About Firefighting

Firefighting is a job like no other job in the world. It runs from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, it offers the pulse-racing excitement of responding to a fire, the tight bond of camaraderie that can develop among crew members, and the pride in knowing you provide a critical service to your community. On the other hand, there are long hours of "down" time between calls, the high risk of injury or even death, and the simple reality that even in the 21st century, women are not always completely accepted into what was once exclusively a "brotherhood."

With all of its risks and challenges, firefighting has drawn thousands of women into successful, fulfilling careers. Since the mid-1970's, women have worked as professional firefighters, paving the way for wider opportunities for today's young women to join fire departments on an equal footing with men. What we offer in these pages is a quick introduction to jobs in the firefighting field: what to look for, where to look, and how to prepare yourself. We welcome you to consider a career in what most of us truly believe is the best job in the world.

Why would I want to be a firefighter?

Firefighting isn't for everyone. People who are seriously afraid of heights or confined spaces, who don't function well in a crisis, or who in general would rather not introduce elements of danger into their lives, are unlikely to be attracted to the job. Some people prefer a typical business schedule to working 24-hour or other overnight shifts. Other people may view the physical, manual-labor aspects of the job with distaste.

But for those who do not see these aspects of the job as deterrents, firefighting is an exciting, ever-changing, highly rewarding occupation. Most firefighters enjoy the warmth of camaraderie among the crew, the challenge of bringing physical skills and mental abilities to play in what for others is an emergency, and the opportunity to provide critical, life-saving services in a moment of need. Many also appreciate the 24-hour work schedule, the job security in times of downsizing, and -- in most fire departments -- good pay and benefits.

What does it take to be a good firefighter?

Women considering the fire service may be discouraged if all the firefighters they know or see are men. It may seem that, even if the door isn't officially closed to women, no woman could ever be enough like a male firefighter to be really good at the job. If you are considering becoming a firefighter, be aware that there are many ways to be a good firefighter, and they don't necessarily require you to be male or just like a man. What are some of the attributes of a good firefighter?

  • Honest and dependable
  • Learns quickly; can remember and use what s/he's learned when the pressure is on
  • Physically fit: is committed to a healthy lifestyle and to maintaining fitness
  • Functions well as part of a team
  • Cares about and respects co-workers and members of the community
  • Communicates and listens well
  • Is dedicated to her/his work
  • Has, and uses, common sense
  • Is emotionally stable and deals with stress appropriately
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Is open-minded and flexible, willing to try new things and listen to new ideas

No one person has all of these attributes. If all firefighters were the same, as a group their strengths would be redundant and their weaknesses would be magnified. But everyone is different. Each firefighter brings individual strengths to the team, and it is this variety of strengths that gives the team multiple options and balances out any individual weaknesses.

It is also important to note that these traits are not specific to men or women. Women have been functioning successfully as career firefighters and officers for more than 25 years, and as volunteers for much longer. Even if you're the first woman on your department, you're part of a strong tradition of women who are dedicated to the fire service and who have found their place in it.




© 2006 Women in the Fire Service, Inc.

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