How to Become a Firefighter In California

Growth Trends for Related Jobs


The State of California hires fire protection employees throughout the year for several different positions, with varying job descriptions, titles and requirements. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, the state agency that hires and runs fire protection services, screens and tests applicants, who assist the citizenry in case of fire, earthquakes, forest fires, flooding and other natural disasters.

Prepare for your firefighting career by completing high school and enrolling in a California fire academy, which will offer classes in emergency response, fire control, basic lifesaving techniques and other subjects related to fire management. Cal Fire also recommends continued aerobic training, team sports and weight training to prepare you for the physical demands of firefighting.

Volunteer at a local fire station to get some basic training and experience. Local fire departments give significant weight to volunteer training when making their hiring decisions. Volunteer academies offer classroom work, as well as fire control drills and physical training.

Enroll in a Cal Fire three-year apprenticeship program in preparation for a Fire Fighter II position (the Fire Fighter I rank is for seasonal, temporary firefighters). You will learn maintenance and repair of equipment, the hazardous task of fire control in and around structures, and training of volunteers and apprentice firefighters. Applicants must complete a physical training course and, if approved, join one of four Fire Fighter II ranks, depending on their previous experience.


Experienced firefighters may also apply to be fire apparatus engineers or heavy equipment operators. As an apparatus engineer, you will drive fire engines, water trucks and rescue vehicles, and perform routine equipment repair and maintenance.

A heavy equipment operator drives bulldozers, graders and other machinery designed for wild land and forest environments.

Three years of experience as a fire apparatus engineer qualify for you to apply for fire captain position, in which you supervise other employees and fire stations.


California firefighters work in dangerous environments, are subject to many long-term health hazards, and must be prepared to work in 24-hour shifts and in remote locations. The job also requires the ability to work and live compatibly with other firefighters.