Author Topic: So you wanna be a Firefighter  (Read 10203 times)

Offline nfd2004

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So you wanna be a Firefighter
« on: December 29, 2014, 10:06:41 AM »
 So you wanna be a Firefighter. Well, so did I, about 50 years ago. Actually from the time I was a little kid playing with toy fire trucks on my living room floor.

  As I grew up, I really wanted to be a Bridgeport (CT) Firefighter, just like my dad. BUT, that didn't happen. Needless to say, I was pretty discouraged about it. But I did become a firefighter and I'd like to pass my story onto a few of our younger members. At the time, I had a few strikes against me. As the old saying goes; "If at first you don't succeed - try, try, try again". Well, that's exactly what I did.

  After flunking out of my first semester at a Community College, I joined the Army. During my basic training at Fort Lenardwood, Missouri, they found I had a problem with my heart. So I received a Honorable Discharge for medical reasons. But I wanted to be a Firefighter, and that wouldn't make things very easy for me. So I took the test for the Post Office and I was very lucky to get that job. It had good pay and benefits. I was basically set and had one of the better jobs in my entire neighborhood. But I still wanted to be a Firefighter.

  The first thing I had to do was see a cardiologist to find out if anything could be done to take care of this heart issue. So I make the appointment, go through a few test and the doctor tells me, "it is possible that through the proper care and doing my part of exercise, my issue may not be picked up by a doctor". He also tells me that it shouldn't affect me doing the job as a firefighter, but I have to really work on it. He tells me that as a cardiologist, as long as I do my part, "he would back me up". 

  So that's what I do. Everyday after working as a letter carrier, I'm at the local YMCA gym working out. I also get a scanner for my home and I'm able to listen to the FDNY during their busiest years. I listen to those guys work and that gives me an incentive to work out. It kind of "pumps me up". The year is 1968 and during that time, I get invited to ride FDNY Rescue 2 and the activity is starting to pick up. I realize, "I really want to be a fireman just like my father". Actually, it wasn't a scanner I had, it was actually a Radio shack tunable radio with room for one crystal that I listen to. I am now 18 or 19 years old.

  I go back to that doctor and the working out has paid off. He gives me an okay to go give the fire department job a shot. At this stage it is the best news I've heard in a long time. But I learn soon that my battles are not really over yet. Some I have no control over. I'll tell about them in a later post here.

  The real reason I started this is for our younger members. First of all, everybody can't be a firefighter. There could be any group of reasons why that may not happen. It has happened to a lot of good people. Things that were totally beyond their control. My point is this, before I add more to my story, don't just put all your eggs in one basket. Take every test you can. If somebody opens the door and hires you, "you gotta grab it".  But you may NOT be able to become a firefighter through no fault of your own. There are other jobs that give satisfaction and you can help people too that are just as important. Nurses, EMTs, Medics, 911 Dispatchers, CNAs, plenty of other jobs where you help people, while getting paid for it. Many places have volunteer firefighters where you can join as a firefighter/emt.

  TO BE CONTINUED.

   
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 02:28:24 PM by nfd2004 »

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So you wanna be a Firefighter
« on: December 29, 2014, 10:06:41 AM »

Offline phidney

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2015, 12:19:11 AM »
Please continue the story, nfd2004!! :)

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2015, 09:27:13 AM »
Please continue the story, nfd2004!! :)

  Thank you for reminding me. Sorry, I forgot all about this.

  So back to the story. As I said, I really wanted the Bridgeport (Ct) Fire Department. My father was on the job there and I had plenty of friends rooting for me. But the odds were against me because of affirmative action. As it turned out my brother did get that job but it took some time. By then I had already gotten the firefighter job elsewhere and started to settle down. I got married, bought a house etc.

  I had taken six test back in the 70s. FDNY was one but then the layoffs and budget cut started. I took the test for Stamford, Ct. The economy started taking a dive and over 2,000 people took the written test for about 20 openings. I sure didn't score high enough to be one of those 20 people. I was lucky I made it through high school and I flunked out of my first semester in a Community College.

