Firefighter, Municipal  What They Do

Just the Facts

Firefighters Career Video

Insider Info

dotThe basic responsibility of a firefighter is to stop fires. These well-trained people also help out in other emergencies. These include spills of chemicals or dangerous goods, car accidents, natural disasters like floods, and medical emergencies.

dotIt's also a firefighter's job to help prevent fires in the first place. They regularly inspect buildings for fire hazards. They teach people about fire safety. They also plan escape routes and emergency firefighting strategies.

A firefighter does everything from dousing small backyard barbecue fires to running into a burning skyscraper to rescue people who are trapped by smoke or flames.

dotDepending on the size of fire department, a firefighter may be responsible for a single task or a combination of different duties. These tasks include such things as raising ladders, handling fire hoses, breaking down doors, windows or walls with axes, or driving the fire trucks.

dotFirefighters are shift workers. Some may work 24-hour shifts, while others work 10- to 14-hour shifts. While on duty, firefighters eat, sleep and work at fire stations. They're often called to several emergencies during a shift.

dotWhen not responding to an emergency, firefighters spend their time repairing and maintaining firefighting equipment or participating in practice drills.

dotKeeping their skills up to date is a big responsibility for firefighters. A vigorous fire science industry is producing more sophisticated firefighting equipment. Firefighters must be able to use all of this new technology.

Many departments hold training sessions each week. Firefighters may also be sent to special training academies, at which they battle fires set in abandoned buildings.

dotFurther education is also required for firefighters who want to become specialists in fire prevention, arson detection or other areas. Those who want to rise in the ranks to captain, lieutenant or even fire chief must keep studying and taking exams.

dotHaving good people skills is essential for a firefighter. Because this career involves working and living side by side with co-workers, firefighters have very little privacy at work. Firefighters also have to work with panicked or injured people at fire or accident scenes.

dotGood physical condition and the ability to think clearly in dangerous situations can mean the difference between life and death for a firefighter. These people have to be 100 percent prepared all of the time.

This is a very physical job, so those with disabilities or limitations might have difficulty. Firefighters need to be physically strong and they can't be allergic to smoke.

Some firefighters compete in competitions to test their strength and stamina. There are a number of competitions, including the Firefighter Combat Challenge and the Firefighter Games. The events bring firefighters from around the world together in a spirit of fun and camaraderie.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Protect lives and property from death or destruction by fire

  • Employers are looking for more education when they hire
  • Keeping their skills up to date is a big responsibility for firefighters
  • A degree in chemistry or math offers the biggest educational advantage for applicants in this field