If you are reading this, then you might have a great idea about what firefighting is all about. What if I told you that some of what you previously thought might be wrong? I am about to blow up some myths:
1) “The schedule is the number 1 perk”
OK, OK…this one is partially correct. Regardless of the structure of your schedule (1 on-1 off-1 on-5 off, 48/96, etc.) you definitely have more calendar days off than you are at work. That is a great thing even if you love your job like I do. But the firefighting schedule is a double-edged sword. As a group, firefighters show up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 a year. That means that when your schedule falls on Christmas, you work Christmas. If the schedule falls on your spouse’s birthday or your anniversary,…you work. This is definitely the truth early in your career when you are low on the seniority list. Be prepared to miss some holidays at home and start new traditions.
2) “We went from fire to fire to fire!”
I am sorry, but most of the year, especially in suburbia, we are responding to EMS/EMT calls 85% of the time. Fires can be few and far between and usually come in bunches. If you have the privilege of working the 4th of July (see schedule myths in #1), this is your best chance at catching some burners. We don’t necessarily want things to burn, but hey…it’s what we train for!
3) “During the day, when we are not on calls, all we do is play video games”
This myth has been around in some form or another for quite a while. At my department (and most career departments I know of), we have a structured work day (8:00am-5:00pm) where we are training, cleaning, maintaining, and inspecting…when we are not going on EMS/EMT calls (see myth #2). After 5:00pm, we are on “Standby” time. Still in uniform and ready to respond, but able to cook dinner, workout, sleep, attend to personal business, and yes…play video games.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still the greatest job on the planet, but these are a few things people ask often that have gained momentum and are widely believed about firefighting.