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Becoming a Firefighter: The Two-Year Plan

Battalion Chief Paul Lepore

Look the part!

The rule of thumb in an interview is to hire someone who you can see becoming a member or your crew tomorrow. A candidate who walks in with excessive facial hair, large tattoos or body piercing that is not permitted by the department’s policies presents as a candidate who is not ready for the position. Do not make the mistake of saying that you will remove them when you are ready to be hired. You are making a statement. It is important to understand that the fire department is a paramilitary organization. These will definitely not improve your chances of success.

Dress professionally. Invest in a suit and tie. Although not required for the interview, a candidate who does not wear one stands out. First impressions are critical. Make sure the suit is conservative, not flashy.

Dress professionally whenever you will have contact with members of the department. This includes station visits. Remember, it is important to make a good first impression.

Enroll in a service that lets you know which departments are testing.

There are several businesses on the Internet that will inform you of which departments are testing and what their requirements are.

Most departments test every 2-3 years. They will then hire from the “eligibility list” until it expires. The window to file an application is usually very small, ranging from as short as 1 day to as long as 30 days. Once the filing period is closed, the department will not accept any more applications. If you don’t have a subscription to one these services, you will miss a lot of opportunities.

Talk to your family.

The decision to become a firefighter is a monumental one. It will most likely be a long road that requires a lot of time and sacrifice. If you don’t have a family or friend support network, it will become extremely difficult. Most importantly, if your spouse does not support your decision, you are destined for failure.

Surround yourself with reputable people.

A firefighter position is a life choice, not just a job. You must be prepared to live your life with excellent moral and ethical values. For this you will need the support of family and friends who are good role models. If your friends are not a positive influence in the community, you may want to find a new set of friends. Remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” A background check will scrutinize not only you, but also the company you keep.


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