The Challenging Life Of A Firefighter
The Challenging Life Of A Firefighter
I want to take a break from the normal blogs where I give you recruitment updates and insights. As a firefighter myself, there are a lot of things that I want to share with you guys. There are are probably a lot more that’s still left unsaid even after this post. As much as the life of a firefighter is rewarding, it is also very challenging.
Firefighting is a tough gig. You’re asked to run into burning buildings to rescue complete strangers, to be there in someone’s most dire moment of need. That takes guts. But the reality is far different from Hollywood movies. Calls to rescue people from burning buildings are actually down, and instead, those jobs are being replaced with callouts to road crashes and assistance with storms and floods. Amazingly, false alarm calls from automated systems still account for a massive amount of calls, over 40% in some states.
On top of all that, firefighters are being put under ever-increasing stressors and changes that make the job even more difficult. There have been calls from the Firefighters Union in Victoria to create emergency laws to jail, fine, and sue business operators that deliberately stockpile toxic chemicals. Multiple large and dangerous chemical fires have been the result, creating a possible death-trap for first responders. Firefighters who attended two incidents in Victoria in 2018 and 2019 have suffered lung infections, memory loss, and other health problems after being exposed to toxic smoke. The government has promised funds to help track the waste and other management measures in the future, but firefighters are still at risk right now.
There are also political tensions to deal with, such as the quitting of the Melbourne metropolitan fire service’s chief officer only one year into his five-year contract. Danger on the job from violent victims and lack of pay for CFA volunteers and overtime adds even more fuel to the fire, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Meanwhile, there are new and even more dangerous industrial incidents that are becoming a real concern and some states facing an ever-aging employee group. Firefighters are getting older. In the ACT, the percentage of firefighters under thirty has dropped two percent in 2018 to just 4.3%. The majority of employees are aged over forty, with nearly just as many aged between fifty and sixty. New blood is desperately needed, but many are often confused about how to apply and what the standards are. I’m here to help.
In every state or territory of Australia, you must be a citizen to become a firefighter. You must also have at least your car driver’s license, with some requiring you to have held it for a number of years, and be able to go for your heavy rigid license. Naturally, you must be extremely physically fit and many also flag certain health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and joint problems as concerns. You can also be automatically excluded for certain criminal or driving-related offenses. So, where’s the upside, you might be asking.
First, you won’t find a better bunch of people to be around. Firefighters are fiercely loyal and care deeply about making their local community better. Most firefighters work long shifts, sometimes twenty-four hours at a time at some stations, and the firehouse becomes a home away from home. You work as a team and there’s always someone there to have your back, be it on the job, dealing with the emotions from a difficult call, or in your personal life. Lifelong friendships are often forged around the firehouse meal table.
The job is highly varied, with every callout being different and you’re guaranteed never to have a dull day. Yes, shift work is required, with most states working on a two day shifts followed by two night shifts, and then four days off. But the annual leave is fantastic, with many states giving well in excess of the standard four weeks a year in other jobs. Most have no age limit and you also don’t have to have gone to university, and yet the pay starts at over $1,000 a week and increases from there as you pass months of service milestones.
So, what can you do to improve your chances? Think about volunteering. The CFA is always looking for volunteers and it can be a great place to gain valuable experience. Keep your background clean so you don’t get opted-out due to one stupid mistake. Start working on your physical fitness immediately. You’ll likely need a medical clearance from your doctor to even start the training and a high level of fitness is required to make it through the training. Firefighters need the capacity for rapid and sustained efforts and you need to be ready for whatever the shift brings, no questions asked.
It’s also a great idea to be familiar with application dates and procedures. Most states have application windows, some of which are only a few months long. Don’t miss your chance for a whole year! Make sure you show the best you possible. Being a firefighter is a special career, so much more than just a job, and that’s what recruiters are looking for. You need to be a team player, smart and have the ability to adapt quickly with good problem-solving skills and pass both physical and psychological tests. All states want firefighters at the top of their game and you’ll need to prove that you’re good enough and fully committed to earning your place.
Deep down though, most become a firefighter because of a desire to serve others. If you haven’t grasped it already through reading this article, read this now: firefighting is a risky business. Like all first responder jobs, there are no guarantees. Every firefighter knows there is a risk they may not come home at the end of a call. The willingness to take that on requires a special person.
As well as the inherent danger of the job, firefighters now have to deal with potentially being assaulted by the very people they’re trying to help. There have been multiple incidents of firefighters being attacked while simply trying to do their job, and yet despite the what some say pathetic punishments given, firefighters still get out there the next day and continue to serve. It’s just part of you and if you hear the calling, too, nothing will change that. When it comes down to it, the job could pay nothing and people would still be lining up. If it’s what you want, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to give it everything you’ve got. That’s exactly what recruitment services are looking for. Now get out there, do the work, and make your dream come true.
Nothing contained in this post is to imply any endorsement from the CFA/MFB or its representatives.