Fire / EMS / Emergency Services

Introduction to Fire Fighting, Emergency Medical Services, and Other Emergency Services

Fire/EMS Fire Fighters

Every year, fires and other emergencies take thousands of lives and destroy property worth billions of dollars. Fire fighters help protect the public against these dangers by responding to fires and a variety of other emergencies. Although they put out fires, fire fighters more frequently respond to other emergencies. They are often the first emergency personnel at the scene of a traffic accident or medical emergency and may be called upon to treat injuries or perform other vital functions.

During duty hours, fire fighters must be prepared to respond immediately to a fire or other emergency. Fighting fires is complex and dangerous and requires organization and teamwork. At every emergency scene, fire fighters perform specific duties assigned by a superior officer. At fires, they connect hose lines to hydrants and operate a pump to send water to high-pressure hoses. Some carry hoses, climb ladders, and enter burning buildings - using systematic and careful procedures - to put out fires. At times, they may need to use tools to make their way through doors, walls, and debris, sometimes with the aid of information about a building's floor plan. Some find and rescue occupants who are unable to leave the building safely without assistance. They also provide emergency medical attention, ventilate smoke-filled areas and attempt to salvage the contents of buildings. Fire fighters' duties may change several times while the company is in action. Sometimes they remain at the site of a disaster for days at a time, rescuing trapped survivors, and assisting with medical treatment.

Fire fighters work in a variety of settings, including metropolitan areas, rural areas, airports, chemical plants and other industrial sites. They also have assumed a range of responsibilities, including providing emergency medical services. In fact, most calls to which fire fighters respond involve medical emergencies. In addition, some fire fighters work in hazardous materials units that are specially trained for the control, prevention, and cleanup of hazardous materials, such as oil spills or accidents involving the transport of chemicals. (For more information, see the Handbook section on hazardous materials removal workers.)

Workers specializing in forest fires utilize methods and equipment different from those of other fire fighters. When fires break out, crews of fire fighters are brought in to suppress the blaze with heavy equipment and water hoses. Fighting forest fires, like fighting urban fires, is rigorous work. One of the most effective means of fighting a forest fire is creating fire lines - cutting down trees and digging out grass and all other combustible vegetation in the path of the fire in order to deprive it of fuel. Elite fire fighters called smoke jumpers parachute from airplanes to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. This tactic, however, can be extremely hazardous.

When they aren't responding to fires and other emergencies, fire fighters clean and maintain equipment, learn additional skills related to their jobs, conduct practice drills, and participate in physical fitness activities. They also prepare written reports on fire incidents and review fire science literature to stay informed about technological developments and changing administrative practices and policies.

Work hours of fire fighters are longer and more varied than the hours of most other workers. Many fire fighters work about 50 hours a week, and sometimes they may work longer. In some agencies, fire fighters are on duty for 24 hours, then off for 48 hours, and receive an extra day off at intervals. In others, they work a day shift of 10 hours for 3 or 4 days, work a night shift of 14 hours for 3 or 4 nights, have 3 or 4 days off, and then repeat the cycle. In addition, fire fighters often work extra hours at fires and other emergencies and are regularly assigned to work on holidays. Fire lieutenants and fire captains frequently work the same hours as the fire fighters they supervise.


If you are planning on a career in the Fire service you may want to consider the following:

  • - Apply for a Paid Call Firefighter or other Public Safety position with an Emergency Service Provider.
  • - Enroll in an EMT course at your local community college.
  • - Meet with a career counselor at your local community college to explore future enrollment in a Fire Academy and potential for going into a Paramedic Program to get your California State Paramedics License.

Some community colleges offer courses to obtain the certificates required. Classes and availability differ from college to college.

Additional qualifications

  • - Fire fighting involves hazardous conditions and long, irregular hours.
  • - About 9 out of 10 fire fighters were employed by local governments.
  • - Applicants generally must pass written, physical, and medical examinations, and candidates with some postsecondary education are increasingly preferred.
  • - Keen competition for jobs is expected because this occupation attracts many qualified candidates.

Job Descriptions

The following job descriptions have been culled from various fire departments and EMS services in California to give you an idea of what is required for various jobs.

Fire Fighter Recruit
Attends a 14 week paid fire academy which includes course work and practice and suppression, in fire prevention emergency medical training and state and local laws. Upon successful completion of the fire academy, recruits are promoted to Firefighter I.

Minimum Qualifications of Fire Recruit:
  • - Possession of a current valid Emergency Medical Technician Certificate issued by the State of California or by a EMT certifying agency approved by the State of California; County of San Diego EMT System ID Card; Certificate for Basic Life Support for the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiac Provider.
  • - A valid California Class C Driver's License.

