Wanting to be a firefighter typically begins at a young age, when you first see a fire engine go down the road, red lights flashing and sirens blaring. Or perhaps it’s a school trip to the neighborhood fire station during October’s fire safety and education month that plants the seed. Either way, the path starts early on, one that can become a reality. The question is: Are you prepared to begin the process?
The testing process to become a firefighter is similar in many cities—The job announcement and application period, written test, physical agility test, structured oral boards and Chief’s interview. If you are given a conditional job offer after all that, you then must endure a medical exam, psychological evaluation, and background investigation. It seems like a lot, but the most important thing you can do is focus on one step at a time and prepare as well as you can long before the process begins. Let’s do a quick rundown on this concept. (Some departments will require you to have your EMT-B or EMT 1 (Emergency Medical Technician) by the date of hire. This can take some time to get, so consider getting it sooner than later. There are jobs outside the fire department where this licensure is useful, so don’t consider it a waste of time if you don’t get hired your first try.)
The written test typically is a civil service exam that focuses on general topics such as basic math concepts, spelling and grammar, reading comprehension, and some form of mechanical aptitude. There are books available at the library that will assist in brushing up on these topics. Don’t wait until the last minute to review. Anticipate the exam announcement and prepare with time on your side.
The physical agility is exactly what you think it is—multiple stations with lots of awkward lifting and lots of stairs, and usually wearing some form of firefighter gear. It is not easy, but not impossible. Again, waiting until the week before the exam to get fit, is way too late. You need to think about being a firefighter in terms of a lifestyle—regular exercise, eating well, overall healthy decisions that will prepare you long term. With so many body types out there, find the exercise regimen that works for you by providing comprehensive health and improvement as you work toward your goal of passing the physical agility portion.
The structured oral board and chief’s interview are interview panels consisting of fire department line personnel and administration employees. You will be asked a specific number of questions within a specific time period. Mostly scenario-based question, the oral board is designed to evaluate problem solving ability and applying personal experiences as it relates to customer service and interpersonal relationships. This is where the candidate separates themselves from others through professionalism and communication skills. This is the moment you sell yourself and articulate everything you have done to prepare for a life-changing position.
Lastly, this closing advice: Start this process early. Don’t do drugs. Stay in school. Stay out of trouble. Get active in your community (for the betterment of that community and not just to pad a resume—sincerity and putting others before oneself goes a long way when you are looking across that table during a Chiefs interview.)
I have worked at the Anchorage Fire Department for almost twelve years as a firefighter/EMT and Paramedic. If anyone has any questions regarding recruitment or the specific services AFD has to offer, please reach out to me, Bryan Fierro, at FierroBA@muni.org. You can also check the municipality website for recruitment information at www.muni.org/departments/fire.
Never hesitate to stop by your local fire station for information about a career. There is so much more to discuss regarding a well-balanced preparation and the relevant dynamics each testing phase offers. If you have the dedication, I have the time.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE CO. Sol de Medianoche is a bimonthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska