Firefighting has remained one of the most noble and heroic professions today, even when the times couldn’t get more cynical. Obviously, anyone aspiring to become a firefighter would love to know what it’s like to be a firefighter. Normally, the portrayals we see in movies about the day-to-day lives of firefighters are simply romanticized versions of the real-life activities.
So in this article, we’ll get an idea of what it’s really like to be a firefighter.
Generally, firefighters put out fires and rescue people and property from burning structures. However, putting out fires is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a great deal of heroic courage and determination to go into a burning building as others are rushing out.
Besides putting out fires, firefighters attend to people who are hurt in accidents or those that become suddenly ill at home; they rescue people trapped in buildings; and they may also do ambulance services where necessary to rush people in critical condition to the emergency room. Depending on the region and the particular fire department, some firefighting personnel work to prevent future fires (fire marshals and inspectors). In short, firefighters work where there’s danger and that is why their work is called dangerous work.
Firefighters earn between $29,000 and $46,000 per year and receive a host of benefits including disability, health, and retirement. Their work typically rotates in 24-hour shifts and no two days can be the same in this profession. Work is very unpredictable and varied.
Responding to Calls
One of the hallmarks of a firefighting profession is responding to emergency calls, and it’s almost always at short notice. For their own safety, firefighters have special gear that they must wear when responding to an emergency, especially a fire. Other emergencies that firefighters usually respond to include auto accidents and medical emergencies, among others.
Increasingly, many fire departments are putting emphasis on medical emergencies given the fact that the majority of emergency calls are medical cases, at least for most fire departments.
However, a firefighter’s day is not entirely spent answering emergency calls. Moreover, not all calls require a lot of activity. Some emergencies may be solved on phone and in other cases, calls may involve non-emergency situations and false alarms. In fact, a big proportion of a firefighter’s workday is spent responding to non-emergency calls.
In a typical fire emergency, a firefighter will wear a face mask and an air tank for breathing. However, the tanks are usually heavy and the breathing is problematic, not to mention the difficulty of navigating a location that is unfamiliar. But the gear, when worn properly, will protect the firefighter from extreme conditions such as heat and smoke. The material used for the fire-resistant outer gear is called Nomex.
Below the bunker gear, a firefighter wears lightweight cotton clothing and this is usually what you’ll see them wearing at the station when not responding to an emergency. Synthetics are not good for wearing as underneath because they can’t stand extreme heat and can easily melt. On the other hand, cotton allows the wearer’s body to ‘breathe’, preventing steam from building up in conditions of high heat.
For the shoes, leather boots are used and are made of either leather or rubber. They are lined with a fire resistant layer as well as an insulation layer to warm the feet in cold conditions or provide cooling in hot environments.
Overall, you can only get a rough idea of what a typical day is like for a firefighter. Unless you’re one, you can’t really know what it’s like.
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