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Firefighter  What They Do

Just the Facts


Responds to fire alarms and other emergency calls to control and extinguish fires, protect life and property, and conduct rescue efforts.

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security cluster Emergency and Fire Management Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Rescues victims from burning buildings and accident sites.
  • Searches burning buildings to locate fire victims.
  • Administers first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to injured persons.
  • Dresses with equipment such as fire-resistant clothing and breathing apparatus.
  • Drives and operates fire fighting vehicles and equipment.
  • Moves toward the source of a fire, using knowledge of types of fires, construction design, building materials, and physical layout of properties.
  • Responds to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents.
  • Assesses fires and situations and reports conditions to superiors to receive instructions, using two-way radios.
  • Positions and climbs ladders to gain access to upper levels of buildings, or to rescue individuals from burning structures.
  • Creates openings in buildings for ventilation or entrance, using axes, chisels, crowbars, electric saws, or core cutters.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads of more than 50 lbs., sometimes more than 100 lbs. You must be used to very heavy physical exertion on a regular basis.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Maintaining a body position that prevents falling when in an unstable position
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Moving the arms, legs and torso together when the whole body is in motion
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Using muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring
  • Bending, stretching, twisting, or reaching
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Exerting oneself physically over long periods of time without getting out of breath
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Overtime work
  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Fire Apparatus Engineer -- Drives and operates heavy fire apparatus, including trucks and engines and also partakes in traditional firefighting duties, such as suppression and training.
  • Fire Chief -- Directs activities of municipal fire department.
  • Hazmat Technician -- Responsible for handling hazardous or toxic materials in a safe manner to minimize safety hazard, prevent spills, and reduce/eliminate hazardous waste generation.
  • Fireboat Operator --
  • Marine Fire Fighter --
  • Oil Fire Specialist --