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How To Become a Firefighter in Washington (WA) – Seattle And More

This article will hopefully teach you how to become a firefighter in Washington. Requiremens are relatively standard, and the state of Washington does not differ in any significant way from other US regions when it comes to becoming a firefighter.

Locating Fire Departments in Washington

Your first step should be locating your Washington fire department of choice, which can be done using this system. Certain departments require that you are an official resident of jurisdiction governing the department, though you should be able to apply to more than one fire department if you want.

Requirements To Become a Firefighter in Washington

Minimum requirements can vary from region to region within
Washington, however they usually look as follows:

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • A high school diploma or an equivalent (G.E.D.) is required.
  • You must have a valid driver’s license, ofentimes issued by the Washington city/region the fire department you are applying at belongs to.
  • Must successfully pass regular drug tests.

While most Washington fire departments will not require an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification at the moment of application, you will need to complete your EMT training before you are officially hired as a Washington firefighter.

Is a Fire Sciences Degree Required To Apply For a Firefighter Position in Washington?

No – it’s not an official requirement for becoming a firefighter in Washington, nor is it required in any other state as far as we know. However, it will increase your chances of being hired as the department will likely receive a lot of applicants and they will naturally want to choose those who are best prepared for the job. For your references, below is a list of a few popular fire academies in Washington:

Keep in mind that there are many community / junior colleges in Washington that offer some form of fire degree classes as well – you can see a few here: community┬ácolleges in Washington state.

Applying For a Firefighter’s Job at a Washington Fire Department

If you meet the requirements outlined above (and any other department-specific requirements that might apply), you must fill out and submit an application. Typically there will be a certain window during which this can be done, and you must contact the department(s) you want to apply at and ask about their application schedules.

Applications are usually very long and you’ll be asked to provide tons of information regarding all prior working experiences, contact details to family members and close friends, detailed information about your education and any certifications you may have, your military service if applicable, and information about your encounters with the law (including seemingly trivial things as the number of parking tickets received). Please note that certain Washington fire departments will only ask for this amount of detail after you have passed the written firefighting exam.

Most fire departments in washington look to hire approximately 20-30 new fire fighters a year.

Written Exam

Aspiring Washington firefighters who’s applications are accepted will be contacted and invited to participate in a written examination, which usually takes place once a year for most fire departments (sometimes once every two years).

What does the written exam look like? It’s nothing complicated and is not aimed at testing your skills as a firefighter. Rather, the goal is to test your reasoning skills, basic math skills, basic map reading skills and comprehension skills. In most fire departments the test will have you picking the correct answer to each question out of four different possible answers. Your basic theoretical knowledge of administering first aid will also be tested.

Can you prepare for the written exam? as a general rule, you can’t, except for maybe studying up a bit on first aid and general firefighting activities, as well as refresh your memory where basic arithmetics are concerned. Some Washington fire departments also offer their applicants workshops to help them prepare for the exam (these can be paid or free, depending on the department).

Oral Interview

In most cases, the top 25-35% performers on the written exam will continue to the next phase of becoming a Washington firefighter – the oral interview. The fire departments notify the “winners” of the upcoming date of the oral interview, which is usually a few weeks after the written exam took place.

You should think of the oral exam as a regular job interview. You’ll be aseked questions about yourself, your interestes, and likely a few questions to determine your basic knowledge about the fire service, its role in your community, etc.

Can you prepare for the oral interview? other than having a clear image of what you are looking for in the firefighting service, the only way to prepare for the oral interview is by reading up on how to approach any other job interview on earth. Most important thing: be completely honest about your personal life and past experiences, as the department WILL be confirming what you said before hiring you.

If the panel is satisfied with the interview, you will proceed to the next step of becoming a Washington fireman, which is:

Background Investigation

Your personal life will be very closely scrutinized by the fire department, and all the information you provided in your application and during the oral interview will be confirmed. Keep in mind that Washington fire departments are looking for model firefighters; they want someone who can be trusted, respects the law, who doesn’t parking tickets on a regular basis, who has never been convicted of a felony, etc. If the department is not satisfied with the background check, you will be disqualified.

CPAT and Medical Exam

So you’ve passed the written exam, the oral exam, and the background check? Great! You are well on your way to becoming a firefighter in Washington. The next steps are all physical, and they will involve:

Taking the Candidate Physical Ability Test. Abbreviated as CPAT, this is a test designed with aspiring firefithers in mind. It’s broken down into 8 different categories, and you need to complete them all in less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds. The CPAT will include activities like carrying heavy equipment, raising a big manual ladder, crawling in tight spaces, climbing stairs, stretching a hose, rescuing a dummy victim, etc. It’s strongly recommended that you work on your strength as well as stamina (a running routine is recommended) for a minimum of 6 months before you approach the CPAT; if you are overweight, you will likely need more than that to prepare accordingly. The CPAT is a pass/fail exam (there are no scores), and certain candidates might be required to perform the test more than once should there be any reasonable doubt as to their capabilities.

Medical Exam. Expect this exam to last a good 4 to 8 hours; it’s very comprehensive and will include thorough testing of your vision (it should be 20/20, corrected or otherwise), a complete and thorough evaluation of your entire medical history, urine and blood tests, drug screening, treadmill running tests (heart rate and breathing monitoring), body fat measurements (obese candidates will be disqualified), and so on.

What’s Next?

If you did well during all the stages described above, you will be hired as a probationary firefighter; the probation period lasts 6 to 12 months depending on the fire department. After probation is over, you officially become a professional, full-time Washington firefighter.

How Much Does a Firefighter in Washington Earn?

This will significantly depend on the city where you are hired, with the average yearly salary being around $48,000 a year state-wide. In Seattle, for example, the starting salary for a firefighter is $5400 per month (almost $65,000 per year), which is increased after your first 6 months of duty and will reach $6,370 a month (~$76,000 a year) after three further years of work. Seattle firefighters with more years of experience and a better rank can earn $100,000 a year and more.

How To Become a Firefighter in Seattle?

The requirements and steps are pretty much exactly the same as outlined above for the entire state of Washington. Seattle firefighters enjoy some of the best industry salaries in the United States, and the recruitement / hiring process is very well streamlined and transparent. Start by using the Washington Fire Department Finder (linked to at the top of this article), and finding fire departments in Seattle. Get in touch with them and find out what their hiring schedule is.

How To Become a Firefighter in Washington – Summary

We hope this guide on becoming a Washington firefighter was useful. Please get in touch if you would like more information – either use the Contact form, or just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Thanks and stay safe!

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