  I took Fairfield, Cts test twice. The first time I didn't write high enough on the written. The second time was a big learning lesson for me. I did well on the written. I had been a volunteer firefighter there and it was close to my home town of Bridgeport. It would have been perfect BUT. I was scheduled to take the agility test at 9 am. The night before, a few of us decided to throw a birthday party for one of our buddies. It was a long night and I could hardly drag myself into that agility test in the morning. Somebody had also told me to eat a candy bar for extra energy. Well, it worked except when it was time for me to do the run and pull ups. I could not function at all and I failed the test. IT WAS MY OWN FAULT. I lost out on that great job because of the partying the night before. NEVER AGAIN would that happen.

  I also took the test for firefighter in Washington, D.C. About the same time, one of my buddies tells me that Norwich, Ct is giving a test. I asked him where is Norwich ? So we both looked at a map, found it and took the test together. I get notice that I passed both test around the same time. I make a trip to D.C. and talk to a few of the guys including the chief in charge of training. That chief tells me, "I think you'll be called". But he also shows me a huge binder that probies must learn in order to pass and get the job. He also says to me that you will start out working a couple of years on the ambulance. The big book scared me and I'm thinking "what if I don't pass". Working the ambulance wasn't like riding a fire truck either. Plus the FDNY was burning and I was really into buffing. I know D.C. was burning too, but I was just hooked on buffing the FDNY.

  I get an interview with the Chief of Department in Norwich, Ct  and he tells me I can have the job under two conditions. One, I must become a resident of the City of Norwich and the other is that he wanted me to become an EMT. I would have to go to EMT class 3/4s of my own time. I make him that promise and I walk into fire quarters there on May 25, 1975. No probie school, they give me some used gear, show me where to ride on the rig and just on the job training. Hard to believe today, but true. Probies today go to a sixteen week probie school similar to the FDNY now here in Ct.

  Today I have a few friends who have also become firefighters. some are officers today. One guy is now a Lt but took 31 test to get on the job. THIRTY ONE, true. Another guy made several trips down to Baltimore in hopes of becoming a firefighter there. After all that, he still didn't get the job and he took about ten other test besides. However, he worked hard and is now a Lt on a department here in Ct also. Another guy in his early 40s just got on the job in Bridgeport back in December. He loves the job and told me he never gave up.

  For me, making the move to Norwich, Ct in order to get the job was one of the best things I did in life. I ended up with a nice home. I still got to buff the FDNY. Fought a few fires and I think was able to help some people. My wife was very happy where we lived and the guys who I respected in many busier departments actually seemed to respect me too. They called me "Brother".

  I guess my point is when they open the door for you, you gotta walk in. I'm glad I did, even though I really knew very little about the place that hired me. So for those interested in becoming a career firefighter, take every test you can. Hopefully, you'll have a decent job to fall back on if things don't work out. You got to keep your nose clean too. There's a lot of competition for these jobs today. Military service may help you too. As time goes on maybe some of us can pass on a few tips for helping the younger guys with getting that job. 
« Last Edit: April 22, 2015, 10:07:59 AM by nfd2004 »

Offline phidney

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2015, 01:51:49 PM »
Thanks nfd2004!!It's good to hear such full stories like yours. :)

Offline kfd274

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2015, 11:17:26 AM »
Great story Bill.  Hope all is well in CT.  Getting warmer now. Still in FL

Offline fltpara16

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2015, 04:59:09 PM »
And Willy D, your story has continued.  You took your experiences as a firefighter and a Buff and have become a great historian of the fire service during a time that will never be repeated.  You also have helped to bring many of us together who share your love of the fire service, creating new friendships that will last for the rest of the time we are here.    I am proud to call you and many others on this site Brother.

For the new guys that want a career in the fire service, prepare yourself prior to submitting applications.  This includes joining a volunteer department to gain training and experience, get your Pro Board FF I certification.  It is a reality in the fire service that to make yourself marketable, you should have your EMT certification.  To really get your foot in the door, especially in the southern part of the country, having your paramedic is a real door opener.  Start applying to as soon as you are eligible, and don't give up. And one more thing, get in shape and stay in shape! Not only for getting on the job, but to have a long and healthy career. 

I am in my 32nd year in the fire service, including a diversion for a few years to fly around in a helicopter.  4 years and 4 months until I hang up my gear for good, and I would not change a thing.


Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2015, 09:23:38 PM »
 Following directions is an important part of the job of being a firefighter. Good character is another.

 Recently a small department in Connecticut announced that they would be giving an exam for firefighter. I know the chief there and he's really a good guy. One of the requirements announced in the job is that all candidates must have completed Connecticut Fire Recruit School within Class numbers ### and ###. That is an 18 week probie school that this department specified as a requirement. In the first day of applications, only ONE person met that requirement. The rest all sent in their application with the $35.00 fee in hopes of being able to take the test and get the job. The Chief told me, they didn't follow directions and they probably just wasted their $35.00 application fee.

  So if you plan on taking a firefighters exam, make sure you read and understand all the requirements. And make sure you can meet them before you apply. Chances are, they are not about to give you the job if not. Whatever the requirements are, you got to meet them. Some departments require EMT or Medic. If that's the case, then you need that to apply. Many now require an active CPAT (I think that is Certified Physical Agility Test). I think some places offer that test a few times a year, usually with a fee.

  Good Character is a very important quality in becoming a firefighter. Sometimes you must deal with the public in their worst moments.  You need to be trusted by the people you serve. Your character could be tested if you face an oral exam as part of your final score. Get yourself caught in a lie and you probably should throw the towel in at that point. If you face an oral exam, no matter what it is, you got to be truthful.  Remember, nobody is perfect. Not even those people sitting on the opposite side of the table from you asking questions and expecting you to explain yourself. Anybody who has sat on oral board exams will tell you, it is very easy to spot someone who is not telling the truth. Most of those people have been around for awhile and they can be pretty tough to try and B...S...

 

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2015, 10:27:52 PM »
 A while back, I was scheduled to go for this Oral Exam that was going to be given by a group of high ranking individuals on the Oral Board. My final score would be 50 % on the Written and 50 % on the Oral. There were only a few openings so I started figuring things out. I could do great on the written, but if I didn't do good on that Oral Exam, I wasn't going to get the job. Just passing it would not be enough, even if I had a great written score. It worked the other way too. It could raise my score if I did good on the oral.

  Just a few months before any test was given, I called a guy I had met who was an instructor for the State of Connecticut. He was also a high ranking officer in a fire department. I knew that he had been on oral boards before and he once told me, if I ever needed any help with preparing for it, he would be willing to give me a few pointers. I just thanked him and kept that in mind.

  The written test comes and I do okay. Soon I am scheduled to go for my oral board review. So I go over a couple of things in my mind and just hope for the best. About three days before this exam I decide to give him a call. "I mean you either know the stuff or you don't, right" ! So I give him a call just to let him know that I'm scheduled for this exam in a couple of days. Maybe he can tell me the kind of questions they might ask me.

  The two of us talked on the phone for quite awhile. I never realized it until later that he never told me the kind of questions they might ask. But what he did tell me was a big part of the oral exam. Basic things that I should know, besides hoping to give the right answers. If I didn't talk to him that day, I don't think I would have gotten the job. Because even though I thought I was ready, that really wasn't the case.

  He told me how to act. How to dress. How to present myself. What to say when. There were things he told me I never even gave a thought to.

  My plan was to walk in wearing my neatest sport shirt, sit down and start to answer the questions. That was my idea, but I found out from my friend there's more to it than that.

  You know that nice sport shirt I was planning on wearing.... No, No. He said wear a tie and jacket.

  He said make sure I am neat and clean shaven and probably best not to wear any fancy jewelry. Wedding ring of course but not some fancy necklace or fancy pierced earrings.

  When I walk into the room and over to the oral board, he said "don't sit down until they tell you to" and when you are introduced to each member, acknowledge with good eye contact and a firm hand shake, a little less firm if it's a female. "Hello sir or Good morning mam" is what I should say.

  But what do you do if you should happen to know one of the individuals ? Should you try to hide it ? Absolutely not, acknowledge them by their correct title.

  When they do tell you to sit down, you say "Thank you", sit up straight and plan to answer each question to the best of your ability.

  When you are asked a question, maintain good eye contact. And this is NOT the time for your buddy to be texting or calling you. Shut the thing off before you go in there.

  This is "YOUR" interview. Take your time and answer the questions the best you can. Of course you will be nervous. Those on the opposite side of the table were nervous too when they were in your spot. So they understand. Just try to do the best you can. If you have done some preparing on your own, it should be a little easier.

  What do you do if there was something asked earlier and you want to add something or change your answer ? You politely ask if you could go back to that earlier question. Usually, they let you do it, but that's their shot to call. Generally speaking, the best time to do that though is at the end of your exam. They may ask you if there is anything you want to add or ask. That's your opportunity to do that.

