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Fire Service Career


This web page has been prepared to give prospective applicants a general overview of firefighter job requirements in the fire services. It also provides information concerning which efforts may be helpful to those seeking a firefighter career.
Although some of the information contained here has been drawn from the Anaheim Fire Department, it is also generic and applies to pursuing a career in the services in any jurisdiction.

The hiring process for entry-level Firefighter is extremely competitive and requires much effort. It is not uncommon for a department to have upwards of 5000 applicants for as little as three or four job openings. In 1994, the city of Anaheim distributed approximately 4000 applications for Firefighter Trainee; Of the 400 successful candidates from the overall test process, approximately 17 candidates were hired over a two year period.

Public Safety Explorer Dispatch Program


General Qualifications

In the past, the minimum requirements for the average Firefighter testing process have included:

A minimum age of 18, possession of a valid California drivers license, a clean driving record, and an education equivalent to a high school graduation.

Physical requirements have included visual acuity of 20/70 uncorrected in each eye and correctable to 20/50 in both eyes, with normal range depth perception and ability to identify primary colors. Hearing has been expected to be within normal range and weight in proportion to height.

A Firefighter must have good judgment, good communication skills, demonstrated mechanical aptitude, basic math skills, and ability to understand and learn fire fighting material. In addition, a firefighter must be able to face hazardous, life threatening situations, and have coping skills for managing unpleasant and difficult situations. At the same time, they must be team players able to get along with a variety of people in close quarters. The ability to follow orders and work in a paramilitary organization is also important. Fire fighting is physically demanding and personnel in the fire service must be in excellent physical condition.

Selection Process

Most jurisdictions will distribute an examination announcement. To get specific information about a particular agency, contact their personnel office. The application and selection process will be described in the announcement which will be published when a Firefighter position opens. Most selection processes for entry-level firefighter consist of an application screening, a written exam, a physical ability test, and one or more oral interviews. A qualifying background investigation and a medical evaluation are usually required.



Becoming a firefighter often takes a great deal of long-term preparation, self motivation, and commitment. Where there is no guarantee that any of the following activities will result in your selection as an entry-level firefighter, experience has shown that participation in these types of activities has tended to distinguish outstanding candidates, and documents and applicants interest in the position.

  1. Education and Training

    Some Community colleges offer Fire Science degrees and/or certificates. This listing is only a sample and does not serve as an endorsement for any one program. Check the availability of classes at your local school.

    1. First Aid Courses
      1. Advanced First Aid Certificate (contact the local American Red Cross for a course schedule)
      2. Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate.
    2. Fire Service Related Courses (offered at Community Colleges)
      1. Basic English Grammar & Reading Comprehension
      2. Basic Math
      3. Emergency Medical Technician I Certificate
    3. Fire Service Technology Courses
      1. Fire Science A. A. degree :
        1. Mount San Antonio College (Mount. SAC)
        2. Crafton Hills College
        3. Santa Ana College
        4. Rio Hondo College
      2. Physical Agility Training
        1. Santa Ana College
        2. Mount SAC
      3. Firefighter Academy
        1. Mount SAC
        2. Santa Ana College
        3. Crafton Hills
        4. Foothill Academy
        5. South Bay Academy
        6. Jim Shern Academy
  2. Physical Fitness:

    In order to prepare for firefighting work, it is important to have and maintain a physical fitness program. While no one course of physical fitness will suit every individual, a physical regimen that stresses endurance and total body strength can assist in developing a level of physical preparedness that is needed to succeed in physical agility performance testing. It is recommended that you consult your private physician before starting any fitness program.

    Several Institutions ma assist you in deciding on a physical fitness program: The community colleges; YMCA/YWCA; a private health club; or a health maintenance organization (i.e. Kaiser Permanente).

  3. Community Involvement:

    Applicants are not required to participate in extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, participation in various types of community programs does establish a record of interest and motivation.

    1. Volunteer Fire Service Work
      1. Reserve Programs (Check with your local Fire Dept.)
      2. Auxiliary Programs (Check with your local Fire Dept.)
      3. Office of Emergency Services (OES)
      4. California Conservation Corp (CCC)
    2. Volunteer Community Services
      1. Church Programs
      2. Scout Troops (Explorer Programs)
      3. Community Organization
      4. Hospitals
      5. Schools
  4. Miscellaneous:

    There are several other ways to prepare for a career in the fire services. Occasionally, there are civilian jobs in dispatch. administration, or fire prevention. Most jurisdictions have a recorded job information hotline that lists vacancies. For Anaheim, that number is (714) 765-5197. Current employment as a paramedic, nurse, medical assistant, or in any direct service capacity in an emergency environment is helpful.

    Anaheim also has an interest card that can be completed by prospective applicants. Interest cards can be obtained in person or by calling (714) 765-5111. Other cities may have something similar. The Anaheim Fire Department offers a Reserve work experience program for those who are interested in exploring a career in the fire service. For more information contact the Anaheim Fire Department Reserve Coordinator (714) 765-5100 ext. 5930.

    It is important to:

    1. Visit Fire Station - this is an excellent opportunity for interested individuals to talk to personnel and discuss the pros & cons of the profession and determine whether or not the day-to-day routine(s) match their own skills and interests.
    2. Develop a resume to include all Fire Service related information so it is easily available when the application period opens.



A career in the fire service is both challenging and rewarding. Fire suppression is only one of a wide variety of duties performed by Firefighters. In fact, approximately 85% of all fire department responses are to emergency medical calls. Other typical assignments may include fire prevention education, commercial and residential fire inspections, community outreach and services, post-fire-salvage and cleanup, and equipment maintenance.

When fighting fires, work apparel and equipment weighing approximately 45 pounds are worn. A significant amount of time is spent inspecting, cleaning and maintaining this equipment and training in its use. A firefighter is usually a member of a four member team that lives and works together in close quarters throughout a shift. Living at the Fire House entails rigorous housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and yard maintenance. Teams may be diverse by gender and ethnicity and each member is heavily dependent on fellow members to successfully perform the duties of the position.

Firefighting is twenty-four hour work done in shifts that vary by jurisdiction. Calls for assistance can and do come at any hour. Many firefighters contend that the best way to ensure that a call comes in is to prepare a meal or begin a good nights sleep! A typical firefighter works a 24-hour shift with 24-hours off-duty in between shifts. On occasion there may be mandatory overtime. A typical Firefighter may earn between $2,800.00 and $4,800.00 per month. Other benefits include excellent medical, dental and retirement plans.

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