What to Expect as a Firefighter: A Guide for Your First Day

Becoming a firefighter is a tremendous accomplishment on both a professional and personal level. Firefighters go through a well-rounded and strict hiring process. Thus, if you already made it through the civil service exam, background check, fitness test, interview, and drug test, congratulations are in order. 

Now it is time to put those skills to the test. Hence, what should you expect on your first day as a firefighter? Let’s just say it will be both an exciting and anxiety-ridden day. But do not worry— you are not alone!  

Below we will go over everything you need to know to overcome your first day as an official firefighter. Including tips, must-knows, and rules, so you know what to expect.  


Is Firefighting a Good Career?  

First things, first! Becoming a firefighter is a great career choice, especially if you have a passion for serving others. The work is intense and often dangerous, but it is also extremely satisfying to save lives and help others in

What to Expect as a Firefighter: A Guide for Your First Day


Plus, it is a career with a plethora of advantages, including: 

Educational Requirements

Compared to other career choices, the educational requirements are low. In other words, to become a firefighter, you are only required to have a high-school diploma.  

Flexible Schedule

Contrary to popular belief, most firefighters have a lot of time off. Usually, they will work a schedule where they have 2-3 days off after working 24 to 48 hours shifts. Nonetheless, depending on the department and season, it may vary.  

Therefore, if you work in a busy district, then you might have 4-5 free days because of how active is your on-duty time. But, in rural areas or smaller communities, you might only end up with one day off, given that the post is not as demanding.  

Work Security

One of the greatest things about firefighting is that it comes with high levels of job security. Every community requires firefighters! Plus, except for those who voluntarily serve, this job is usually classified as a government job. 

Excellent Benefits

As mentioned before, government jobs come with a great set of benefits ranging from steady pays to the ability to work anywhere in the country.  

One of the most thought-of advantages is full health insurance coverage. Most coverage options range widely and can include medical benefits with prescription drug coverage, emergency medical care, dental coverage, vision coverage, etc. Moreover, cities like New York also offer lifetime health care benefits for immediate family members and spouses. 

Firefighters are also eligible for programs exclusively available to civil servants. These benefits include tuition reimbursement programs, special loans, credit union membership, retirement funds, and access to disability insurance. 

Good Salary

Overall, firefighters have good steady salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average firefighter makes approximately $46,870 a year ($22.53 per hour.) 

Nonetheless, this figure can vary greatly depending upon location and rank. For instance, a firefighter in Massachusetts makes around $48,083 annually, while a firefighter in Florida can earn up to $37,415 per year.  

Career Advancement Opportunities

Becoming a firefighter also offers many growth opportunities. Firefighters can often diversify their roles by becoming specialists within the organization. Some specialized areas include Urban Search and Rescue, Fire Investigation, Regulatory Fire Safety, Tactical Advisor Rescue, and many more.  

Additionally, given that it is a merit-based career, there is also room for promotions depending on performance and experience.  


Tips for Surviving Your First Day  

The first day on the job can be exhilarating but also genuinely nerve-racking. And your first day as a firefighter is no different. Therefore, below are ten useful tips that will go a long way and will get you started with the right foot at your new post: 

Show you are committed to the job 

You will not get a second chance on a first impression. Hence, since day one, show how committed and interested you are in preserving your job. One great way of doing so is by making sure you are always the first one to get to the station and the last one to leave. Another good way is by volunteering to do the not-so-popular jobs around the department. 

What to Expect as a Firefighter: A Guide for Your First Day

Remember, firefighting requires a lot of effort and dedication on your part.  

 Keep Busy 

The first days can be a little slow, especially if there are no real emergencies. Thus, make sure you keep busy! There is always something to do at a fire station—from putting away equipment and cleaning the space to answering the phones.  

It does no matter how trivial or small the task seems. By keeping busy, you are letting everyone in the department know how serious you are about your job.  

Find time to get to know your peers 

Firefighting is a job that requires a lot of team effort. Hence, make sure you take the time to know other people in the squad. Know that your life could someday depend on them or vice-versa.  

 Follow every order 

Fire stations have a chain of command, and you must learn to respect it. Therefore, you should always follow the orders and instructions of your department’s Chief or person in charge. By doing so, you will minimize risks and will become more efficient and effective at your job.  

Turn off your personal devices

Act professionally by not bringing your home habits into the fire station 

Excessive use of your phone or devices will get you in unnecessary trouble.   

Even if no one says anything, it is not okay. Thus, when starting, turn off your devices the minute you get to the station.  

And to ensure your family and friends know where to reach you in case of an emergency, give them the department’s phone.  

Be present

Since day one, you need to understand that you are an intrinsical part of the squad. So, you must be productive and alert at all times. Make yourself useful and do not try to get out of the way of anything (or anyone.)  

It is a rookie mistake to think that by “disappearing” and only emerging when called, you are doing the right thing. When in reality, you should be letting everyone know you are available and ready to work. 

Dress the part

It may seem like a no brainer, but dressing accordingly is one of the most common mistakes when starting. Make sure you are well-dressed and groomed on your first (and every other) day.  

Limit your complaints

The job is hard, and sometimes it can truly take a toll on you. But, try to limit your complaints. This rule applies not only to your first day but to every day following up.  

Act professional

Do not engage in any unprofessional behavior (in or out of the station), regardless of temptations. As a civil servant, you have an image to uphold. Thus, bad habits and conducts can and will reflect poorly on your squad and the entire force.  

Take care of yourself

Lastly, you must take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep the day before, make sure you have a fulfilling yet light meal, and make sure you have everything you need to go about your day.  

 Have asthma? Read this article to see if you can be a firefighter: https://civilservicehq.com/can-you-be-a-firefighter-with-asthma/

Must-Know Rules for New Firefighters     

As a newbie, you are not expected to know everything there is to know about the job, the station, or the equipment. Thus, try not to get overwhelmed and be open to advise from more experienced firefighters. 

Nonetheless, there are a few rules that you must know beforehand, including: 

  1. Never, unless imperative, turn your back to the fire.  
  2. Trust those around you, but never underestimate the dangers of a scene.  
  3. Always let the tool do the work; this will avoid unwanted injuries. 
  4. If you do not know what you’re doing or how to do something, say so. It is best not to put yourself or others at risk.  
  5. Take the blame for your mistakes and ask for credit when credit is due.  
  6. Profit from every drill that happens at the station. It may sound cliché, but practice makes perfect.  
  7. Learn to cope with stress and pain. If you need to take a break, let your peers know. After all, you are only human.  
  8. Do not get emotionally involved with any member of the department.  
  9. Be patient when working with other newbies; some people need more time to adapt to new environments and roles.  
  10. Attend fire conferences and optional training. Remember, this is not only a job but a career.  
  11. When an officer suggests you take a break, do not consider it a punishment. He/she wants you to be at your best when you are needed.  
  12. Do not show up to work, sick, or emotionally unavailable. There is a lot at risk!  

A Typical Day in the Life of a Firefighter 

What to Expect as a Firefighter: A Guide for Your First Day

Depending on the fire station, rank, and city where you are located, a typical day in the life of a firefighter might vary considerably. However, there are things that no matter who or where you are pretty much standard.  


Therefore, if you are looking forward to your first day at work as the fire department, here’s what you can expect: 

7:15 AM - Arriving at the station. Typically, shifts start at 8:00 AM. But, it is always good to be there 30-45 minutes before it starts to settle in.  

8:05 AM - Before you can even think of doing anything else, you get a call about a car accident.  

8:20 AM - You arrive on the scene to find that a woman is having trouble breathing due to the airbag exploding and has a severe slit on her head. Thus, you help her get out of the vehicle, stabilize the wound, and drive to the hospital. 

8:45 AM - The designated squad member gives the report to the hospitals and drops the patient off.  

