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Humbolt Training Burn

A training burn for fulltime and volunteer firefighters of Chico.

Wildland Prescribed Burn

A training drill at a hazardous materials tank farm in Chico.

Annual Aircraft Training

Annual training at Salt Lake City's Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Training.

A recruitment for firefighters.

A recruitment for firefighters.

A recruitment for firefighters.

Another recruitment for firefighers. Competition is fierce!

Agility Test

An example of one aspect of the physical agility test.

Graduation

A Chico Fire Department academy graduation.

Training Burn

A local training burn held for fulltime and volunteer Chico firefighters.

Wildland Prescribed Burn

Firefighter burning out with drip torch at Wildwood Park.

Becoming a Firefighter

The first quality a fire fighter must possess is desire: the desire to help those in need, to put one's self both first and last in a crisis situation. Itís that desire that pushes a person to run into a burning building.

Firefighting is a profession. It is a career decision. It is one that takes a great deal of preparation through education and training. Positions with fire departments are scarce and competition is fierce. Here we will outline the process for hiring firefighters along with the skills and knowledge you should exhibit to successfully compete in the hiring process.

Firefighters must be at least eighteen years of age and possess a high school diploma. Thatís just the beginning as almost nobody is hired with anything near the minimum requirements. Maintaining a clean driving record is imperative since an important component of the position requires excellent driving skills under stressful emergency conditions.

Education is a crucial component in a firefighting career. Typically, there are two primary choices as a beginning. One is to attend a Firefighter I Academy, which is an intensive college accredited program involving basic structural firefighting, wildland firefighting, rescue, and emergency medical training. The other choice is obtaining a Fire Technology Associates Degree by attending an accredited college offering a Fire Technology program. In most departments, Chief Officer ranks require a Bachelors Degree.

To further enhance your skills and qualifications, it is recommended that you obtain specialized training in several of the following: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, Paramedic license; Rescue Systems I; Swift Water Rescue; Over the Edge Rescue; Confined Space Rescue; Hazardous Materials Specialist; Hazardous Materials First Responder Operational and Decontamination; Rescue Systems II; Critical Incident Stress; and Drowning Accident Rescue. For more specifics on areas of specialty, consult a fire department training officer.

Once you obtain sufficient training and a comprehensive educational background, it is time to compete in the recruitment process. Typically, fire departments issue job announcement flyers. To obtain notification of recruitment openings, contact the Human Resources (or Personnel) office and complete a "Job Interest Card". These cards are kept for a specified period of time. If, during that time, the postion noted opens, those with a job interest card would be notified. The City of Chico posts current recruitment notices through its Human Resources Department and applications are only accepted during active recruitments.

Typically, there are four stages to the hiring process: the written examination; physical agility test; oral; and Chief's interview.

Remember that competition is fierce! Many fire departments receive large numbers of applications and frequently limit the recruitment period or number of applications. Therefore, it is important to have a current resume, all of your training certificates and application materials organized, with extra copies of certificates, diplomas, coursework, and related documents to be included with the application packet. Be prepared to participate in a written examination and physical agility test immediately following your application for a position. Many departments accept applications and administer the initial test within a 48-hour period, typically over a weekend.

Written exams may have firefighter related questions or can be a general knowledge Civil Service-type examination. Those successfully passing the written portion are usually provided a written score. The next step in the process is to participate in the physical agility test. This test measures fire-fighting related tasks participants must perform within a specified time limit in order to pass. Each physical test is a task you would perform as a firefighter. Note: Some departments conduct a physical agility test prior to a written test. Either way, the pass/fail scores will indicate whether one proceeds forward in the testing process.

The top scoring participants who have successfully passed the written and physical agility tests may be scheduled to participate in an oral interview. The oral places the candidate in front of a panel of people who are experts in fire protection, community members, or city staff. Questions are asked to evaluate one's character, honesty, ability to get along with others, educational background, experience, special skills, and other areas of related value.

Once the testing is completed, successful candidates are typically ranked on an eligibility list. Depending on the number of positions open, the top individuals on that list may qualify for a Fire Chief interview. Some departments do not have a Fire Chief interview. Some elect to have a panel interview consisting of the Fire Chief, Police Chief, City Manager, members of the City Council, members of a special Fire Department recruiting board/administrative staff, or other combinations of personnel.

Those selected to become a firefighter in Chico are given a conditional job offer. A full background check, medical evaluation, psychological exam, and all necessary paperwork is completed. If successfully completed, the probationary firefighter period begins.

Probationary Chico firefighters who are hired off a lateral or entry firefighter list are required to pass a minimum six-week Orientation Academy before being assigned to a working shift. The probationary period lasts for one year during which probationary firefighters will be required to pass a six-month test, a twelve-month test, emergency medical skill test, a map test, and a driver license test if not previously holding a Class A or B license. These tests measure fire-fighting knowledge, skills to perform the job safely and efficiently, and the knowledge and abilities needed. Upon successful completion of the tests and approval by the Fire Chief, the probationary firefighter becomes a permanent city employee.

A firefighting career is not limited to structural firefighting, rescue, and medical response. Another area many people start in is wildland or forest firefighting. These careers may take a similar testing path, but result in a different career path.

One may also prepare differently relative to education. Once you have chosen a career, there is the opportunity to extend one's knowledge by attending fire related classes certified by the California State Board of Fire Services, or you may chose to specialize into a certified field of expertise, such as hazardous materials, fire prevention, emergency medical services, or rescue, just to name a few. In your chosen career, diversification into other fire related fields is possible along with the possibility of promotions.

The Fire Service presents a highly rewarding career for both men and women of all ethnicities. Consider your future. Take a look!