Firefighter I
Once a Fire Recruit successfully completes the fire academy, he or she is promoted to Firefighter I. Firefighter I undergoes on-the-job training under constant supervision and increasingly performs fire fighting duties and related work. A Firefighter I is assigned to the training division in fire operations while learning the full range of fire fighting operations.

Examples of Firefighter I Duties:
  • - Responds to fire and emergency calls as a member of a fire company.
  • - Lays hose, carries and sets up ladders, and uses fire equipment to extinguish fires and make rescues.
  • - Administers first aid.
  • - Participates in pre-fire and fire prevention inspections.
  • - Participates in drills and training activities.
  • - Cleans and maintains fire vehicles, apparatus, equipment.
  • - Maintains fire station and grounds.
  • - Operates department non-emergency vehicles, and when required, drives and operates fire vehicles, apparatus, equipment and ambulances.
Minimum Qualifications for Firefighter I:
  • - Successful completion of the City of San Diego Fire Department Basic Fire Academy. Possession of a valid California Class C Driver's License and a current State of California Emergency Medical Technician Certificate.

State Fire Marshal Trainee
The State Fire Marshal Trainee provides training in various State Fire Marshal programs which develop knowledge and ability for advancement to the next higher classification of Deputy State Fire Marshal, Arson and Bomb Investigator Assistant, or Fire Service Training Specialist. The examination process typically consists of an oral interview. Incumbents in this classification are designated peace officers, either under authority of the State Fire Marshal or Penal Code and are required to meet Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements during the 12-month probationary period.

Minimum Requirements:

Either I
Experience: One year of employment in the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Office of the State Fire Marshal.

One year of experience in any field leading to knowledge of fire suppression/prevention public safety, law enforcement, regulatory compliance, public education/training, or building trades. and

Education: Successful completion of two of the following courses in Fire Technology or Administration of Justice (these must be equivalent to six semester units).

Introduction to Fire Technology, Fire Equipment and Systems, Fundamentals of Fire Prevention, Fire Investigation, Fundamentals of Fire Protection, Introduction to Law Enforcement, Fundamentals of Fire Behavior, and Introduction to Criminal Control Investigation. Current enrollment in any of the above courses will admit candidates to the examination; successful completion of all unit requirements must occur before appointment (units may be challenged by State Board of Fire Services certified courses in the same basic subject matter as determined appropriate by the State Fire Marshal).

Education: An Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science Degree in either Fire Technology or Administration of Justice.

Fire Permit Technician
This position is under general supervision, performs review of simple fire alarm, fire sprinkler and building plans, including, but not limited to, single-family residences, minor interior tenant improvements, minor modifications to fire alarm systems, and modifications with less than 20 sprinkler heads, as well as permit applications, and a wide variety of public counter duties in a fire prevention office.


Option I: One year of experience in a public agency reviewing simple plans and permit applications.
Option II: Completion of 15 semester units or 23 quarter units in an accredited college or university in building inspection technology, architectural drafting, engineering, or fire protection related courses.

Fire Control Worker
1. Performs various types of semi-skilled labor in support of fire prevention and suppression of wildland fires and structure fires; cuts and removes brush from roadsides, fire roads, and fuel breaks using hand and power tools.

2. Performs maintenance work on fire department equipment and minor vehicle service and repair.

3. Performs maintenance work on fire department facilities such as landscaping, carpentry, masonry, paving, plumbing, fabrication, demolition, painting and paint preparation.

4. Operates vehicles and specialized equipment and works as a Fire Equipment Operator's aide for fire department bulldozers.


Any satisfactory combination of experience and/or training which would demonstrate the required skill and ability levels.

Other Requirements:

Must be at least 18 years of age. Possession of a valid California Class "C" driver's license is required at the time of appointment. The ability to obtain a Class "B" license will be required within the first six (6) months of employment.

Fire GIS Technician
Duties may include but are not limited to the following:
  • - Maintains and updates Centerline file for Computer-aided Dispatch (CAD) system requirements
  • - Creates maps from Centerline and area data; creates and modifies existing software programs to create maps which assist station personnel and dispatchers who are responding to emergency calls
  • - Utilizes software to provide customized maps and analyses of graphic and numeric data including the selection of map size, projection, data, scale, shading, colors, and symbols
  • - Updates GIS maps based on hand-drawn sketches, CPS input, data from Air Unit reconnaissance, and other data sources
  • - Develops macro application programs to expedite graphic design and database editing operations; designs inquiry screens for ease of input and output for users; writes user instructions.

Any combination of education and experience which has led to acquisition of the required knowledge, skills, and abilities. The required knowledge, skills, and abilities can also be obtained by two years of GIS mapping experience.

