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How to Become a Firefighter in Orange County

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Firefighters in Orange County, California, work for the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA). Firefighters respond to, extinguish and investigate fires as well as respond to medical emergency calls. Orange County firefighters are also responsible for the maintenance of fire equipment and the fire hall or station itself. Since this position involves public trust, the OCFA conducts an extensive background check on all applicants under consideration. As of 2011, the salaries for Orange County firefighters range between $4,977 and $6,693 per month.

Get your driver’s license. You must have at least a California class “C” driver’s license or out-of-state equivalent before you apply.

Complete an on-line OCFA job interest card. The OCFA holds firefighter trainee recruitment periods and these are the only times that you can apply as a firefighter trainee. Fill out an on-line job interest card, and the OCFA human resources department will let you know when a firefighter trainee recruitment period begins.

Get your Biddle Physical Ability Certificate. You must pass the Biddle Physical Ability Test (PAT) before you submit an application. This test consists of timed, physical tasks including a stair climb, victim removal and hose deployment. You can get Biddle PAT certification in the Orange County area from Santa Ana College, Rio Hondo College or Mount San Antonio College.

Get EMT certification. While not a pre-employment requirement, the OCFA prefers candidates who hold an EMT-I certification. Most EMT-I programs take four to five months to complete on a part-time basis. After completing the course, you must sit for the EMT-I exam to get certification.

Apply to the OCFA. When a firefighter trainee recruitment session begins, the OCFA will send you an email notification with application instructions. You must apply through OCFA human resources and include information on your educational, personal and criminal histories.

Take the OCFA written test. If your application is accepted, you will receive a date and location to write your written test. This test checks your basic skills in reading, math, reasoning and mechanical aptitude.

Undergo a panel interview. If you succeed on the written test, you will undergo a 30 to 45 minute panel interview with members of the OCFA. The interviewers will ask questions about your education, experience and background.

Attend the OCFA Basic Fire Academy. If you pass your interview, the OCFA will hire you as a firefighter trainee. As a trainee, you must attend the OCFA Basic Fire Academy. This training involves four full days a week for up to 18 weeks. You will learn the fundamental skills of firefighting in this program. The OCFA will hire successful graduates as full-time firefighters.

Complete the OCFA physical exam. Once your receive a job offer, you must complete the OCFA physical exam before you can begin work as a firefighter. A physician conducts the exam and looks at your medical, surgical and hospitalization histories as well as your current physical condition.


Richard Long is an English teacher in Toronto, Canada and has been writing for over five years. He has had work published in "Geist" and "Speak2Me" magazines and is currently completing a certificate in technical communication from George Brown College.

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