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Firefighters put out fires, which is not as simple as it may sound. Fighting fires is dangerous and complex, and it takes organization and teamwork. Firefighters also save people who are trapped in burning buildings. They treat people who are hurt or ill, both at fires and in other situations. In fact, most calls that firefighters respond to involve medical emergencies.

Hours: Work hours of fire fighters are longer and more varied than the hours of most other workers. Many fire fighters work more than 50 hours a week, and sometimes they may work longer. In some agencies, fire fighters are on duty for 24 hours, then off for 48 hours, and receive an extra day off at intervals. In others, they work a day shift of 10 hours for 3 or 4 days, a night shift of 14 hours for 3 or 4 nights, have 3 or 4 days off, and then repeat the cycle. In addition, fire fighters often work extra hours at fires and other emergencies and are regularly assigned to work on holidays. Fire lieutenants and fire captains often work the same hours as the fire fighters they supervise.

Opportunities: About 9 out of 10 fire fighting workers were employed by local government. Some large cities have thousands of career fire fighters, while many small towns have only a few. Most of the remainder worked in fire departments on Federal and State installations, including airports. Private fire fighting companies employ a small number of fire fighters.

Pay: Median annual earnings of fire fighters were $41,190 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,550 and $54,120. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,140. Median annual earnings were $41,600 in local government, $41,070 in the Federal Government, and $37,000 in State governments.

Training: Applicants for fire fighting jobs are usually required to have at least a high school diploma, but candidates with some education after high school are increasingly preferred. Most municipal jobs require passing written and physical tests. All fire fighters receive extensive training after being hired.

Citation: Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition , Fire Fighting Occupations, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos158.htm (visited July 22, 2009 ).

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