What does a firefighter do?

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--Don't miss our interviews with Firefighter Brian Walsh from Ladder 137 in Rockaway Park, Queens and with retired Firefighter John Kenney of Engine 85 in the Bronx, NY! Scroll down!--

Most likely, you’re already a little familiar with the job of a firefighter. Firefighters put out fires in buildings, homes, forests, and anywhere else they occur. They do their best to keep their communities safe and they help to save lives! However, a firefighter’s job doesn’t stop there! 
As a part of helping to protect people and places, firefighters also usually have responsibilities such as providing emergency medical care at the sight of an incident, rescuing people from burning buildings or other dangerous situations, and educating the public about fire safety. Firefighters also spend time repairing and maintaining their equipment, and learning new things to help them continually improve their skills. And because their job requires them to be strong, healthy, and fit, firefighters must also spend time looking after their well-being and physical fitness.
The job of a firefighter requires many important qualities. A firefighter’s job is often dangerous, so a person who wants to be a firefighter must be brave and strong. Firefighters must also be able to operate equipment and work well with others. Being able to lift heavy things, climb, and work in hot, stressful conditions are also important qualities for firefighting! 
While the majority of firefighters today are men, there are women who work as firefighters too! Most have high school degrees and sometimes college education in subjects like fire science. Firefighters undergo training at special schools and take written and physical tests to make sure they are ready for this difficult and important job!
by   (whyzz writer)
  • Further information

    The job of a firefighter can be very dangerous. Remember that only trained individuals are qualified to do the job of a professional firefighter. Never play with fire and always follow the Fire Safety instructions that you’ve been taught!
  • Exploration

    whyzz interview with Firefighter Brian Walsh from Ladder 137 in Rockaways, Queens:

    1) How did you become a firefighter?
    My best friend's Dad was a firefighter and he got me interested in the job. To become New York City Firefighter (FDNY), I first had to take a written examination. About a year after that I took a physical test, which is made up of a number of acitivities a firefighter may encounter at work. You also need 2 years of college and to be trained in Emergency Medical Services. Finally I was enlisted in the Firefighter Academy where I spent 13 weeks training and learning the skills to be a firefighter.

    2) What does your typical day look like?
    A typical day at the Firehouse starts with arriving at work early. We are never late. After changing into our uniforms we check all our tools on the Fire Truck. It is most important that everything is in perfect working order. We cook and clean. We drill (practice) firefighter techniques. And we wait, wait for the alarms to go off and answer the call. Emergencies can range from a malfunctioning smoke detector to a house on fire. We respond to every call the same, prepared and ready for anything. At night we rest in our bunks waiting for the next alarm.

    3) What was the most exciting thing about your job?
    The most exciting thing about being a firefighter is fighting fires. It's extremely dangerous but with proper equipment and training we are able to battle raging fires. It's always scary going into a dark, hot and smoky building but it is the most exciting part of the job. We get to save lives and property, which is very rewarding. Getting to help people in their time of need is why I am a fireman. 

    Brian Walsh has been a member of the FDNY since 2004. "I work at Ladder 137 in Rockaway Park, Queens. I'm married to Michele and have a 5-month-old son Sebastian. We live in Montauk, NY, that is about 120 miles from the firehouse. We usually work 24-hour tours at the firehouse. My days off are spent with the family and trying to do my other favorite activity, surfing."


    whyzz interview with Retired Firefighter John Kenny of Engine 85 in the Bronx.

    1) How did you become a firefighter?
    When I was a little boy, I saw a couple of fires in my neighborhood and on one particular situation I saw a firefighter pull a man out of a fire and I was very impressed with that. And from then on all of the work that I've seen firefighters do, on occasions, it was always a strong desire of mine to be a firefighter. I was a soldier first, and then a police officer, and then a fireman.

    I had to take a written test first, and the mark that you get on the written test was combined with the mark that I got on the physical test. The highest averages on both tests went to the top of the civil service list. Then they used the manpower off that list according to the Fire Department's needs.

    2) What did your typical day look like?
    I worked in a very busy neighborhood.  We started a tour (a shift) by examining the tools and the equipment that we had to use, we started at 6 at night and went on until 9 in the morning.  In those days, in the South Bronx, there was very little down time for a firefighter. We had to do several fires on a night tour. And all the other things that go with it - rubbish fires, auto accidents, medical runs, but mostly it was the heavy fire duty that we had to do. The company I was in did 7,000 runs a year in those days.

    3) What was the most exciting thing about your job?
    The actual part of putting out a fire.  I worked in a very busy engine company which is the company that puts water on the fire, and I guess there was no better feeling than putting out a fire than knowing when it's out, that you're the one who put it out.

    Interesting Fact!

    John Kenny retired as a Firefighter from Engine 85 in the Bronx, where his company was known as the Tin House. According to John, most companies have nicknames or mottos or mascots (or all three) that have various origins (to distinguish themselves from other companies). For example, the Tin House was called that because it was one of the first pre-fab firehouses built. Some nicknames go back as far as the days of the Volunteer Firefighters (mid 1800's)!

    This interview is courtesy of the New York City Fire Museum.



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