Your desire for a career in the fire service is a very noble ambition. The fire service has a long tradition of dedicated service to the protection of life and property. Be advised that a career in the fire service (paid or volunteer) is an extremely demanding job that requires one to cope with many physically and mentally challenging situations in both their profession and personal lives. Recent tragic events in our nation highlight only a part of the potential price the profession requires an individual to be willing to pay. The decision to seek a fire service career should not be entered into lightly or on the spur of the moment.
Though there are national standards regarding firefighter training and certification, each individual fire department usually sets their own minimum standards and hiring requirements. Larger cities require applicants to pass a civil service exam, agility fitness test, etc. to be placed on a potential hiring list. Usually the larger cities have several thousand applicants for less than a hundred positions. Smaller cities usually have fewer applicants, but fewer positions. You may want to review employment ads in major papers, as well as search the web for cities advertising for applicants for firefighter positions. Calling the personnel departments of cities where you may be interested in working or relocating too is another way of ascertaining if they are seeking firefighter candidates and what the application process is.
The more training and experience one has may assist in getting better scores on the initial entrance exams and interviews. One way to obtain training and experience, as well as determine if this is truly a profession one wants to pursue is to join a volunteer fire department located in your local area. This opens the doors to many training opportunities in addition to providing real world experience while helping the community. (In the state of Tennessee, over 70% of the fire service is volunteer.) You can search your local phone book for a listing of volunteer fire departments in your area. They usually list a non-emergency phone number that you can call to ask questions. Another way of getting in touch with local volunteer fire departments is to call Operation Fireline. Operation Fireline is a program established by the National Volunteer Fire Council to aid in the recruitment of volunteer fire, rescue and emergency medical personnel. Anyone calling the national hotline number at 1-800-FIRE-LINE (1-800-347-3546) will be connected to a central contact point in his or her state. In Tennessee, you will be connected to the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Your name and address will be forwarded as a potential new member to the volunteer units in your area. You may also consult the Tennessee Fire Department Directory.
Some community colleges have degree programs in Fire Science. These programs provide general education and knowledge in the areas of fire protection and prevention. A Fire Science degree in some cases may be used to seek jobs in the private sector such as fire investigators for insurance companies or industrial fire protection specialists for industrial plants and facilities. In some fire departments, an Associates Degree in Fire Science can aid in getting a higher rating on hiring rosters or for promotional steps within fire departments. As always, each individual fire department has its own processes and procedures. Many fire departments also respond to emergency medical calls. Candidates that are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians may have a better chance of being hired in those departments. In Tennessee, the state’s community college can be located through web searches or in the phone book. If they do not teach the courses at their campus, they should be able to direct you to the nearest college that does. You may also consult TN Emergency Medical Services located at www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/health-professional-boards/ems-board
These are but a few suggestions in how to pursue a career in the fire service. You may wish to visit and talk with fire service personnel at your local area fire departments to discuss the variety of opportunities and options that may be available in your area. You may also want to check out the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/aboutus/workwithus.htm. In the past, they have been seeking applicants for wildland firefighter jobs.
The Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy (TFACA) provides initial training, as well as continuing and advanced training to the state’s fire service. These programs are conducted at TFACA’s main campus, as well as across the state at various “host” fire departments.
Codes officials play a major role in ensuring that all commercial, residential, public assembly and other buildings within a governmental jurisdiction are constructed in accordance with the provisions of the governing building code. Building code provisions address structural stability, fire safety, adequate means of egress (exits), sanitation, safe wiring and more. It is the code official’s responsibility to protect the public health, safety and welfare in relationship to the built environment through effective code enforcement.
Though standards for employment vary for each department and jurisdiction, at a minimum, a high-school diploma or the equivalent is necessary. Many employers require inspectors to have experience in the construction trades, completed an apprenticeship program, have studied engineering or architecture for at least two years, or have an Associate’s degree from a community college with courses in construction technology, blueprint reading, mathematics, building inspection or public administration.
Many jurisdictions now require a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in addition to on-site experience. Bachelor’s degrees are available in construction, fire protection management, engineering, architecture and related fields. Additionally, many jurisdictions require certification and continuing education for their inspectors. In Tennessee, all building and fire code inspectors working for cities and counties must be certified by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Code officials must posses strong leadership, management and interpersonal skills. Excellent communication skills (both oral and written) are necessary as code officials often interact with both the public and the media. Additionally, a good driving record may be required.
The trend toward professional standards for inspectors should open up good opportunities for experienced workers with some college education or those certified as inspectors. The employment of construction and building inspectors is expected to increase faster than the growth for other occupations. Rising construction activity, concern about public safety and a call for quality construction should create an active demand for construction and building inspectors.
Any person with substantial involvement in fire prevention and control, emergency medical services, emergency management activities, building codes or fire codes enforcement (including mechanical, plumbing and electrical codes) or allied professionals are eligible to apply for Academy courses. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
Pre-registration is required for all Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement programs. Your registration must be received at least 14 days prior to the start of the course. All registrations are on a first come, first served basis.
Registration forms should be submitted to:
TN Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy
2161 Unionville-Deason Road
Bell Buckle, Tennessee 37020
The Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy offers a unique dual curriculum of fire service and codes enforcement subject matter that meets the initial training requirements for state certification and continuing education.
Fire Certification Information
For more information on State Firefighting Certification, contact the Tennessee Fire Fighting Commission at (931) 294-4140.
Codes Enforcement Certification Information
For information on Tennessee Fire and Building Codes Inspector Certification, contact the State Fire Marshals’ Office at (615) 741-2981.