Firefighters are frequently the first people to respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other emergencies. Consequently, they need training in a wide variety of first-response techniques, and enough confidence in their abilities to stay calm during high-stress times. In most states, you have to take a government-approved training program to become a firefighter, and your on-the-job training will continue for the duration of your career.
Fire Behavior and Patterns
Fires can be unpredictable if you don't understand how they behave. Some circumstances increase the likelihood that a fire will spread or jump, while others minimize it. You'll take courses in fire behavior that can help you detect patterns when you're investigating fire scenes and trying to put out fires.
Safety and First Aid
Firefighters may have to administer CPR or first aid to fire victims, so you'll likely need to be certified in first aid. You'll also take courses on minimizing health and safety risks when fighting fires. Course topics may include ventilation, hazardous chemicals, safety gear, rescuing and releasing trapped people and assessing risk before you enter the scene of a fire.
You'll take several courses on the mechanics of fighting fires and the equipment you regularly use. You'll learn how to operate and adjust ladders, how to control hoses and work with the water supply, how to minimize property damage and how to tie various safety knots. You may also take classes on forcibly entering a home during a fire, since many people lock their doors and some fires occur in unoccupied houses.
Construction and Investigation
You'll have to understand the basics of building structure to intelligently fight fire. For example, a fire along a major support system of a building is more dangerous than one in the middle of the floor. You'll also learn the basics of investigating fires by reviewing evidence, looking for flammable chemicals and interviewing witnesses. Firefighters are often charged with preserving and maintaining evidence of a fire, so you'll take courses on this topic as well. For example, at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, firefighters take four course hours on protecting fire scene evidence.