8:40 AM - You are back at the fire station.  

8:45 AM – You and a partner do charts. A chart is a form or report that is done for every medical call the station gets. It generally takes about 30-50 minutes (depending on what happened on the call), and it is used to keep a record of our activities.  

10:10 AM - Another call comes in. You sit this one out as you are preparing for class. Note that when you are on a probationary period, you are still required to attend certain courses.  

12:00 PM - You get out of class and head to lunch.  

12:05 PM - Before you can sit down, another call comes in! You get your gear on and head out to the truck. This one is about a small fire on an apartment building caused by a candle.  

1:40 PM – You are back at the station, wash off, and sit down to eat.  

3:00 PM - After lunch, you head out back to the academy for some training.  

3:20 PM – The training you do involves hose pulling, where we pretend we have a fire in a house, and practice what we would do in specific situations.  

4:43 PM - You put all the gear and tools away and head back to the station one more time.  

5:25 PM - Arrive back to the station and take down the flags for the day. You and some squad members decide to work out as you probably did not get time to do so in the morning. 

7:00 PM - Dinner time. Everyone starts to cook dinner, which should not take long. 

7:53 PM – Dinner finished and clean-up time.Since it is your first day, your officer allows you to go home early.  

Most of your days will be as hectic as the one pictured above. Nonetheless, keep in mind this is not how all days will be. Use it as a guide of what you can expect when officially working at a fire department.  

Additionally, note that most shifts last between 24-48 hours depending on how busy your schedule and on-duty time is.  

Wrapping it up! 

Being a firefighter can be very rewarding. But it also can be a very stressful and demanding job. Not everyone is cut up for the post, and you will need to work hard every day. It is also a job that requires a lot of commitment, sacrifice, and effort on your part! 

Thus, on your first day, be confident about what you know, be open to learning new things, trust your instincts, be respectful, and try to befriend your peers. Soon enough, your station will become a second home. 

What to Expect as a Firefighter: A Guide for Your First Day

Finally, know that like with anything else in life, it might take a while before you feel truly comfortable in your gear. Hence, do not get discouraged if at first, you feel out of place or find the job to be extremely hard. Practice, experience, and time will help make it easier!  

And if you believe you need extra help, there are plenty of resources readily available for you online and at the academy. Plus, you can always go to a superior or a more experienced firefighter for advice.  


Related Questions

What are the cons of being a firefighter?

Being a firefighter, like any other job, has its cons or not-so-good things. And although these tend to vary depending on each individual, some of the unpopular things of this type of employment include: 

  • Having to deal with high levels of stress
  • Performing risky tasks that might put you in harm’s way
  • Long shifts that can exceed the usual 8-hour workday 
  • Having to endure constant training to maintain optimal physical and mental conditions
  • Coping with PTSD and other job-related injuries
  • Relatively low pay when compared to the responsibilities and risks involved with the job. 

What is the civil service exam?

Civil Service Examinations are assessments implemented in various countries to screen candidates for government jobs and civil servant positions.  

It is almost impossible to know the exact content that goes into a Civil Service Exam. After all, the requirements of your potential employer significantly impact the areas that are being tested. It is possible, however, below the most common categories: 

  • Logic-Based Reasoning 
  • Situational Judgement 
  • Figural Reasoning 
  • Personality Assessment

Who can become a firefighter?

As we mentioned before, becoming a firefighter is no easy task. Due to the great responsibility demanded by the job and the high-risk tasks they face daily, firefighters go through a very stringent selection process.  

To start, you would need to complete the following requirements: 

  • excel the civil service exam 
  • complete all fitness and mental assessments 
  • pass enhanced background checks 
  • be over 18 years of age 

You will also be expected to fulfill certain personality traits, including: 

  • Ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • Excellent communicational skills
  • Being able to work well with others
  • Knowing when to act and when to follow orders
  • And more 

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To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.

Interested to learn more about the civil service? Check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/ 

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.