A Firefighter’s chief duty is to respond to emergency situations and protect citizens from danger. They are responsible for responding to fires and minimizing damage to the impacted property and surrounding areas.
Firefighters are also expected to respond to car accidents to prevent or extinguish fires, and in certain cases, assist at the sites of accidents involving hazardous materials. When not responding to emergencies, firefighters work cohesively to maintain a wide array of equipment.
A Firefighter’s responsibilities include:
- Responding to alarms at extremely short notice.
- Extinguishing fires.
- Protecting the public during various emergencies.
- Providing first aid in the event of emergencies.
- Responding in the event of natural disasters.
- Maintaining equipment and learning new rescue techniques.
A firefighter’s skills should include:
- First aid and triage skills.
- Crisis management skills.
- Mastery of firefighting equipment.
- Being in excellent physical condition.
- The ability to keep calm in stressful situations.
A high school diploma or GED is necessary for the position. Psychological tests and drug screening is required upon acceptance of an application. Most fire departments require basic EMT training as well as extensive firefighting training for those who haven’t worked in a similar capacity before. A medical and physical exam is also required.
Salaries for Firefighters range between $25K to $47K, with the median being $70K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a Firefighter include:
- Degrees (Certifications, Associates, Bachelors, Masters)
- Size and Type of the Organization
- Reporting Structure (Seniority of the Captain, or Chief you report to)
- Type and number of incidents you respond to
- Level of performance - Exceeding Expectations, etc.
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Firefighter Interview Questions
Question: What steps have you taken to ensure you are ready for a career in firefighting?
Explanation: This is a general or opening question which the interviewer will ask to start the interview, learn more about you, and collect information they can use throughout the interview. This provides you the opportunity to steer the interview in a direction in which you are comfortable and for which you are likely to have the answers.
Example: “I started preparing for a career in firefighting when I was still little. I have always been interested in the fire service and knew that one day I would become a fireman. In school, I gravitated toward courses related to firefighting. These included math, science, physical fitness and healthcare. As soon as I was eligible, I applied to the fire academy and was accepted. I worked hard, both developing my firefighting skills and improving my physical fitness. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do or for which I am more prepared.”
Question: Can you summarize the daily responsibilities of a firefighter?
Explanation: This is another general question in which the interviewer seeks to understand what you think a firefighter does and what duties are involved. This should be easy to answer based on the job description you applied for and the training you received at the fire academy. It would be best if you answered this question directly, with little embellishment.
Example: “The most important responsibility a firefighter has is to protect the public from fires. You need to be ready to respond to a wide range of emergencies, extinguishing fires and rescuing anybody in danger. You also need to be able to administer first aid. Other responsibilities include keeping myself physically fit, maintaining the equipment at the firehouse, attending training to update my skills, and educating the public about fire safety,”
Question: What do you believe are the key elements of a fire prevention and public education program?
Explanation: This is a follow-up to the previous question. Since you touched on this topic in your answer, you should anticipate a follow-up question. An interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need more information or have a specific interest in the topic. This also indicates that the topic is important to them, so you should focus on it throughout the interview.
Example: “I believe the key elements of any fire prevention or public education program as providing the public with information they can use to prevent fires from starting. You also need to educate them on how to respond to a fire safely, such as how to extinguish minor fires such as grease fires on the stove. Most importantly, you need to educate them about having a plan in place, so when a fire occurs, they can evacuate the building quickly and account for all the occupants.”
Question: Are you and your family prepared to adapt to the unusual schedule this job requires?
Explanation: A firefighter’s job often requires you to work multiple days on duty, then have multiple days off. It may also include working long shifts and unusual hours. Some people can easily adapt to this, while others struggle, especially those with children. You probably already considered this before choosing a career as a firefighter. The best way to answer this question is to acknowledge that the schedules are unusual and that you are prepared to deal with them.
Example: “I knew before choosing this career that it would involve unusual work schedules. My wife and I discussed this and agreed that we could manage it, even when we decide to have children. I plan to take advantage of the unusual schedule and use my time off to pursue an advanced degree in public safety. This will better prepare me for the job and future advancement in this career.”
Question: Do believe pride and loyalty are important to be a firefighter, and if so, why?
Explanation: This is another general question related to this job. As a firefighter, you should anticipate all types of questions during an interview, including general, operational, technical, and behavioral. The best way to prepare for an interview for a firefighter’s job is to review the terminology, processes and procedures used in this field. You should also practice these questions, saying your answers aloud to feel comfortable when answering questions during the interview.
