When I lived in Los Angeles, you couldn't swing a dead cat (sorry cat lovers, just an expression here) without hitting someone trying to break into the film business. Now I am finding that you can't swing a dead cat without meeting someone who wants to get into the fire business. It's exciting to meet so many people who want to do what I do and I thank my lucky stars everyday that this is what I get to do for a living. It is a sexy job in a way. Kinda like forensic accounting minus the accounting and the forensics. I think the tragic events of 9/11 gave even more awareness to what it means to be a firefighter. I was talking to some of the old-timers on the job and they told me back in the day when they applied one of the big qualifications you had to have was to be able to play a mean game of hockey. It wasn't a great paying job and your bunker gear consisted of long roll up rubber boots and a 3/4 length coat. Air bottles were for sissies and you used your handlebar mustache to help filter out smoke. There was a well-known Captain who would go running into fires whilst smoking a cigar. The oxygen on the trucks wasn't for the medical patients but for the firefighters who happened to suck back too much smoke. You could get on the job straight from graduating high school and it was considered blue collar. And it took a bit of convincing for some people to sign up.
Fast forward to the present.
Getting on the job is intensely competitive where hundreds of applicants are competing for the same job. Most departments insist on post-secondary educations. University and/or some type of pre-fire service education is highly regarded. Additional courses, education or training that is related to fire or emergency services are considered definite assets including trades qualifications, fire pre-service, career preparation or fire protection engineering programs. Skills or experiences such as previous firefighting or emergency service experience, lifeguard qualifications, SCBA or SCUBA certification, health & safety certification, climbing or rope rescue skills, emergency service certification (EMCA, Ski Patrol, etc.), coaching or volunteer work, driving heavy vehicles or the operation of heavy equipment are all considered in the hiring mix.
It used to be if you were a firefighter you fought fires. You still do that now but in addition to that there is Fire Prevention, Public Education, Rescue Operations, Medical Aid, Hazmat, Confined Space and High Angle Rescue. There isn't a day that I go into work that I don't learn something new.
My sincerest best wishes to those of you who are going after your dream. It is one of the best and most rewarding jobs in the world. See you all on the fireground.....