  For the next session of "So you wanna be a Firefighter" we'll talk about some of the types of questions they could ask you. And we may briefly tell you what you should tell the oral board just before you leave. 

  There are other guys on here who have faced oral exams. Maybe they have something to add here. There are members here who have been a part of oral boards also. There are bosses and supervisors from very respectable jobs, high ranking military members, bosses from the FDNY and fire departments throughout this country.  There are firefighters who have recently been through what you may be going through. You ask the questions, I'm sure somebody can answer it for you.

  If your on this web site, you've already showed your interest in the fire department. We also have members on this site who are police officers, EMTs and Medics, 911 and Fire Dispatchers. I mean you want it, you got it. The rest is all up to you.

  Whether your interest is in becoming a firefighter, military officer, medic/emt, a 911 dispatcher, a police officer, a letter carrier, a nurse, or utility worker, these are all good jobs and most have good benefits. But with that comes some heavy competition. None of these jobs come easy. So you got to work at it and stay out of trouble. And take every test you can.

   I was a letter carrier before becoming a firefighter. Still a very good job with good benefits that I was happy with. G-man could have been my boss if I worked in a post office about 45 minutes away. That was 1970-1975. We'd have plenty of fires to talk about then. On second thought, maybe it's a good idea we didn't work together !!!

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2015, 08:37:59 AM »
 Here's a few words about physical fitness and becoming a firefighter. It's also probably true with becoming a firefighter most any other place too.

 ! No longer available 


  And below explains the CPAT which is a pretty standard agility test given throughout the country.

  ! No longer available
« Last Edit: June 11, 2015, 08:50:12 AM by nfd2004 »

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2015, 01:29:23 PM »
 Here is what I think to be some pretty good advice for those interested in becoming a career firefighter. No matter where it is.

  ! No longer available

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2015, 09:14:49 AM »
 For the benefit of the younger members who wish to become career firefighters, I would like to say that the videos posted above DO STILL WORK. Although as I look on my computer, it says; "no longer available". But if you click on that, "they do play", and I think they contain some pretty good advice.

I would like to tell you a true story about a guy I met about three or four years ago. I'll call him T.J. He was married with four kids and working fulltime as an Industrial Firefighter/Security Guard. Sometimes he was working 50-60 hours a week. He told me he made great money but he really wanted to be a city/town firefighter.

 Here in Connecticut, a few Active and Retired Firefighters got together to offer a free class to help anyone who wished to become a career firefighter. We did this through a fire department web site in Connecticut. With a response of approximately 60 to 70 people interested, we were able to get a hall at a local volunteer firehouse and seven career firefighters were willing to offer their help from around the state.

  The evening of this free class, all seven of the career firefighters showed up to help. However, only SIX of the 70 students showed up for the help. We had more instructors than students. All except for ONE of those student "No Shows" called to say he couldn't make it.

  But TJ was one that did show up. Even though he had a family of four young kids and was working all those hours. If there was any one of the six student wanna be's that was going to get the job, "TJ was it". After that class all of us felt the same about that. As it turned out, 5 of the 6 that I know of all got the job. They were the one's with the drive to do whatever they had to do to get the job.

  I remember one firefighter talking about how many test he took to get on the fire dept. A total of THIRTY ONE test, before he got hired. And this guy was certainly no dummy. Today he is a well respected career Lt in a mid sized Connecticut city.

  There is more to tell about my friend TJ. A recent story told to me by TJ himself about his efforts to get a job as a career firefighter. A story that really shocked me when I heard it. It really wasn't TJ's fault at all, but he is being forced into leaving one department for another. That will be in my next reply here.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 09:23:05 AM by nfd2004 »

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2015, 10:46:56 PM »
To continue with the story of TJ.

  After he attended that class we had, I didn't know it but he applied for a firefighters job about 700 miles away. He went down once to take the written, another to take his oral. Each time leaving his family to try and get this job. Of course he had listed his present chief where he worked as a firefighter/security guard, as a reference. An industrial fire dept where the chief knew everybody and who they were.

 When the department called his chief to check out his references, the chief there hung up on them. Apparently more than TJ was leaving that job for greener pastures. As a result, after all the effort he put into trying to get that job, it was never offered to him. I never knew this until just recently.

