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Firefighter

Responds to fires, accidents and other incidents where potential or actual risks are posed to life and/or property.

The main duties of a full-time firefighter are to help protect the public in emergency situations. Firefighters also work in ambulances. Firefighters respond to a wide variety of calls, such as car crashes, chemical spills, flooding, water rescue and general rescue as well as fires. With many fire crews being trained as first responders they can provide first aid until the arrival of ambulance personnel.

There are two main divisions of firefighter: full-time professional firefighters and retained firefighters who are paid a retaining fee and a per-call fee. The retained crews make up most of the stations in Ireland. Retained fire-fighters, who account for over 65 per cent of the country’s fire service, are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are required to live and work within a two-mile radius of their stations.

Work activities

  • Attending most forms of emergencies
  • Carrying out station routines, eg filling breathing apparatus cylinders, cleaning the station, preparing food for dinner and testing equipment
  • Inspecting premises and hydrants from time to time to advise on fire safety and enforce safety regulations
  • Attending daily drills/lectures to keep up-to-speed on procedures or be introduced to new equipment and practices.

Work conditions

Travel: a regular feature of the job.
Working hours: full-time firefighters normally work a shift system comprising nine-hour days and 15-hour nights across four watches.
Location: opportunities exist mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: not normally possible.

Typical employers

The fire service is operated at local level by 37 fire authorities: city councils, county councils, borough councils and town councils around the state and at airports.

Career development

Prospects for career development are good. The system is structured to give everyone an opportunity to advance and enjoy a rewarding future. There are opportunities to become an instructor in various areas such as recruit training, breathing apparatus instructor and emergency medical technician instructor.

After several years as a firefighter you can apply for promotion to the rank of Sub Officer. Ranks above this include Station Officer, District Officer and Third Officer.

Salaries

In addition to the basic wage scale, payments are made in respect of night and weekend duty. A rent allowance is also payable.

Entry requirements

Subject of study is not relevant as a degree is not essential for firefighter entry. Minimum entry requirements are a Grade D (or pass) in five subjects, including Mathematics and English from the approved list of subjects in the Department of Education Intermediate, Junior or Group Certificate Examination, or in an exam of at least equivalent standard.

Specific degree subjects required

A degree in engineering/architecture is required for senior officer posts.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed. However, specific fire engineering diplomas are becoming increasingly important.

Specific entry requirements

You must be of good character, in good health and comply with the specified physical standards. You must also hold a current full class B (car) driving license. In addition to the strength tests there are other tests which you may be given to assess your suitability.

Training

Training of personnel is the responsibility of each of the fire authorities. Typically, recruits train for about 16 weeks in firefighting and rescue techniques drills, breathing apparatus, hazardous chemicals and pumping operations. More specialised training is also given to those already operational. A diploma in fire engineering is available at Dublin University on a part-time basis.

The Fire Services Council supplements local training by providing an annual programme of specialised and general courses at central level for fire service personnel at officer rank.

There are plenty of opportunities to train and do courses in various different areas including swift water rescue, heavy driving (ambulances and fire appliances) and operating specialist appliances, eg turntable ladder.

Tips for applications

Most successful applicants are more mature than school leavers. Having a trade such as an electrician or carpenter can be an advantage. Join related voluntary organisations such as the Order of Malta, Red Cross or Civil Defence.

Skills and qualities

  • Good communication skills
  • Physical strength, endurance and flexibility
  • Mental agility.