Firefighters put their life in danger every single day to help and save the
public. Firefighters must be prepared for the endangers they encounter and
be able to respond immediately to a fire or any other emergencies that
arises. Because fighting fires is so complex, it requires organization and
teamwork. At every emergency scene, firefighters perform specific duties
assigned by a superior officer. At fires they connect hose lines to
hydrants, operate a pump to high pressure hoses, and position ladders to
deliver water to the fire. They also rescue victims and administer
emergency medical aid as needed. Firefighters duties may change several
times while the company is in action. Sometimes they remain at the site of
a disaster for days at a time, rescuing trapped survivors and assisting
with medical treatment. Firefighters have a very large range of
responsibilities, including emergency medical services. In fact, most calls
to which firefighters respond involve medical emergencies, and about half
of all fire departments provide ambulance services for victims.

Firefighters receive training in the emergency medical procedures, and many
fire departments require them to certified as emergency medical
technicians. Firefighters work in a variety of settings, including urban
and suburban areas, airports, chemical plants, and other industrial sites.

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In addition, some firefighters work in hazardous materials units that are
trained for the control, prevention and clean up of oil spills and other
hazardous materials incidents. Workers in suburban areas, airports, and
industrial sites usually use conventional fire fighting equipment and
tactics, while forest fires and major spills call for different methods. In
national forests and parks, rangers spot fires from watchtowers and report
their findings to headquarters by telephone and radio. Forest rangers
patrol to ensure travelers and campers comply with fire regulations. When
fires break out crews of firefighters in to suppress the blaze using heavy
equipment, hand tools, water hoses, etc. One of the most effective means of
battling the fire is by creating fire lines through cutting down tress and
digging out grass, creating bare land in the path of the fire that takes
away the fuel. The best firefighters, called smoke jumpers, parachute from
airplanes, to reach places that cannot be touched by foot and truck which
is in the very base of the fire. This can be extremely hazardous because
the crews have no way to escape if the wind shifts and causes fire to burn
toward them. Between alarms, firefighters clean and maintain equipment,
conduct practice drills and fire inspections, and participate in physical
fitness activities. They also prepare written reports on fire incidents and
review fire science literature to keep aware of technological developments
and changing administrative practices and policies. Firefighters have very
hard working conditions. They spend much of their time at fire stations,
which usually have features common to a residential facility like a dorm.

When a alarm sounds, firefighters respond rapidly, regardless of the
weather or hour. Fire fighting involves risk walls, traffic accidents when
responding to calls, and exposure to flames and smoke. Firefighters may
also come in contact with poisonous, flammable, or explosive gases and
chemicals, as well as radioactive or other hazardous materials that may
have immediate or long-term effects on their health. For these reasons,
they must wear protective gear that can be very heavy and hot. Work hours
for firefighters are longer and vary more widely than hours of most other
workers. Many work more than 50 hours a week, and sometimes they may work
even longer. In some work sites, they are on duty for 24 hours, then off
for 48 hours, then receive and extra day off for intervals. In others, they
work a day shift of 10 hours for 3 to 4 days, a night shift of 14 hours for
3 to 4 nights, have 3 to 4 days off, and then repeat the cycle. In
addition, firefighters often work extra hours at fires and other
emergencies and are regularly assigned to work on holidays. Fire
lieutenants and fire captains often work the same hours as the fire
fighters they supervise. Duty hours include time when firefighters study,
train, and perform fire prevention duties. Volunteer firefighters are not
paid, who perform the same duties and may comprise the majority of
firefighters in a residential area. Paid career firefighters held about
314,000 jobs in 1998. More than 9 of the everyday 10 worked in municipal or
county fire departments. Some large cities have thousands of career
firefighters, while many small towns just have a few. Most of the remainder
worked in fire departments on Federal and State installations, including
airports. Private fire fighting companies employ a small number of
firefighters and usually operate on a subscription basis. Applicants for
firefighting jobs generally must pass a written exam; tests of strength,
physical stamina, coordination, and agility; and a medical examination that
includes drug screening. Workers may be monitored on a random basis for
drug use after accepting employment. Examinations are generally to people
who are at least 18 years of age and have a high school education. As a
rule, entry-level workers in large fire departments are trained for several
weeks at the departments training center or academy. Through classroom
instruction and practical training, the recruits study fire fighting
techniques, fire prevention, hazardous materials control, local building
codes, and emergency medical procedures. They also learn how to use axes,
chainsaws, fire extinguishers, and other firefighting and rescue equipment.

After completing this training, they are assigned to a fire company, where
they undergo a period of probation