Working at a fire department training division, I'm constantly questioned about training, where, why's, how's, etc. Training to become a firefighter takes a lot of self commitment, time, and money. These classes don't come cheap. Luckily where I work we are able to give training for no cost or a low nominal fee. Some classes you would not bat an eye at paying close to $200 per class. And that is just a starting rate. The more advanced the class the more you are going to pay out of your own pocket. Don't expect your employer or perspective employer to foot the bill. What you give in commitment and costs will be rewarded in advancement of position or priority to hire.
First step is checking what is required. Find out where you want to work and contact their training officer or Captain. Most fire departments will have someone in charge of keeping the training records and training requirements up to date. These are the experts. Don't be afraid to call and ask questions. Tell them you are interested in working with their department but need to know their certification requirements. Once you know what is required of you then you start the search.
Second step is looking at what is available to you. Check with your local fire department and see if they have a volunteer program. A lot of local governments or county governments will train you to become a volunteer firefighter for free. All you have to do is give the time and effort. Our local program requires at least 160 hours of personal commitment time to training to become a firefighter. Out of our Basic Academy you come away with the following certificates:
NWCG courses*: I-100 Introduction to ICS I-200 Basic ICS Basic 32 (USFS equivalent to a basic firefighter training) S-130 Firefighter Type 1 S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaws
California State Fire Marshall Courses: Confined Space Awareness Hazardous Materials First Responder
Miscellaneous courses: Rapid Intervention Crew Tactics EMS First Responder
*NWCG courses are recognized by federal departments therefore is a recognized formal course throughout the United States of America.
Third Step is checking with your local community college or university. A lot of these courses have been approved as curriculum to teach in a formal education center. Some colleges or universities might also have a type of fire science program that you can take.
Fourth step is look online. With the push of technology there are up and coming fire courses that can be taken online. Make sure these are legit courses accepted by your department. When you are unsure call the site and ask or contact the training officer or Captain at that department and ask if they accept the curriculum. Some can be tricky, such as; the IS-200 course offered by FEMA on their web site is sometimes accepted by local departments but is not an equivalent for the I-200 Basic ICS class required by CAL FIRE. I've included in this article links to some free courses you can take that may help you on your journey.