Hi Chungi, I asked my friend Kevin B. who is a firefighter in Northern California to answer this. Here is what he emailed me:
"I feel like this response could go in so many different ways...
What is it like to be a firefighter? Wow, what a good question. As I sit here thinking about responding to this, I smile, but also, I almost tear up. I have experienced the highest of highs, but also some of the lowest of lows. People never call 911 on good days, they only call it when their day has gone horribly wrong and they need help. How would you like to be the person who can come in and aid in that situation? I love it.
It's 2 am, you're asleep in your bunk, the lights come on, the alarm goes off, and the dispatcher starts talking to you on the radio. You jump out of bed, zip out to the engine, throw on your turnouts (firefighting clothes), climb into the engine, and race through the dark with sirens blaring and lights flashing all over the roadway. Heart starts pumping a little faster as you're mentally prepping for the job at hand. You pull up on scene, flames are ripping out of a window, smoke billowing. You grab a hose line, put on your mask, and go to work. You try to hide the smile on your face as you take off your mask and see the homeowner crying in the street. After the fire's knocked down, the real work starts. You're wet, cold, tired, hungry, and have to make sure that the fire is out. You can spend hours shoveling debris and carrying it outside to make sure the piles aren't going to smolder and reignite. You don't get back to the station until 7 am, then you have to clean all the equipment, wash the engine, and make sure it's ready to go on the next call. I love it.
<span style="color: rgb(93, 103, 106);">I work for a smaller (5 station) department in California. In addition to firefighting, we also provide emergency medical services. The majority of us in my department are trained as paramedics too. We work 2 days on and 4 days off. That being said, the department has to maintain a minimum daily staffing level, so we get forced to work sometimes. Come summer, we send some resources out across the state to help with the major wildfires. When I go on a large incident, I can be gone for up to 2.5 weeks. Due to our shift schedule, I've missed birthdays, holidays, and other important events. The crews I work with are some of my best friends. Whenever I've need anything, they've always been a phone call away. Each morning on shift, we try to sit down to coffee and go over the days plans and catch up. We rotate who cooks and eat dinner as a family. I love it.</span>
Firefighting is about hard work, team work, and helping people. We clean our stations, maintain the yards, and wash the apparatus. We train every day to ensure proficiency in all of our different roles. As the wheels turn and we roll out of the station, we could be responding to a fire, fire alarm, someone with the flu, having a heart attack, or injured in a car accident. We could also be going to a hot water heater that is flooding the house, or a smoke detector with low batteries. The calls can be routine, but they can also be very unique and require brainstorming, thinking outside the box, and using the different talents and backgrounds of the entire crew. I love it.
<span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34);">If you think this might be a career for you, put on nice clothes, take a notebook with a few questions written down, and ring the doorbell at your neighboring fire station. When someone shows up eager and interested, I love it.</span>
<span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34);">For more sources check out:</span>
Dana recommends the following next steps:
- Visit your local fire station