“The Land of 10,000 Lakes” and home to the Beloved Minnesota Vikings.  In fact, 15,291 lakes of 10 acres or more located within the state make its colloquial label quite literal.  Moreover, the more than 90,000 miles of shoreline frontage that outlines Minnesota borders is greater than that of California, Hawaii, and Florida combined.

Unfortunately, however, such easy access to colossal quantities of aquatic ammunition has not permanently eradicated an age-old latent foe known as fire.  For this reason, trained professionals skilled in the science of fighting fires are a crucial class of essential public servants in Minnesota.

Here are the basic requirements for how to become a firefighter in Minnesota:

Most local fire departments throughout Minnesota have established individual requirements for firefighter candidates.  Specifics vary somewhat from one municipal public service department to another.  Nonetheless, certain fundamentals are universal threshold requirements to work as a firefighter in Minnesota.  Chief among these are:


•    Must be at least 18 years of age
•    Must be a U.S. citizen
•    Must have a high school diploma or GED
•    Must be in good physical condition
•    Must pass a background and criminal history check
•    Must pass a pre-hire drug screen
•    Must hold a valid Minnesota driver’s license
•    Must have a minimum level of computer literacy and proficiency
•    Must successfully complete training and obtain certification as  a Firefighter I

Minnesota firefighter training and certification:

The final item listed above is a mandatory requisite to seeking employment as a firefighter in Minnesota.  This means that, unlike most states, Firefighter I examination passage and certification is a pre-application– not pre-hire requirement.

The Firefighter I exam consists of two parts: a written test of theoretical knowledge and a practical assessment of proficiency in emergency protocol adherence and specialized equipment operation.  The former component is comprised of 150 questions in multiple-choice format.  Of that number, 50 address hazardous materials awareness matters and are scored separately.  Nonetheless, 70 percent is the minimum score required for passage of both written sections of the Firefighter I exam.

In the practical segment of Firefighter I certification training, prospective firefighters receive instruction on relevant topics that include, among others:

•    Firefighter code of conduct
•    Fundamental Mission of Fire Services
•    Standard Operating Protocols
•    Public Safety Interdepartmental Cooperation
•    Proper preparation and use of firefighting tools and equipment
•    Tying complex knots like figure eights and bowline
•    Standard fire and emergency first response procedures
•    Rapid donning of protective fire gear and apparel
•    Proper use of specialized communications media
•    Fire ground Operations
•    CPR and First Aid administration
•    Proper methods of fast forcible entry
•    Being a good firefighting team member

A Candidate Physical Abilities Test (“CPAT”) is also a pre-hire requirement. CPAT consists of eight simulations of essential firefighter tasks.  The applicant must properly complete all tasks within 10 minutes and 20 seconds.  CPAT is scored on a pass-fail basis and passage is a mandatory condition of continuing in the job application process.  Various regional firefighter testing field offices within Minnesota administer CPAT.

Getting your Firefighter license:

In 2009, Minnesota became the first state in the Union to require licensed firefighters.  The Minnesota Board of Fire Training and Education (“MBFTE”) is the state licensing agency and requires licensure of all current and prospective firefighters.  Firefighter II or later certification is required for initial license issuance.  Firefighter licensees must complete 72 clock hours of MBFTE-approved continuing education every three years in order to maintain licensure.  Go to MBFTE’s official website at http://mn.gov/mbfte/ to learn more.

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