(Photo Credits: Mark Tabay, Fresno City College, Public Information Officer).
As Fire Science Instructors and Fire Technology Directors, we are frequently asked by perspective fire academy candidates, "what fire academy should I attend?" Our response is usually a series of questions for the prospective future firefighter. Where do you reside? Where is your community located? Where do you want to serve as a firefighter? Where does your family live? Where will you have a stable support system established?
There are several State Fire Marshal accredited academies in California. Our suggestion is finding a location that can support you during one of the hardest and most challenging college semesters you will ever experience. Having a support system is quintessential and vital in having a successful experience during this grueling process of becoming a firefighter. Build a network of people who support your journey and finding those that can mentor you along the way can be the difference between success and failure. Start by being open and upfront with your family about the challenges you will face and what you need from them to finish. The level of commitment required for the fire academy isn't something that you can take for granted. The fire academy will consume your whole life for at least six months, and you will have no free time.
The level of preparation before the academy is just as important as during the academy. You have to be in top physical condition before you embark on this journey. Many academies require candidates to pass a physical fitness assessment or hold a current candidate physical ability test (CPAT) card as a pre-requisite to starting the academy. To prepare, try various fitness activates such as running, high-intensity training, and functional fitness programs. Many basic fire academies include a run of 1.5 miles, pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, or a combination of fire ground movements as a standard entry assessment. The start of your day during the academy is as early as 4:30 AM and somedays you might leave the drill grounds at approximately 7:30 PM in the evening. Both of us can recall studying for exams till midnight and only receiving four hours of sleep per night. The weekends are not days off; however, they are full days of continuous self-improvement and preparation for future firefighter skills examinations.