It is nothing less than a fulfilling career, that I feel blessed to be a part of. I have enjoyed the learning environment which provides members the opportunity to develop decision-making abilities where complex incidents are evaluated, strategies developed, and decisive action taken. I like being part of a team charged with resolving a wide spectrum of emergencies that really very few public safety agencies cover. Firefighters respond to Fire, EMS, Technical Rescue, Hazard Materials, Vehicle, Water, and a multitude of public service calls. Each incident type is a specialty in itself.
As much as it's great to help others and experience adrenaline pumping emergencies, there are often sad and unpleasant experiences. The truth is, while many emergency incidents are minor, there are also quite a number where Firefighters are called when someone is having the worst day of their life. You deal with a lot
Yes, it has a unique culture and, yes there is some pointed/raw humor at times. Along with that there is a special bond/fraternity that is built on mutual respect. The strongest of those are built by firefighters with similar backgrounds and experiences.
How do I go about starting my firefighting career?
I'd check with various paid departments. Most have some type of recruitment/marketing. I'd also talk to some career members with experience. Be careful to be objective because you can find disgruntled people anywhere. I would suggest like others to check out volunteer opportunities. This is a good way to get your feet wet, but once again be objective because various organizations are different. Each has its own culture.
Are the expensive firefighting schools necessary ? Or is there a cheaper more hands on approach way of doing it(getting a job at a local station and start from scratch)?
I'm not sure about your region, but most volunteer or career members can provide guidance for your region. Also check your state fire training organization. This site may help:http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sfm/bfst/bfst_index.htm
Also how's the work schedule?
We work a 24hr shift on a 21day cycle. Our schedule essentially staggers 7 work days during the 21 day cycle so we have various amounts of time off during the cycle which includes a 5 day off-duty period running from Thurs to Mon. Some departments work a straight 1 on 2 off; meaning you work a 24hr shift and then are off 48hrs. You can see various shifts on fire service sites.
Do you like your job?
Does the job pay alright?
The compensation is pretty fair, but the pay and benefits packages can be less competitive depending on the region. I guess the bottom line is you can make a decent living, and any more than that can come from extra curricular work.
What I have found is that members who watch the clock and measure their performance and initiative with their paycheck are not the people who garnered respect as Firefighters.
Lastly and more importantly. Family
Married, Children....? How is the schedule going to affect them. You don't always get leave or vacation time at your discretion just to be off Christmas, Thanksgiving, or likewise. You will miss things. You learn to accept it, sometimes. But it comes with the territory. However a great schedule also allows more time to be with family during the day, especially children on break from school.
Also you can potentially have some "mental baggage" from the job. It affect people differently to varying degrees.
You have asked and that is enough for me to encourage you to pursue more information. Feel free to PM me if I can be further help.