Example: “I do believe that pride and loyalty are important for a firefighter. We work as a team and need to have each other’s back in dangerous situations. Being loyal to your fellow firefighters and willing to risk your life to save theirs is a key quality you need to have. Taking pride in what you do and the accomplishments you achieve is another key element. This is why I train so hard to do this job.”
Question: What developments do you foresee in firefighting over the next several years?
Explanation: This question relates to your training and the work you do to maintain your competency as a firefighter. Your training and work expose you to new developments in the field. You should have a deep-rooted interest in learning more firefighting, including what is coming next.
Example: “While the fundamentals of firefighting really haven’t changed over the years, the techniques, equipment and technology we use have. In the future, I anticipate that new techniques will emerge as firefighters learn how to respond to different types of fires better. I also believe that technology will become an even more important tool for firefighters to use. Robotics is one of the most interesting areas being developed in our industry. I can foresee one day when firefighters will not have to enter a burning structure, but rather will direct robots to both fight the fire and rescue any occupants.”
Question: Describe a situation in which you would feel justified in disobeying a direct order from your captain.
Explanation: Disobeying a direct order is a cardinal sin for a firefighter. They are trained to respond to direct orders without question. This assumes that the person giving the orders has better knowledge, experience and skills than they do. However, occasions may occur where disobeying an order may be justified. Be careful how you answer this question, ensuring that you have an exceptionally good reason for disobeying orders.
Example: “In general, I would never disobey a direct order. I operate under the assumption that orders are given by people with more direct knowledge, experience and skills than I do. However, fires are fluid situations requiring individual judgment. If an incident occurred where either my life, the life of a fellow firefighter, or a victim was in peril, I would take the initiative to save the life. If this involves disobeying a direct order, I would still do it and deal with the consequences after the fact.”
Question: What are some ways you can contribute to maintaining good morale and positive relationships within your crew?
Explanation: Firefighters spend a lot of time with each other on the job. Maintaining morale and good relationships is critical. While no training is provided for this, and it is not part of the job description, you should still be able to respond to this question, detailing some ways you can achieve this important objective.
Example: “I am a people person, and getting along with others is important to me. I go out of my way to get to know and appreciate the people I work with. I especially seek to understand their communication styles. This enables me to enjoy my time with them and to minimize the conflicts we may encounter. I also take steps to increase the morale of the team, including creating team-building opportunities, sharing information we can all use, and volunteering for the least desirable jobs.”
Question: How would you react to an angry crowd at the scene of a fire?
Explanation: This is a behavioral question that seeks to understand how you would deal with a situation that is not common to the work a firefighter does but could occur. If you recall, behavioral questions are best answered using the STAR framework. Summarize the situation, describe the task you need to complete, discuss the actions you would take and talk about the results you hope to achieve. The emphasis should be on the results since this is what the hiring manager is interested in and why they are interviewing you.
Example: “If faced with a situation where a disturbance occurred while my crew and I were trying to put out a fire, my focus would be on the safety of people, including the victims of the fire, their neighbors, any bystanders, and the fire crew. I’d focus on this while calling the police for backup and crowd control. Once control was established, my crew and I would turn our attention to the fire to protect the building and adjoining properties. If necessary, we’d allow the fire to continue while maintaining a safe perimeter, so no lives were lost. Our first priority is always ensuring no one dies, followed by minimizing the damage caused by the fire.”
Question: When looking back on your career, what accomplishments do you think you will be most pleased about?
Explanation: This is an interesting question in that it asks you to project about something you will experience in the future. What the interviewer is interested in is what accomplishments and goals you’re thinking about for this position. Hiring managers look for employees who are not only qualified for the job but want to grow in the role and advance to the next level. You should always have a career plan that includes goals and achievements and share these with the interviewer.
Example: “When I look back on my career after it is all over, I think the things I will be most pleased about is how I’ve helped other people. This is the essence of a firefighter’s role. By doing our job, we assist others, saving their lives and their property. If I can feel comfortable that I’ve always kept this motion at the forefront of my mind throughout my career, I will be satisfied. Any other achievements, commendations, or awards will simply be evidence of how well I did this.”
Additional Firefighter Interview Questions
What initially drew you to pursue firefighting as a career?
Describe your leadership style.
What first aid and EMT training do you have?
What do you do to maintain physical fitness for this kind of work?
What are some of the biggest institutional problems facing fire departments in your experience?
What would you do to help educate the public about fire prevention?
How do you handle long hours on call?
How well do you deal with high-pressure situations?
What would you say is the most important attribute a firefighter should possess?
What can you as an individual bring to this fire department?
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