Putting out fires may be the most visible and intuitive role of a firefighter, but there are a number of different job titles that pertain to a career in the fire services.
The probationary firefighter is at the entry-level within the fire services hierarchy. The probationary firefighter is often still undergoing training and evaluation. A probationary firefighter may go through a period of 3 to 6 months or more for training and a period of 6 months to one year for evaluation.
In some fire departments, all firefighters are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). This is a basic certification that helps firefighters respond to medical emergencies. EMTs provide basic care in non-critical cases or assist injured persons until a paramedic or another advanced-level person can take over.
In some cities, certain firefighters are also paramedics. Paramedics have advanced training and skills to help those in their communities who are experiencing medical emergencies, including severe or traumatic cases.
Engineers are firefighters who have the training to drive fire trucks and fire engines. Fire engines usually have a pump, a water tank, and hundreds to thousands of feet of powerful hoses. However, A fire truck is a vehicle that transports firefighters and their equipment — such as ladders, rescue gear, and power tools — from the fire station to the fire. In addition to driving, the engineers are also responsible for providing water, raising ladders and setting up hoses and other equipment while responding to emergencies.
Public Information Officer
The Public Information Officer (PIO) helps to share information with the community about the fire department or about fire incidents. Sometime, the Public Information Officer will be interviewed on TV or in the newspaper. The Public Information Officer is usually a firefighter but this person can be a civilian.
Airport Apparatus ARFF
Airport Rescue Firefighters (ARFF) help at the airport. They have special skills to assist when there is an emergency involving an airplane or that takes place within the airport. Fire trucks at the airport are specially equipped to respond to these types of emergencies.
Heavy Rescue Technicians are firefighters who are trained to rescue people in special situations. Heavy rescue technicians learn how to rappel from buildings so they can rescue people from heights, but they also learn how to maneuver in tight or confined spaces, so they can perform rescues there too.
Hazardous Materials Technicians are firefighters who have special training to respond in cases when any dangerous chemicals or other substances are suspected or released. HazMat technicians have special suits that protect them from the effects of any chemicals and they have special equipment that helps them to identify specific chemicals.
Inspectors visit buildings as part of routine evaluations (when buildings are not on fire) to see that they are safe and are operating safely. If they identify a problem, the inspector works with the building owners to fix the problem to make it safe for everyone. Fire Inspectors are sometimes firefighters although sometimes they are civilians.
Fire Investigators determine the cause of fires. Fire Investigators are a special type of firefighter who has also received some police training. One unique investigator is an arson dog. Fire Investigators also help firefighters to be safe in unsafe situations.
In rank between the Driver/Engineer and the Captain, the lieutenant is sometimes characterized within an engine company as spearheading training, daily operations and emergency management response. When the captain is unavailable, a lieutenant may fill in.
Captains are firefighters who have worked for a fire department for an extended period, often at least 10 years. They take a special test to be eligible for a promotion from firefighter to captain. Captains are responsible for other firefighters around them. They are in charge of a fire station and they provide directions when the fire crew responds to an emergency.
The assistant chief handles many administrative functions and provides technical and other support services to the chief and others in the department. Assistant chiefs are often responsible for budgets and development plans.
Chiefs are firefighters who have already been captains and have been promoted. Chiefs are responsible for other firefighters around them. Some of them are in charge of several fire stations. Or, some chiefs are in charge of special divisions such as the Medical Division or the Training Division.
Like the operations chief or CEO of a corporation, the Battalion Chief makes sure that what needs to get done gets done. There is a Battalion Chief on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thus each battalion needs to have at least 3 rotating battalion chiefs to cover all those hours. A battalion chief is often highest rank on-hand in any given situation, given that fire chiefs and others often work only typical full-time schedules.
Battalion chiefs are responsible for ensuring that every specialized role is covered for each shift, and thus may have to engage in creative manpower resourcing at times. Battalion chiefs also manage work schedules, including vacation and sick days.
Battalion chiefs are also usually the first line of official documentation when it comes to incident reports and investigations.
Deputy Fire Marshal
One kind of Deputy Fire Marshal helps the Fire Marshal prevent fires and other problems before they ever happen. The Deputy Fire Marshal has a team of inspectors who evaluate buildings before and after they are built. This helps to make sure that the buildings are as safe as possible for the people living or working in them and for firefighters when they respond there. Another kind of Deputy Fire Marshal has a team of fire investigators that go to fires after they are put out. They figure out how the fire started and what can be done to prevent them in the future.
The Fire Marshal is a special kind of chief who is in charge of the Fire Prevention Bureau. The Fire Marshal assists in identifying buildings or other types of situations that might be dangerous for firefighters or residents of our City. The Fire Marshal helps to fix these issues so that they are safe for everyone.