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How To Become a Firefighter in Rhode Island

“Little Rhody” is often grossly underestimated due to widespread biased views that base value and strength on spatial size alone. In reality, though, our nation’s Ocean State holds vast wealth that goes back further than most eyes now visualize. One such treasure lies in Narragansett Bay, the first of 13 Original Colonies that staged en masse armed rebellion against British Crown rule in mid-1772. Another prime jewel resides in Bristol where America’s first 4th of July parade still proceeds annually. Perhaps such long-standing patriotic loyalties are why Rhode Island is the nation’s smallest but most densely populated state. Both conditions in the same place create serious public safety risks. This is starkly evidenced by the 4th worst nightclub fire in U.S. history that blazed just 5 ½ minutes in New Brunswick during 2003 but cost 100 lives and 230 serious casualties.

If such human tragedies hide any bright sides whatsoever, Rhode Island public and private non-profit agencies have tried hard to exploit them to fullest extent to prevent future reoccurrences. One fine example is Station Fire Memorial Foundation that raises funds to offset victims’ medical and burial expenses, in addition to organizing community events like free workshops to boost fire safety and prevention awareness. Likewise, the Rhode Island Legislature enacted strict statewide fire safety codes to remedy inadequate building egress cited as chief cause of so many needless deaths in the New Brunswick nightclub blaze.

Despite these laudable efforts, plenty of qualified help is still desperately needed to protect Rhode Island citizens from potentially lethal fire hazards. Those with burning desire to advance this worthy cause are well advised to read the list of guides below.

• Be 18 or older (Some departments have Junior Divisions for younger candidates)
• A valid Rhode Island state driver’s license
• Live in relatively close proximity to local fire department
• No prior felony convictions
• A high school diploma or equivalent
• Pass a medical exam
• Pass a written test to assess basic reading comprehension and math skills
• Pass a Physical Performance Assessment (PPA)

PPA is a standardized physical fitness test administered by the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs. All entry-level firefighter candidates must earn a Passing Certificate by performing six (6) different simulated job-related evolutions within eight (8) minutes to demonstrate adequate strength and cardiovascular endurance. PPA is offered only a few times per year and applicants must prepay a $125 test fee. For more details and a free downloadable application form, see www.rifirechiefs.com/ppa-info/.

Rhode Island Entry-Level Firefighter Training and Certification

Although specific criteria differ among local fire departments, Rhode Island Firefighter I and EMT certifications are two minimum qualifications that apply across the board.

• Firefighter I Certification

Some local departments provide mandatory pre-hire training for chosen candidates. However, many aspiring Rhode Island firefighters take the initiative by using potentially lengthy time intervals between initial application and final selection to obtain necessary credentials independently. The Rhode Island Fire Academy offers accredited FF-I & II certification prep courses for trainees who have not been hired or even applied to local fire department(s). Sample topics and practical skills training include but are not limited to these areas:

• Arson Detection
• Fire Vehicle & Extinguishment Equipment Operation
• Forcible Entry
• Hazardous Materials Handling
• Rope Rescue

Advance Planning Repays Prospective Rhode Island Firefighters Particularly Well

While getting an early start to rise first is always smart for any occasion or purpose, it is an especially wise plan to pursue Rhode Island firefighting career opportunities that come around only once every two years when open hiring season begins. Thus, it is advisable to start volunteering at your desired local fire department long in advance. This gives you a chance to see what everyday life is really like for firefighters while gaining vital skills that demonstrate true dedication to making valuable contributions to the profession.

Besides basic Firefighter I training and certification, advanced education in Fire Sciences or Emergency Management or another related field at an accredited junior college affords an even more competitive edge in today’s tough job market. The effort can pay off handsomely with higher than national average pay up to $60,000 per year for Rhode Island firefighters. Take the first step toward entering a career with huge rewards in many more ways than one right away! Search firefighting school information below.

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