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Firefighter Employment Information

Firefighters

Our goal is to fill each firefighter position with a person who is well-qualified, and has a commitment to a career as a firefighter. To do this, we want to give you a realistic description of the job and its tasks so that you can decide if the position is truly one in which there is interest and ability to do well.

As a Bellingham Firefighter, you will be required to perform a large variety of diverse tasks. We urge you to consider the entire job of Firefighter and not just the exciting or glamorous aspects. What follows is a realistic preview of the types of tasks which are required of all Bellingham Firefighters. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to describe every task required of a Firefighter. Please take a moment to truly consider whether the job of Firefighter fits you, as well as whether you fit the job of Firefighter. 

Emergency Response

Emergency response calls happen at any time of the day or night and must be responded to immediately. Sleep may be frequently interrupted.

Emergency calls can cover anything - dumpster fires, house fires, automobile accidents, life-threatening medical emergencies, non-life-threatening medical calls, and false-alarms. All must be responded to with the same concern and professionalism.

Firefighters must immediately assess each emergency situation upon arrival, including: properties of the fire; probability of the fire spreading; the needs of victims; medical conditions; effects of weather conditions; etc. in order to effectively deal with the emergency.

Once on an emergency scene, Firefighters are responsible for gathering information from witnesses and other sources. It is critical that the Firefighter think quickly and obtain the appropriate information to deal with each unique situation.

Firefighters must intimately coordinate their activities and work as a team. This includes those Firefighters working directly with the emergency, those directing traffic and those standing by to relieve other Firefighters.

Fire Scenes

Firefighting is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Firefighters must enter burning structures. Once inside the structure, Firefighters must search for victims, the source of fire, and ways to extinguish the fire. In this process, Firefighters are exposed to extreme heat, smoke and fumes.

Firefighting is very physically demanding. Firefighters carry 80 - 100 lbs. of equipment such as hoses, axes, ladders, chain saws and extinguishers into and around the fire scene to rescue victims and put out the fire. This may include climbing many flights of stairs.

Firefighters make forced entries into grounds/structures by cutting locks, breaking doors, windows or roofs as needed to gain access to or ventilate structures. This may involve using hand tools such as axes, sledge hammers, battering rams and power tools.

While at a fire scene, Firefighters must constantly evaluate personal safety by examining structures for cracks, breaks, charring or partial collapse.

Firefighters use ladders and work at heights to rescue victims and fight fires. They must raise, lower, rotate and extend these ladders. Ladders are at times used for purposes other than climbing, such as bridges, and carrying victims.

Firefighters locate hydrants and other sources of water. Firefighters connect hoses to sources of water using various tools and considerable strength. Firefighters operate hand-held hose lines without assistance and get the hose into position by dragging, carrying or hoisting it into place.

Firefighters are responsible for the clean up of fire scenes. Firefighters carry burnt furniture, clothing, appliances, etc. from buildings to reduce fire and smoke damage. Firefighters scoop, shovel, sweep and mop excess water and debris caused by the fire and firefighting efforts. Firefighters tear down or shore up weak or dangerous parts of fire structures such as floors, roofs or overhangs.

Emergency Medical Treatment

All Firefighters are required to qualify as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) as a condition of probation.

Firefighters must assess a victim's general condition by checking pulse, respiration, bleeding, consciousness, etc. This will require physical contact with the victims who will often be bleeding from open wounds and/or have broken bones and other severe injuries. Firefighters use emergency medical techniques to treat victims to the best of their ability.

Firefighters may also come into contact with victims who have died before they could be rescued; sometimes, too, victims will die despite the best efforts of Firefighters.

Firefighter/paramedics and EMT's must obtain specific information from or about the victim; load the victim into the ambulance; stabilize the victim to the best of their ability; and care for victims on the way to the hospital. In addition, Firefighter/paramedics must often obtain more extensive information, draw blood samples, and discuss the case in detail with emergency room physicians.

Rescue Operations

Firefighters use systematic search procedures to try to find trapped victims without getting lost or trapped themselves.

Firefighters free trapped victims from a variety of situations including car crashes, cave ins, structure collapses, flood channels, chemical spills, and all kinds of unusual occurrences. Firefighters may be required to use special tools to accomplish a rescue.

After locating and freeing the victim, Firefighters must determine the safest path of evacuation. Firefighters may be required to lift and/or carry the victim with or without assistance in dangerous situations. 

Other Activities

While not out on a call, Firefighters work at keeping the station and equipment in excellent condition. Firefighters spend time each shift cleaning and scrubbing living quarters, including floors and restrooms, the fire station, and the equipment.

Firefighters often come into contact with hazardous and infectious materials. Firefighters conduct inspections for Fire Code violations. 

Firefighters educate the general public in fire safety and fire prevention techniques by conducting station tours/presentations.

Personal Considerations

Firefighters work 24-consecutive-hour shifts, living at the station for the entire period. Firefighter shifts are organized on the following schedule: 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty (1 day on, 2 days off).

While on duty, Firefighters live and sleep at the station. Firefighters sleep in individual sleeping rooms. Bathing and toilet areas rely on an "occupied/not occupied" system in some stations. Newer stations have separate bathroom facilities for women and men.

Firefighters may be required to work overtime. Firefighters may be away from home for days at a time during severe emergency situations.

Firefighters work on holidays. Should your shift fall on a holiday, you will be expected to work at the station over the holiday period.

Firefighters must work during unusual and/or catastrophic events such as major brush/forest fires, earthquakes, floods or civil unrest.

The duties and equipment of firefighting make special demands on the physical attributes of Firefighters. Personal preference for hair length, nail length, jewelry, etc. may be overruled for Firefighter safety.

The fire service is regimented and Firefighters receive orders which must be carried out promptly and without question.

Firefighters are responsible for providing their own food while on duty.

Fire Fighter Hiring Information

Please see Firefighter and Paramedic Employment and Testing for information about future openings and testing.

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