Fighting fire in remote areas often presents unknown dangers.
Rural firefighters must respond immediately, performing one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Rural firefighting involves more than fire suppression. The brave men and women that fight fires are often required to react to a diverse array of hazardous situations, traffic accidents and medical emergencies. As housing development expands, more and more homes are being built in wild areas or on grasslands. More than 140 million people now live in rural areas. Rural expansion results in more fires and emergencies in rural areas than ever before. Adequate training is imperative to the safety of a firefighter. Untrained or under-trained firefighters are a safety issue and may put themselves and others in danger.
1. Engage in a rigorous physical fitness regime. Schedule a complete physical examination, preferably with a physician who specializes in sports medicine. Request an evaluation of your current cardio-respiratory capacity and any other test your doctor recommends. Work with your physician to create a plan of weight management and an exercise program to develop strength, agility and stamina. Firefighting is hard, demanding work that requires you to be in the best physical condition possible. Physical fitness standards for the majority of both municipal and rural fire departments has been established based on research conducted by the Missoula Technology & Development Center (MTDC). The study shows that there are four levels of physical fitness. Arduous firefighting duties include extensive field work and calls for climbing and hiking over rough and steep terrain. The position requires extensive lifting, running, climbing and lifting. Moderate duty includes standing for long periods of time, walking, climbing and the ability to continually lift objects weighting from 25 to 50 lbs. Light duty involves driving equipment and some field work. The fourth level applies to office workers and does not have minimum physical fitness standards. If you seek a position on the frontal attack of a fire, you must be able to pass the physical fitness exam for arduous duty.
2. Take classes in first aid and CPR. Most fire departments require that candidates be certified as basic Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). Many departments require that firefighters are certified paramedics. Classes are available online or from local hospitals and community colleges.
3. Learn and practice survival skills. Rural or wildland firefighting is especially dangerous. Firefighters can easily become separated from their team, disorientated by smoke and fire. Trail markers may be destroyed and visual landmarks obscured. Knowing survive in the wilderness may save your life.
4. Take online classes to gain and improve your skills. Volunteer Fire Department is an informational website that offers a wide array of resources for firemen and rural fire departments. The site offers a course developed to educate and provide online management training for rural firefighters. The training course is presented free to all volunteer fire departments. The Volunteer Fire Department course provides firefighter certification and an opportunity for fire training instructors to be certified to teach the class to rural firefighting volunteers. Rural volunteer fire departments can access the information and register for the class online.
5. Volunteer with your local rural fire department or submit an application to a rural fire department. Most departments require that firefighters must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma.