Firefighter

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Gary , 30s

Gary, a firefighter at a suburban Melbourne fire station, knew from a young age that he wanted to work in a community service role.

How did you become a firefighter?

Gary spent 8 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and enjoyed this work so much, he eventually decided to work towards a career in firefighting.

Gary finally achieved his goal last September, and has found the job to be better, but also a lot more difficult, than he had expected.

What does the job involve?

"The job itself is extremely challenging, both mentally and physically. What you are exposed to can often be distressing and quite gruesome, so you need a strong stomach and a sense of humour to deal with the incidents you often witness," says Gary.

He adds, "One of the most difficult things about firefighting is dealing with human emotions. For this reason, you need to be able to stay calm under pressure, be emotionally strong, as well as empathic."

Although the job is quite often stressful, Gary finds it extremely rewarding. "Being able to assist someone, to save someone's life, or even being able to impart valuable knowledge about fire safety is most satisfying," says Gary.

What's a typical working day?

Gary's day-to-day role is always changing, and his duties include undertaking vehicle checks and repair of equipment, conducting hazardous risk inspections, participating in ongoing training, training volunteers, conducting talks about fire safety and awareness, completing paperwork, general cleaning, and of course, fire calls.

The fire calls are really diverse and range from retrieving animals stuck under buildings (yes, this really happens!), to lifting heavy patients from their homes, and assisting the ambulance. "We go to anything. We are called out to motor accidents where we may be required to wash away oil, or assist in the rescue of people trapped in cars and we attend to bushfires, house fires, industrial fires and accidents, just to name a few," says Gary.

The emergency work can be quite sporadic and unpredictable too. "Some days we might get 10 calls and other days none, but even when there are no calls we are kept busy with station duties."

While there may be a tendency by some to romanticise the role and see the firefighter as a valiant rescuer, Gary emphasises that a lot of people don't actually realise the level of danger that firefighters actually expose themselves to on a daily basis.

Any tips for those interested in a firefighting career?

It's also not an easy job to get into. "Firefighting is a much sought after profession, and has also become more competitive over recent years because the role of the fire fighter has changed. You must persist. After all, it took me three years and three attempts at the CFA, and two attempts at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to finally get in," counsels Gary.

However, he adds, "Once you get in, it's well worth it!"

Find out more about a career as a firefighter

Visit the MyFuture website to find more about duties and tasks, work conditions, earnings and required qualifications for a career as a firefighter.

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).