(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.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a humble public safety servant, we suggest that you make an appointment at your local community college. By scheduling this meeting, this is an excellent opportunity for you to get acquainted with your local fire science instructor or fire technology director. Understand what you want. There are many paths to break into the profession, be prepared to breach any of them. Possibilities include; City, Municipal, CAL FIRE, United States Forest Service, BLM, Contract, and Department of Defense to name a few. Please see the link below for an approved State Fire Marshal accredited fire academy in your local geographical area of California. Know what each academy offers and how it pushes you closer to your goal.
For the future firefighter candidate, your question shouldn’t be where to attend the fire academy. The starting point for a future firefighter is based on developing a plan on how you will receive your dream career position in this honorable profession. Schedule an appointment and visit your local firehouse, community college or fire academy. In developing your plan research the areas that you would most want to pursue a job or what your local area fire departments prefer to be the most desirable candidate. Some areas may prefer different minimum or desirable qualifications for their candidates. After developing your plan, the next step would be to implement and start working on your dream of becoming a firefighter. Everything begins with the idea that this is what you want to become in the future. Develop a series of short-term goals, midterm goals and long-range goals with the outcome of becoming a future firefighter. The journey can be long and feel like a grind, make sure you acknowledge your successes along the way. Doing this will help you regain momentum as you move towards the next goal.
The path of becoming a public servant is paved with adversity. To become a public safety servant in California, it is a long and arduous journey. Currently, it takes approximately four to five years to receive a dream career position in California as a firefighter. There are several long-term commitments you must complete to achieve this long-term goal. You also have to enroll in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program and highly consider completing an approved Paramedic program. Many academies require EMT and even fire science class completion as pre-requisites.
Please see this link for the State of California Approved Emergency Medical Technician Programs.
YouTube Video: Fresno City College, Fire Academy 49
If you need any assistance along your journey, please reach out to either Chief Jacob McAfee or Captain Baker and tune into the Fire Engineering, Future Firefighter Blog Talk Radio Show for more information.
Chris Baker, has over twelve years of experience in volunteer, combination, and career, fire departments in California. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Associates of Science Degree in Fire Service Command, Company Officer. Chris is a California State Fire Training certified Fire Officer, Driver-Operator, Fire Instructor, and Lead Firefighter I Certification Evaluator. He is a Fire Science Instructor in the California Community Colleges System. Chris is a member of the California Fire Technology Directors’ Association and the California Training Officers Association. He served as a volunteer Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) for both hiring and recruitment/retention. Chris also served as a Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017/2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). He is a Volunteer Advocate Regional Manager, Region IX (CA, NV, AZ, HI) for the Everyone Goes Home Program through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Chris also serves as a volunteer member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section serving in their staging area. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Fire Heritage Center located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Chris is a National Fire Service Instructor teaching at notable fire conferences across the country. He is the co-host of the Fire Engineering: The Future Fighter Podcast. Chris writes blog articles for Firefighter Nation, Fire Rescue and Fire Engineering Magazines on mentoring the future generations of the fire service.
Jacob McAfee, MS, CFO, CTO, MIFireE is the Fire Chief of the Fresno City College Fire Academy and Director of Fire Technology Programs. Jacob is a former DoD Fire Chief and has 19 years of fire service experience, where he has served in every major division of the fire service including Chief of Department. A United States Marine Corps Veteran, Chief McAfee served from 1999-2007 including two deployments to Iraq. He has worked for the DOD as a Fire Service professional for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, and Navy. Chief McAfee is a registered instructor for the California State Fire Marshal’s Office and the California Specialized Training Institute. Chief McAfee completed National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), and holds Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and Chief Training Officer (CTO) credentials from the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). Additionally, he serves the CPSE as a CFO and CTO peer assessor, a peer team member for CFAI Accreditation assessments, and serves as a curricula SME and instructor Nurturing Fire Service Leaders Through Mentoring. He is the CA State lead advocate and instructor for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and currently serves on the professional development and education committee with the Institute of Fire Engineers as a Member grade. Chief McAfee is a published fire service author writing consistently for Fire Engineering magazine and Fire Rescue International and has presented nationally for ARFF operations and Leading Organization through Change. He holds Masters Degrees in Occupational Safety and Health and Emergency Management while currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Emergency Management with Capella University.