Special Requirements:

Possession of a valid California driver license.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
The Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) works as a member of an emergency medical team. The EMT administers first-aid treatment and assists paramedics and other emergency medical service personnel in providing emergency and non-emergency patient care to sick or injured people.

The EMT also may drive emergency vehicles to and from emergency and non-emergency situations and transport patients to hospitals or other medical care facilities.

Minimum Qualifications for Emergency Medical Technician:
  • - A current valid Emergency Medical Technician Certificate issued by the State of California or by an EMT certifying agency approved by the State of California; County of San Diego EMT System ID Card; Certificate for Basic Life Support for the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiac Provider.
  • - A valid California Class C Driver's License.
  • - A valid California Ambulance Driver's Certificate.

Paramedic I
Examples of Paramedic I Duties:
  1. Participates in the delivery of emergency and non-emergency medical and health care.
  2. Assesses nature and extent of illness or injury to establish and prioritize medical procedures to be followed or needed for additional assistance.
  3. Administers advance life support care to sick and injured people in a pre-hospital setting as authorized and under direction of a hospital physician.
  4. Communicates with a physician and other medical personnel via voice or telemetry communications.
  5. Restores, stabilizes and monitors the medical condition of a patient, using electrocardiograph, defibrillator, telemetry equipment, oxygen and suction devices, and other sophisticated medical equipment, or as directed
  6. Assists in performing pulmonary ventilation to open airways and ventilate patient.
  7. Administers intravenous fluids and injections of medications and drugs, following established protocols.
  8. Administers initial treatment at an emergency scene and takes and records patients's vital signs.
  9. Observes, records and reports to a physician the patient's condition and reaction to drugs and treatment.
  10. May drive emergency vehicles to and from incident scenes and medical treatment facilities.
  11. May lead Emergency Medical Technicians in emergency care procedures.
  12. Prepares reports of incidents.
  13. Performs other related emergency medical support duties.
Minimum Qualifications for Paramedic I:
  • - Possession of the following current valid certificates: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Paramedic License issued by the State of California; County of San Diego EMT Paramedic Accreditation; and Basic and Advanced Life Support for the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiac Care Provider.
  • - A valid California Class C Driver's License.
  • - A valid California Ambulance Driver's Certificate.

Manager - Emergency Management
DEFINITION: Under general direction, plans and administers the emergency management programs of the Harbor Department.

  • - Develops and updates all-hazard emergency plans for the Harbor Department;
  • - Coordinates emergency management efforts with City departments, state and federal agencies, and port stakeholders;
  • - Creates and maintains the Department Operations Center (DOC), both fixed and mobile;
  • - Identifies emergency management teams for the DOC;
  • - Conducts drills and training on emergency procedures and operation of the DOC;
  • - Coordinates emergency management efforts with city's EOC and represents the Harbor Department at the EOC;
  • - Participates in the development of a port-wide evacuation plan and business continuity plan in coordination with the Area Maritime Security Committee;
  • - Ensures all Regulatory requirements are met as identified in Port's Emergency Plans;
  • - Participates in the Security Division's security technology system plan;
  • - Documents the Port's hazard mitigation efforts;
  • - Liaisons with port stakeholders to coordinate emergency response planning, training and drills;
  • - Represents the Port on port-related safety, security and emergency management committees;
  • - Integrates the emergency plans of the terminal operators into overall Port emergency plans;
  • - Performs other duties as required.
  • - Five (5) years of progressive responsibility and expertise in the principles and practices of emergency preparedness.
  • - Knowledge of inter-agency security and emergency coordination procedures.
  • - Ability to craft and articulate detailed security and emergency policies & procedures.
  • - Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • - Education equivalent to a Bachelor's degree in emergency management or closely related field.
SALARY RANGE: $66,000 - $99,000, depending upon qualifications.

Battalion Chief - Fire Department
To perform responsible management, technical, and administrative work in commanding and coordinating fire suppression, hazardous materials investigation, inspection, prevention and personnel training activities; and to provide highly responsible and technical staff assistance.

General direction is provided by a Deputy Fire Chief and/or Fire Chief. Responsibilities include the direct and indirect supervision of Fire Captains and other subordinate level personnel.

