Firefighter Job Duties

Emergency Response

Emergency response calls can come in at any time of the day or night and must be responded to immediately. Sleep may be frequently interrupted.

Firefighters must be expert in getting themselves dressed in the appropriate gear/equipment and onto the emergency vehicles quickly when responding to an emergency call, regardless of what they might be busy with at the time the emergency call comes in.

Emergency calls can cover many things -- brush fires, structure fires, automobile accidents, life-threatening medical emergencies, non-life-threatening medical calls, false alarms and other hazardous situations. All must be responded to with the same speed and professionalism.

Firefighters must immediately evaluate each emergency situation upon arrival -- including properties of the fire, probability of the fire spreading, needs of victims, medical conditions, effects of weather conditions, etc. -- in order to effectively deal with the emergency.

Once on an emergency scene, firefighters are responsible for gathering information from witnesses and other sources. It is critical that the firefighter thinks quickly and obtains the appropriate information to deal with each unique situation.

Firefighters must intimately coordinate their activities and work as a team. This includes those firefighters working directly with the emergency, those directing the activity and those standing by to relieve other firefighters.

Fire Scenes

Firefighting is a dangerous occupation. Firefighters must enter burning structures. Once inside the structure, Firefighters must search for victims, the source of fire and ways to extinguish the fire. In this process, firefighters are exposed to extreme heat, smoke, fumes, and structural dangers.

Firefighting is very physically demanding. Firefighters carry 80 to 100 lbs. of equipment -- such as hoses, axes, ladders, chain saws and extinguishers -- into and around the fire scene to rescue victims and extinguish the fire. This may include climbing many flights of stairs.

Firefighters make forced entries into grounds/structures by cutting locks, breaking doors, windows or roofs as needed to gain access to or ventilate structures. This may involve using hand tools such as axes, sledge hammers, battering rams and power tools.

While at a fire scene, Firefighters must constantly evaluate personal safety by examining structures for cracks, breaks and charring or partial collapse.

Firefighters use ladders and work at heights to rescue victims and fight fires. They must raise, lower, rotate and extend these ladders. Ladders are at times used for purposes other than climbing, such as bridges, battering rams and carrying victims.

Firefighters locate hydrants and other sources of water. Firefighters connect hoses to sources of water using various tools and considerable strength. Firefighters operate hand-held hose lines without assistance and get the hose into position by dragging, carrying or hoisting it into place.

Firefighters occasionally are overcome by smoke and/or are burned while working to put out fires.

Firefighters are responsible for the clean up of fire scenes. Firefighters carry burnt furniture, clothing, appliances, etc. from buildings to reduce fire and smoke damage. Firefighters scoop, shovel, sweep and mop excess water and debris caused by the fire and firefighting efforts. Firefighters tear down or shore up weak or dangerous parts of fire structures such as floors, roofs or overhangs.

Emergency Medical Treatment

Firefighters now perform the tasks previously done by paramedics. Ordinarily, firefighters will be canvassed for volunteers to perform paramedic duties. However, firefighters may also be assigned to these duties.

All firefighters are required to quality as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) as a condition of probation.

Firefighters must assess a victim’s general condition by checking pulse, respiration, bleeding, consciousness, etc. This will require physical contact with the victims, who will often be bleeding from open wounds and/or have broken bones and other severe injuries. Firefighters must use first aid and emergency medical techniques to treat victims to the best of their ability.

Firefighters may also come into contact with victims who have died before they could be rescued; sometimes, too, victims will die despite the best efforts of firefighters.

Firefighter/paramedics and EMTs must obtain specific information from or about the victim; load the victim into the ambulance; stabilize the victim to the best of their ability; and care for victims on the way to the hospital. In addition, firefighter/paramedics must often obtain more extensive information, draw blood samples, and discuss the case in detail with emergency room physicians.

Rescue Operations

Firefighters use systematic search procedures to try to find trapped victims without getting lost or trapped themselves.

Firefighters free trapped victims from a variety of situations including car crashes, cave-ins, structure collapses, flood channels, chemical spills and all kinds of unusual occurrences. Firefighters may be required to use special tools to accomplish a rescue.

After locating and freeing the victim, Firefighters must determine the safest path of evacuation. Firefighters may be required to lift and/or carry the victim with or without assistance in dangerous situations.

Other Duties

While not out on a call, firefighters must constantly work at keeping the station and equipment in excellent condition. Much of the firefighter’s time is spent cleaning and scrubbing living quarters, including floors and restrooms, the fire station and the equipment.

Firefighters often come into contact with hazardous and infections materials.

Firefighters conduct inspections for fire code violations. Firefighters may have to educate the general public in fire safety and fire prevention techniques.

Personal Considerations

Firefighters work 24-consecutive-hour shifts, living at the station for the entire period. Firefighter shifts are organized on the following schedule: 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty.

While on duty, firefighters live and sleep at the station. Firefighters, male and female, sleep in dormitory style quarters. Most stations do not have any physical barriers separating male and female facilities, including bathing and toilet areas, and rely on an "occupied/not occupied" system.

Firefighters are expected to volunteer to work overtime (extra shifts), and occasionally may be required to work overtime. Firefighters may be away from home for days at a time during severe emergency situations.

Firefighters work on holidays. Should your shift fall on a holiday, you will be expected to work at the station over the holiday period.

Firefighters must work during unusual and/or catastrophic events such as major brush fires, earthquakes, floods or civil unrest.

The duties and equipment of firefighting make special demands on the physical attributes of firefighters. Personal preference for hair length, nail length, jewelry, etc. may be overruled for firefighter safety.

The fire service is regimented, and firefighters receive orders, which must be carried out promptly and without question.

Firefighters pay for their meals while on duty. They also assist in food shopping, meal preparation and clean up.

After completion of FISTA Fire Fighter I & II certifications, firefighters are routinely assigned to the busiest fire companies for further training and probationary evaluations.