Fire training is an extensive process that requires time spent on both academic study, and practice in the field. People undergoing fire training often attend class for up to eight hours a day, five days a week for one year, or more. Many community colleges offer fire academy training. Some of the larger fire departments across the United States provide their own training, as well. The training required to become a firefighter is extensive, and once qualified, it is necessary to take part in continuing education classes regularly.
One reason that fire training is so intensive is because of the multiple skills required of a firefighter. Not only are firefighters responsible for extinguishing fires and entering burning buildings to rescue fire victims, but they are also required to have extensive medical training. Firefighters are typically certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics.
Another necessary part of fire training is the successful completion of the candidate physical ability test (CPAT). During the CPAT, the prospective firefighter has less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds to complete a stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and extension, forcible entry, search, rescue, and a ceiling breach and pull. During the physical ability test, the participant wears a 50 pound (22.7 kg) vest. The vest is used to simulate the weight a firefighter is responsible for carrying at all times, the self contained breathing apparatus, and protective clothing. During the climbing events, the applicant also carries a 12.5 pound (5.7 kg) weight on each shoulder to mimic the weight of the hose reels a firefighter carries.
A firefighter never knows what emergency he or she will face, so fire training includes a wide range of specialized classes. Firefighters are taught how to handle hazardous materials, swift water rescues, and fires in high rise buildings. The type of fire training a firefighter receives often depends on the area where the fire department is located. A fire department in an area with many chemical plants will have different needs than a fire department located in the downtown area of a large city.
Even if the potential firefighter passes all of his or her training with flying colors, there are other requirements to fire training. Most departments require that an applicant be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. The applicant will also be required to pass a background check, and may not qualify for training if he or she has a felony conviction, has received a dishonorable discharge from the military, is currently on probation, or has received a recent DUI conviction.