 Shortly after this incident TJ did get a firefighters job. In a small city of about a 40-50 member department in Connecticut. He was very happy because it was actually the place where he lived. After TJ got settled in there, I went to visit him. He introduced me to the chief of department and every once in awhile, I would contact the chief to ask him how TJ was doing. He told me that TJ was great. In fact later the chief told me that he was a role model to the newer probies he had just hired. 

  A few months ago I get an Email from the chief telling me that he is about to retire. But he also tells me that things are not going well there. He says he expects to see cutbacks and loss of pension benefits. He tells me a lot of guys are leaving - TJ included. I couldn't believe it. After this kid had worked so hard to get this job. It was what he wanted and he had finally got it. A good husband and a father to four kids.

  So I called TJ to talk to him about it. Yes, it's true, he is leaving to start probie school all over again. I asked him where and then he told me the story about that chief hanging up the phone when asked for TJ's reference. This time he is getting the job. The chief offering TJ this job apologized to him for not considering to hire him a few years ago. He told TJ the story of how that other chief had hung up on him when he tried to ask about his reference.

  TJ will be starting his new probie training in a few weeks. Instead of cut backs this place is building an additional new firehouse. They will be hiring more firefighters. While TJ is in Probie school, his wife and kids will stay at the house until it is sold. He told me it won't be easy but TJ will make it work.

  I guess that chief was right when he told me that TJ was a Role Model. Some have told TJ that he should get a lawyer because he has a good case. But for the TJ that I know, he probably won't do that. I'm sure he'll just be happy to have the job and look forward to his family being with him as soon as possible.

  I plan on seeing TJ before he leaves. I'm going to tell him about his story I wrote on here. Hopefully, I can get him to sign up to be a member too. And I'm also going to tell his chief that just retired about this story. He's a good guy too. I guess he buffed the FDNY a few times also. Maybe he'll sign up too.

 Both have been a credit to the Fire Service here in Connecticut. And TJ has shown over and over again what determination is when you want to be a career firefighter.

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2015, 08:26:54 PM »
 I saw TJ today (9/25) and he is leaving next Friday. The place he is going to has about a 100 member department with eight firehouses in South Carolina. When he went for his final interview for the job it was the chief of department and the captain of the training division who interviewed him. The captain of training gave him his cell phone number to call him if he has any questions.

That departments policy is each probie has to buy their own gear and they will be reimbursed once their probie time is over. But TJ did have a question so a few weeks ago he called that captain. He wanted to know what kind of gear he was supposed to buy, morning pride etc. Then he also asked that captain if he knew of any decent hotel that would allow him to stay there for a couple of weeks until his probie school is over and he could get his family down there.

 The captains response to him was "call my mother" and he gave him the number. TJ thought it was some kind of probie joke. The captain said, "no give her a call and I'll tell her that you are calling". So TJ called his mother.

 As it turns out, his mother has an in-law-apt. Apparently she has offered that apartment at NO CHARGE to anybody going through probie school and needs a temporary place to stay. His mother told TJ that he is now part of this fire departments family and that the small apartment is his for FREE during his probie training.

 How's that for Southern Hospitality  ?

Offline 68jk09

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2015, 05:15:39 PM »
Very nice on the part of the Chief & his Mom....on the same theme my good friend Howie Carlson RIP who was an FDNY BN Chief had a room in his house in QNS that he housed (at different times) several Proby's (met thru Buff circles or other out of City FD friends) from other Cities   while they were in Proby School & waited till Graduation & found out where they would be assigned & look for permanent housing nearby.   

Offline nfd2004

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Re: So you wanna be a Firefighter
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2015, 10:49:19 AM »
 I received a text message recently from a young individual who I think has the respect of many guys he knows. He is referring to a generation today that has other things on their mind than just doing a job which involves helping people for a low to middle income salary.  I admire him for the kind of character he is. Of course he hopes to become a firefighter someday. I think he might be the just the kind of guy most fire departments are looking for.

Here is that Quote:

"So many kids I know have no respect for anyone much less themselves, believes the world owes them a living, and their only goal in life is to be rich and famous. They think that is what's going to make them happy. The philosophy that guys like me and guys my age I hang out with and follow, is just - if you can find a job that you like, where you get to also help other people, what more do you need. 

  Stay humble, don't look to have a million dollars, and stay true to who you are. As you know, firemen, cops, EMTs, and dispatchers make more of a difference in this life than all the famous Oscar-winning celebrities combined will ever make.

  End of Quote.