Firefighters (NOC 4312)

High demand occupation

About this job

Firefighters carry out firefighting and fire prevention activities and help with other emergencies, such as hazardous goods spills and motor vehicle accidents.

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

People in this occupation:

  • work for municipal, provincial and federal governments, and for large industrial establishments that have internal firefighting services
  • need to be physically fit, well coordinated and comfortable with heights and confined spaces
  • must be able to work cooperatively as part of a team and function well during an emergency
  • must be highly motivated and dedicated to helping people
  • must be committed to continuous learning to keep their skills up to date
Common job titles
  • crash firefighter
  • fire prevention officer
  • firefighter, airport / shipboard
  • firefighter, inspector / lieutenant
  • inspector, fire safety
  • training firefighter
  • crash firefighter
  • fire prevention officer
  • firefighter, airport / shipboard
  • firefighter, fire captain / platoon chief
  • firefighter, inspector / lieutenant
  • inspector, fire safety

Duties

Firefighters perform some or all of the following duties:

  • respond to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents, bomb threats and other emergencies
  • rescue victims from burning buildings and accident sites
  • control and extinguish fires using manual and power equipment, such as axes, water hoses, aerial ladders and hydraulic equipment and various firefighting chemicals
  • give first aid and other assistance
  • work in a trauma or emergency response team and provide paramedical aid to accident victims or ill persons
  • do emergency dispatch
  • make sure firefighting equipment operates properly and well maintained
  • educate the public on fire prevention
  • train to maintain a high level of physical fitness
  • help the public, the police and emergency organizations during times of major disasters
  • may supervise and coordinate the work of other firefighters
  • may conduct building inspections to ensure compliance with fire code.
  • prepare written reports on fire incidents
     

Work environment

In large urban centres, firefighters typically work shifts with rotating days off. In smaller communities, they may work on a part-time or on-call basis. Firefighters spend much of their time in fire halls or training facilities, preparing to handle a variety of emergency situations.

When emergencies arise, firefighters must respond immediately. At the scene of an emergency, these workers must remain calm and level headed and be able to help to calm other people.

Firefighters need a high degree of physical fitness and mental alertness, since firefighting is both physically and mentally demanding. Firefighters wear heavy gear when responding to emergencies and must often lift or carry more than 20 kilograms. They must also be able to cope with the emotional stress of the job.

The work environment is often dangerous, and can include extreme temperatures (both high and low) and smoke.

Firefighters follow strict safety procedures to reduce the risk of injury.

Insights from industry

Most of the job opportunities in the coming years are expected to come from replacing retiring workers. There will also likely be some opportunities due to new job creation as population densities increase.

Career positions are more available in areas of higher population density. This includes Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan, Kamloops, Prince George and the Kootenay. In some of these regions and in most other areas of the province volunteer firefighters are and will continue to be required to provide fire and rescue services.

In some suburban areas, rapid population and infrastructure growth, with increasing emergency call volumes, could result in the decision to convert volunteer departments to professional status. This would result in the creation of new full-time positions. On the other hand, amalgamation of municipalities or their services could result in job reductions due to increased efficiencies.

According to industry sources, there tends to be a steady supply of qualified candidates looking for work. There is currently a great deal of competition for available openings. However, increasing numbers of retirements, along with competition from other industries for workers, may limit the future supply of qualified firefighter candidates.

Most fire departments are trying to increase the diversity of the force, including the number of visible minority and female candidates.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Workers usually begin their career in this field as an entry level firefighter.

Progression to senior positions, such as investigator, training officer, captain, lieutenant, fire battalion chief, deputy fire chief or fire chief, is possible with additional training and several years of experience.

Firefighters with the appropriate experience and abilities may specialize in hazardous materials, technical rescue or other areas.

Firefighters may also advance to positions, such as training officers, public safety educators, fire safety inspectors or fire investigators.

Additional resources