Being a Firefighter in the Public and Private Sector
Every year in the United States, fires and emergencies kill and injure thousands of Americans and destroy property worth billions of dollars. A firefighter is America's first line of defense dealing with these hazardous situations. Traditionally, the firefighter's main role was to save lives; prevent loss of life and property; control, confine, and extinguish fires; and prevent unwanted fires. The role has expanded, however. Firefighters are now the first responders to major disasters and emergencies, the first to arrive on the scene to save lives, property, and the environment.
Career firefighters work in both the public sector and the private sector. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighter employment is expected, on average, to grow faster than that for other occupations. However, keen competition for jobs is expected because this occupation attracts many qualified candidates.
Approximately 90 percent of all paid firefighters are employed by municipal or county fire departments. They work in the traditional role of firefighter or in specialized roles. This chapter deals mostly with firefighters in the public sector. Those employed in the private sector are also discussed briefly.
Firefighters in the Public Sector
Trainee Programs for Firefighters
Most fire departments require new candidates who have passed the examinations (written, physical, and psychological) to become a firefighter to enter an apprenticeship, trainee, or probationary period. While in the trainee program for a specific period of time, the recruits are taught the firematic functions of their specific department through classroom sessions and a variety of job-related tasks during drills. They are evaluated closely to determine if they meet the required standards. Assignments include responding to alarms and assisting regular fire personnel in firefighting and emergency duties. Trainees typically receive less salary and fewer benefits than established firefighters in the department. After satisfactory completion of the probationary period, they are assigned to a specific unit.
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