John Watkins was standing in front of the stove, slowly stirring the spaghetti sauce in the 10 gallon pot. It was his turn to cook for all the guys in the fire station. Some of the sauce splattered on the stove. He took the kitchen towel off of his shoulder and starting wiping up the mess, when the bell rang. He quickly turned off the gas and ran to jump into his gear. He had learned many years ago to store his pants inside the boots, next to his jacket and helmet. In less than a minute, John was able to jump onto the rear of the fire truck as it sped down the street.
Just a mile down the road, John and the other guys spied black smoke that spewed from an abandoned warehouse. Strange, thought John there's also white smoke coming from the rear of the building. They all worked quickly attaching the hose to the water hydrant next to the street. It was hard work to control the water pressure in the heavy hose. The men waited for the captain to give the command. He had to quickly decide what kind of a fire was coming from the warehouse. If this was a wood fire, the water would quickly put it out. However, if it was a chemical fire, water could make the fire spread. The captain and the fire investigator agreed that the angry looking black smoke was due to chemicals. The men moved to the back with the water to spray the white smoke. Others removed a foam sprayer to fight the fire with the black smoke.
Within an hour, the men were able to put the fire out and headed back to the station. Some of the men were off duty and able to go home. The others were finally able to sit down to eat the spaghetti dinner. The captain introduced, Ed, a local reporter to everyone at dinner.
Captain: Guys this is Ed and he would like to ask you a few questions about becoming a Firefighter.
Ed: Hi, guys! I'd like to start at the beginning and have you tell me about your training. How do you become a firefighter?
John: I took classes at recruit school for two months. Then I took 3 months of EMT-B.
Ed: What does that mean?
John: Oh, sorry. It stands for Emergency Medical Technician. After that I was lucky enough to get a job here.
Ed: Why do you say you were lucky?
John: Sometimes, it can take up to five years to get a job in a fire house.
Steve: Don't forget to tell him about probation.
John: That's right. A new firefighter is on probation for one year.
Ed: What are they allowed to do during that first year?
All the guys laughed.
Captain: Maybe you should ask Ted. He's on probation right now.
Ted: Well, I'm really good at using a mop! I have to keep the bathrooms clean, make plenty of coffee, respond to fires like the other guys and put up with all their jokes! Then every quarter I'm tested to see how good of a job I'm doing as a fire fighter.
John: You really have to have a good sense of humor during that first year. Ted is doing a great job.
Steve: He gets along with everyone really well.
Ted: Thanks guys. I have a good memory for the jokes you played on me, too. Just wait until the year is up!
Ed: What would you tell someone who wants to become a firefighter?
John: A firefighter receives training and is required to pass certification levels. He has to be 18 years old, have graduated from high school, have a driver's license, and be able to lift and carry 150 lbs with assistance.
Ed: What do you guys do when there aren't any emergencies?
Ted: Well, when we aren't busy, most of the guys lift weights or do other exercise to stay strong.
Steve: That's right. You never know when it will be necessary to carry someone from a smoke-filled building.
Captain: And that gear weighs 60 to 80 pounds. That's a lot to carry around.
Ed: What else can you tell me about the job?
Steve: We are on a rotating schedule. That means the guys are on duty 72 hours, then off duty for 72 hours. We sleep in our clothes, except for the boots, jackets and helmets.
Ed: What about you, captain, how was your training different?
Captain: I'm the company commander and have to plan, coordinate the emergency and non-emergency activities for everyone. I also have to have 45 college credits with major coursework in fire science, fire administration, and 6 years experience in fire suppression. I also have to know how to operate and maintain all the fire equipment. Before I became captain, I learned all this as a Fire Apparatus Operator.
Ed: Who's that at this fire house?
Steve: That's me. I have to take care of all the equipment, be certified as an EMS, have a driver's license, and have the equivalent of 15 college semester credits in fire suppression and 3 years experience as a firefighter.
Captain: All the guys can move up to the next job by taking more classes and having more experience. I'm studying now for the next position of a Fire Battalion Chief. I have to have an Associate Degree in fire science and fire administration, and 2 years experience as Fire Captain.
Ed: Why do you want to keep taking more classes?
Captain: Fire fighting is a difficult job. The young people are really great at their jobs, but they can't continue to do the same job at age 50. So there are other opportunities for them as Fire Battalion Chief or Division Fire Chief. Each of these requires more experience and additional qualifications.
Ed: Thanks everyone for answering my questions! I have enough information now to write about becoming a firefighter. I hope you can relax for the rest of the evening!
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