A Seat At The Table

In my 40 plus years in fire service, I have seen this as a constant question. And, a great question. WHO GET A BADGE? WHO GETS A SEAT AT THE TABLE?

Let me tell you the cold, hard truth right here and right now. Getting this job has nothing to do with how great a firefighter you are. It has nothing to do with how great a firefighter you could be. It has everything to do with how ell you take the tests. Believe it or not, this is the truth.

Is this right? Is this fair? Let me tell you something. It doesn’t have to be right or fair. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is how we do it. This practice is not a secret. And, the people who figure it out get a job. Maybe they will get your job. How to you fix this? You don’t. You start learning to play the game every chance you get so the next time you will be sure of the rules. You will be able to show them that you are THE RIGHT MAN OR WOMAN for the job.

Here is a firsthand account from Jim.

Fire Captain Bob,

So, I was 23 years old and working for the fire department. Being the new guy, it was my job to do the “reserve night” weekly training for our reserve program.  To be honest, I was surprised to see guys coming in that were much older than me. I assumed they just enjoyed being reserves. 

I quickly learned that it was a different scenario. No, they were only going to work for that department and no other.  I felt a little hostility directed at me, as they probably thought I took the job that should have been theirs.  I asked them how many tests they had taken. They all said, “all of them” but only for my department. One guy had taken six tests over 20 years. He was 40 years old and was still just going to hang drywall until the department picked him up. 

That was 12 years ago. He still doesn’t work here. I figured out that he was under the impression that he was paying his dues. The truth is that the guys who do the hiring didn’t know or care.


Here is the long and short version: We hire people after giving them a physical agility, written test, an oral exam, a Chief’s interview, and a psych. We put them through four and a half months of training. When they come into the engine companies, we still don’t know if they can go into a burning building or see someone bleed. So – Again – how well you do on the test will get you a seat at the table. And, that my friends, is what you want.

Fire Captain Bob