Calfire Careers

How to Become a Firefighter

A career in fire protection offers the opportunity to perform challenging and exciting work while protecting the residents, resources, and property in the State of California.
Working as a team, fire protection employees respond to medical emergencies, wildland and structural fires, vehicle accidents, hazardous material spills, and other emergency incidents.
CAL FIRE also provides leadership and support services for natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
Being physically fit is important, and prospective employees must meet required medical standards.
Fire protection employees typically work varying shifts, including 24-hour days and weekends and holidays.
They must be willing to live and work in remote areas and be able to live compatibly in a fire station with others.

  • Volunteer Firefighter

  • EMT Training

  • Fire Science Degree


You may choose to begin your fire protection career as a Fire Fighter I.
Fire Fighter I is a seasonal, temporary classification.
Employment typically begins in the spring and lasts an average of six months.
As a member of an engine crew, a Fire Fighter I fights fires using a variety of firefighting equipment, repairs equipment, and responds to other emergency situations; performs heavy physical work and assists others with general housekeeping.
The hiring process for these temporary positions may include an oral interview.


Minimum Age: 18 years at the time of appointment.


Knowledge of: Good physical work methods.
Ability to: Follow oral and written directions; do heavy physical work; exercise good judgment in hazardous fire suppression activity; accept and benefit from training in fire suppression work and techniques; work safely with others; live in a fire station compatibly with others; respond quickly to oral commands or signals in emergency situations.


Willingness to live and work in remote areas and on weekends and holidays and remain on duty 24 hours a day, as required; visual acuity, color vision and hearing sufficient to perform the assigned duties; physical strength, dexterity and agility necessary to perform the duties of the position.


Possession of a valid California driver license of the appropriate class issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.


If you have some firefighting experience, you may be interested in a permanent Fire Fighter II position.
Persons selected for employment as a Fire Fighter II are placed in a three-year apprenticeship program.
A Fire Fighter II performs the full-range of fire fighting duties including responding to alarms as a member of an engine crew on such fire apparatus as engines or water tenders, entering burning areas and structures with charged hose lines, and ventilating buildings.
A Fire Fighter II assists in the training of seasonal and volunteer fire fighters and may assist in making fire prevention inspections.
Fire Fighters II assist in building, grounds, and equipment maintenance and repair.
The exam typically consists of a supplemental application.
Permanent appointments are conditional upon successful completion of a CAL FIRE training course.

Minimum Requirements:

Minimum age of 18 years at the time of appointment.
(Candidates who are within two months of satisfying the age requirement will be admitted to the examination.) and Experience:
Either I
Three months of fire-fighting experience.
One year of experience as a certified volunteer fire fighter.
Completion of training courses, prerequisite for Fire Fighter I Certification.
One year of experience as a Fire Prevention Specialist I and successful completion of the mandatory training courses prescribed for a Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire Fighter I.


It takes employees in many different occupations to complete the fire protection team. CAL FIRE employs Fire Fighters II (Paramedic) and Fire Apparatus Engineers (Paramedic). Forestry Fire Pilots and Air Operations Officers are responsible for aerial fire fighting responsibilities. Heavy Equipment Mechanics and Forestry Equipment Managers ensure that equipment is maintained in a state of readiness. Fire Prevention Assistants and Fire Prevention Specialists work with the public and local governments in the areas of information, inspection, education, engineering, and law enforcement. These are just some of the challenging opportunities available with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.


There are many applicants for fire protection positions.
If you are interested in this career field, you may want to consider activities that may increase your competitiveness:
Obtain a good educational foundation in reading, writing and mathematics.
Consider team sports, scouting, and R.O.P. (firefighting programs).
Although not required, you may be more competitive if you have taken some of these college classes: First Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Wildland Fire Control, Introduction to Fire Technology, Fire Science, or Fire Officer classes (Fire Command, Fire Investigation, Fire Prevention, Fire Instructor, Fire Management).
In addition to taking specialized college classes, take general education classes to improve your skills, and take business or related courses to enhance your competitiveness for management positions.
Participate in aerobic conditioning and weight training. Become a volunteer firefighter to help you decide if this is the career for you, and to give you job-related experience.


After completion of three years of permanent, full-time experience as a Fire Apparatus Engineer and successful completion of the apprenticeship program, employees may take the promotional Fire Captain examination.
A Fire Captain supervises the work of one or more engine companies or hand crews and shares in the management of a fire station, or is assigned to one of a variety of specialty assignments such as air attack, prevention/law enforcement, conservation camp, emergency command center, or training.
After three years at the Fire Captain level, employees may take the promotional examination to become a Battalion Chief.

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