What to Expect Your First Year as a Firefighter
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
Most commonly firefighters work in 24-hour shifts, reporting to work at 0700 and work until 0700 the next day. Firefighters usually work a total of 56 hours per week (but since these hours are worked on a continual basis, firefighters enjoy a lot of time off). On the average, firefighters work ten 24-hour shifts each month, leaving them to enjoy 20 days off each month.
Some departments on the east coast work 8-hour or 12-hour shifts, however the 24-hour shift is by far the most common shift schedule.
If a firefighter is assigned to work a particular day that conflicts with a family event or vacation he is allowed to have another firefighter cover his shift. “Shift trades” are common practice in the fire station and do not affect the department in any way as each firefighter covers for the other and no overtime is generated. Records are kept by the firefighters and trades are repaid on the honor system.
In the 24-hour shift schedule each fire station has three different identical shifts assigned, designated as A, B and C shift. Each shift has the exact same compliment of staffing assigned to the fire engine or fire truck. While there are some differences from department to department, the rotation schedule is very simple to follow.
I will place my turnout gear on the rig. I will get a briefing from the off going personnel regarding the station or apparatus. I will thoroughly check out my rig and make sure it is stocked and ready to respond. I will then begin my housework routine. I may be assigned anything from vacuuming to cleaning the heads or kitchen.
At some point during the morning we will probably have a crew meeting to go over the day’s activities. When I have completed my details, I will see who needs help finishing theirs. We may work out in the morning, in which case I will ride the stationary bike or hop on the treadmill, and then work out with free weights. Depending on the needs of the crew, we may take the rig to the park or local school and jog around the track.
At some point, usually mid-morning, we will head to the grocery store. If it is my day to shop and cook for the crew, I will have already prepared a list and will be ready to shop.
We will usually return to the station by late morning and begin cooking lunch so we can eat around noon. By the time we finish eating and cleaning up the dishes it will be around 1 pm.
In the early afternoon, we will probably head out on fire prevention inspections. It is our objective to walk through several businesses in our first district and point out potential fire hazards. This is also a good opportunity to become familiar with what business items are important to the owners. It is not our intent to write citations to each of these businesses, but to become familiar with them.
Getting hired on the fire department is one of the hardest things a candidate will ever do in his or her life. Successful candidates make numerous personal sacrifices in order to reach their goal. All professional firefighters will be able to tell you the time they got the “call” officially offering them a badge. Most rank it as one of the greatest moments in their life similar to the birth of a child or their wedding day.
Getting hired on the fire department is a life changing event. It’s better than winning the lottery. The only thing keeping you from reaching your goal is YOU! Follow your dreams!