Veterans and Fire Fighting Professions

A firefighter hosing down a car that's on fire.

If you are a service member and considering following a civilian career of service, many veterans are finding their way to the Fire Services. There are many options for a career in fire-fighting at city and county levels, state fire academies, and federal fire fighting in the Department of Defense and US Fire Administration, just to name a few. There are also many organizations on the federal side of fire fighter employment: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. Local and state fire-fighting departments also have wild-land fire service departments. Many veterans find a home in fire services due to the comradery and sense of a shared mission they provide, similar to what service members had while serving in the military.

Related: Search for firefighter jobs.

Service in the military makes regular fitness tests less stressful than what an average fire fighter candidate might go through. However, you do not want to assume that you can ace these job related physical skills because you can ace your military PFT. It does help, but understanding the specific requirements is a must. Simply adding in stair stepper training, buddy carries, crawls, and sledgehammer work will help tremendously if added to the foundation of a fit military member.

If you're a veteran, here are some links to programs that help prior service members get hired with the fire service:

Veterans to Wildland – Hiring opportunities for veterans in federal firefighting programs.

Leadership Under Fire – Training for firefighters and programs to help veterans join the fire service.

Paddy Brown Program – This program is run by veterans as well.

Here are a few of the most common fitness standards and fire-fighting tests you must take prior to employment. The most common fire fighter test is the CPAT. There are a few variations between some department's CPAT, but all are focused on testing actual job related skills.

CPAT – Candidate Physical Abilities Test

  1. Stair Climb – stair stepper 3 min @ 60steps/minute
  2. Hose Drag – 100ft
  3. Equipment Carry – farmer walk 75ft carrying equipment
  4. Ladder Raise & Extension
  5. Forcible Entry – sledgehammer to open door or wall
  6. Search – crawl with limited visibility
  7. Rescue (165# dummy drag 70')
  8. Ceiling Breach & Pull

Pack Test – Wildland Fire Fighter Pack Test

This is basically a walk with varying levels of difficulty. There are three levels of duty you must pass in order to continue. The Arduous Duty Pack Test is the hardest of the test. It consists of a ruck with 45 lbs of gear for three miles. You have 45 minutes to negotiate that distance without running. If you practice a power walk ruck with 45 lbs, you can easily cross three miles in 35-40 minutes. The Moderate level Pack Test is a two mile ruck with 25lbs of gear in under 30 minutes.  The Light Pack Test is a walk of a mile with no gear in under 16 minutes.  No running permitted – just fast walking.

Wildland Fitness Assessment Battery

This is a comprehensive testing program that involves standard fitness test events like pushups, situps, pullups, plank pose, running, and weight lifting tests.

Finally, for those who want to bigger challenge in the Fire Service, there are the Smoke Jumpers. If you love being Airborne qualified, you might really like this firefighting mission.

Final Recommendation

Get used to being hot and working in heat.  Also, with the 60+ lbs of gear that you wear and carry and the intense heat of fire, you need to stay hydrated. Work on a fire scene is never easy, and quite honestly, it takes brave people to enter a burning building to save another.  

Related Articles:

The First Twenty Organization – Fitness and health preparation for Fire Fighters

PAT – Physical Abilities Test

Simulation Training for CPAT (Make sure you can stair step with a weight vest on.)

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, can help. Sign up for a free membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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