Examples of Duties

Depending upon assignment, duties may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  1. Assists in the development and implementation of goals, objectives, policies and priorities.
  2. Directs and supervises forces in the suppression of fires and in the control of incidents involving hazardous chemicals and other materials; directs and supervises forces during Mass Casualty Incidents; ascertains the need for and type of equipment necessary to counteract the emergency; makes technical decisions as to the best methods of extinguishing fires and controlling incidents after observing the developing activities and receiving oral reports from command officers.
  3. Administers programs such as fire code enforcement, hazardous materials regulations, apparatus and equipment maintenance, communications, objective based planning, or water supply.
  4. Makes periodic inspections of personnel and the general condition of equipment, apparatus, and fire stations.
  5. Participates with company Captains in the training of personnel and serves as an instructor for specialized in-service training courses.
  6. Responds to fires and other life and property threatening emergencies and supervises the deployment and coordination of emergency resources in the mitigation of the emergency.
  7. Identifies training needs, and recommends how needs can be met.
  8. Develops, maintains, and coordinates a comprehensive fire and emergency operations training program.
  9. Implements the department's fire inspection program on an assigned platoon.
  10. Assists and participates in the preparation and administration of the department budget.
  11. Performs research and makes recommendations regarding capital purchases and facility improvements.
  12. Prepares and maintains a variety of records and reports.
  13. Administers and enforces Fire Department regulations, personnel rules and memoranda of understanding.
  14. Represents the City in the community and at professional meetings as required.
  15. Coordinates Fire Department activities with other City departments and divisions, and with outside agencies.
  16. Supervises, trains, and evaluates assigned staff.
  17. Serves as Acting Deputy Fire Chief or Fire Chief as assigned.
  18. Provides administrative support to Deputy Fire Chief or Fire Chief in the areas of labor relations, disaster preparedness, training, program development, budgeting, hazardous material management, and disaster preparedness education.

Knowledge and Abilities:
  • - Knowledge of principles and practices of organization, administration, budget and personnel management and training.
  • - Knowledge of modern firefighting and incident command system operations, rescue principles, practices, techniques, and procedures, including the operation and maintenance requirements of the various types of fire apparatus and equipment.
  • - Knowledge of mechanical, chemical, and related characteristics of a wide variety of flammable and explosive materials and objects.
  • - Knowledge of fire prevention and hazardous materials regulation principles, practices, and procedures.
  • - Knowledge of Federal, State, and local laws, codes and regulations pertaining to fire suppression, prevention, hazardous materials and personnel training.
  • - Knowledge of labor relations practices and procedures.
  • - Knowledge of principles, practices and procedures related to disaster preparedness and emergency education.
  • - Ability to make effective use of personnel, equipment and apparatus in emergency situations.
  • - Ability to instruct effectively, maintain discipline, stimulate interest and command respect of subordinates.
  • - Ability to analyze, develop and implement solutions essential to the control of fire suppression and hazardous material problems.
  • - Ability to conduct a thorough fact finding investigation and enforce regulations firmly, tactfully, and impartially.
  • - Ability to communicate clearly and concisely, orally and in writing.
  • - Ability to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships with those contacted in the course of work.
  • - Ability to develop and maintain good employee morale, motivation, discipline and employee relations within the department.
Experience and Education

Any combination equivalent to experience and education that could likely provide the required knowledge and abilities would be qualifying. A typical way to obtain the knowledge and abilities would be:
    Experience: Four years command experience at a level equivalent to that of Fire Captain in the Hayward Fire Department. Period of time spent in an acting capacity in the rank of Fire Captain may also be applied towards meeting minimum qualifications. However, such credit will be limited to periods of acting time as a Fire Captain which are thirty (30) consecutive calendar days or longer.

    Education: Equivalent to completion of twelfth grade supplemented by college level courses in Fire Science, Public or Business Administration or related field such as Engineering, Fire Management or Fire Protection. A Bachelor's Degree in related field is desirable.

    Accredited Fire Science coursework may be accepted in lieu of experience at the rate of ten (10) semester units for one (1) month experience up to a maximum of 6 months.
Special Requirements

Work is performed in an indoor and field environment. Work may be performed in high, precarious places, confined and awkward spaces or in high traffic areas. May be exposed to traffic hazards, equipment hazards, fire hazards, extreme heat, smoke, carcinogens, bio-hazards, adverse weather conditions, temperature and noise extremes, dusts, odors, toxic, caustic chemicals and pathogenic substances. Subject to unusual fatigue and high level of stress from irregular working hours/incident call activity. Requires the ability to lift, bend, climb (stairs, ladders, fence, etc.), walk (on normal, uneven and slippery surfaces), sit, stand for various timeframes. Must lift/carry up to 10 pounds frequently and up to 100 pounds occasionally. Must be able to drive and operate a Code-3 vehicle. Must be able to use hands for fingering and handling objects, tools or controls, writing. Requires the strength and stamina to perform fire suppression duties. Must be able to make critical decisions and direct others under extreme conditions. Must effectively communicate verbally and in writing.

Source: City of Hayward, California