Starting My Career as a Full-Time Firefighter

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Blog entry by Blake posted 01-31-2010 10:33 PM 7526 reads 0 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

On January 28th I started my career as a full-time EMT Firefighter for Central Fire Protection District of Santa Cruz County. This is a goal I have been working towards for about ten years.

For anybody who doesn’t know, firefighting is an extremely competitive career (especially in California). It takes years to gain experience, training, and build up your resume enough to even be considered for most departments. And once you are considered, the grueling selection process can often start with THOUSANDS of applicants for just a dozen or so jobs. I applied for L.A. County FD once along with about ten thousand other people. Last year I applied for San Jose FD along with about six thousand people vying for about 30 positions. The hiring process for each department can take anywhere from six months to over a year.

I started as a volunteer firefighter when I was 18 years old. But the last four years I have been putting in my time as a “Paid Call” firefighter (similar to volunteer) at Central Fire in Santa Cruz county. I grew up here and have lived here most of my life.

The fact that Central Fire is a professional, “city” fire department that has a “paid call” program is somewhat unique. Central puts its paid call firefighters (PCF’s) through rigorous training and places a high level of expectation on them. Once qualified, PCF’s are allowed to work periodic overtime shifts in the same capacity of a full-tme firefighter. This is what I have been doing for the past few years.

Central Fire is also unique in that they promote their full-time personnel from the PCF’s instead of accepting applications from the masses (the only way in is putting in your time there). The promotional process involves a application and resume submission, written test, physical agility test, “manipulative” skills test, panel interview, Chief’s interview and background investigation. When the smoke cleared, I came out #1 on the hiring list and was offered the position.

So after all the departments I have applied for and tested with over the years I ultimately landed a job with my DREAM department in my home town. The pay is great, the benefits are amazing, the location is incredible, the schedule is unbelievable, and best of all I absolutely LOVE my job.

I have been in the “2 1/2 jobs + student” mode for so many years now. This is going to be a HUGE lifestyle change for my wife and I. It will be nice to start filling in some of the holes we have dug ourselves into between the student loans and such. We just planned our first vacation for 18 months!!!

I’m really not trying to brag. I know times are tough out there for a lot of people. Its been tough for us too. I believe that positive changes are around the corner for everyone. Just keep working toward that dream and it will keep getting closer. Before you know it you will be able to grab hold of it.

No good blog is complete without photos, so here are a few pics from my days as a PCF:

Ok, this is a woodworking site so now I have to relate it to woodworking. Well it turns out the schedule we use is called a “48/96” which means 48 hours (two days) ON and 96 hours (four days) OFF. In other words, lots of time for woodworking! I have LOTS of projects in my head that need to get out. It will start out slowly. I have a lot of “homework” from the fire department… I will be on probation my first 18 months. But trust me I will find time to be in the shop too.

Credenza Sketch-up:


Happy woodworking!

-- Happy woodworking!

29 comments so far

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3903 days

#1 posted 01-31-2010 10:39 PM

Congratulations Blake. My son-in-law went through the courses and certification for the same thing and was not able to find a place in a fire department. I’m quite familiar with what’s involved and the competitive nature of the “business”. Once again, congratulations.

-- Working at Woodworking

View firecaster's profile


572 posts in 3383 days

#2 posted 01-31-2010 10:49 PM

I’m 24 years in a paid department. Good luck.

Always go to all the training you can even if it’s unpaid. As much of mine has been.

It’s a great job and career. FFs make a great family also. If you do your job they’ll be there for you if you need them.

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View mmax's profile


179 posts in 3420 days

#3 posted 01-31-2010 10:59 PM

Congratulations and thanks for your service.

As former mayor of the city I live in I agree 100% with what firecaster added.

-- Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3460 days

#4 posted 01-31-2010 11:09 PM

Hey Blake, a big CONGRATULATIONS to you !!! You deserve it and worked for it…...... I am so glad that something this positive came to you…...... you are right, keep up the right attitude, work hard and something good WILL come to you around the corner.

My congratulations are also to you for taking on the job that you have…... firefighting has it’s rewards, but also has it’s risks, especially in Ca…... You are doing a huge job that benifits so many people and you should be very proud of that.

Be safe !!!!

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Tony's profile


983 posts in 3994 days

#5 posted 01-31-2010 11:13 PM

Congradulations Blake – I am happy to hear that all that hard work has paid off.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4365 days

#6 posted 01-31-2010 11:13 PM

Blake Congratulations. It’s great to get your dream job.

Work safe and play safe.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3927 days

#7 posted 01-31-2010 11:17 PM

Congratulations, Blake, on a great career move. I’m sure you will be top of the pile in no time. You will be well rewarded.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3079 days

#8 posted 01-31-2010 11:47 PM

you said it´s not wood related I can see a lot woodburning in there
congrat´s with your new full time job
stay safe and healthy in the future Blake


View a1Jim's profile


117062 posts in 3541 days

#9 posted 01-31-2010 11:51 PM

Congrats Blake If your half as good as a firefighter as you are a woodworker you will be chief in no time.
Be careful out there!

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3042 days

#10 posted 01-31-2010 11:53 PM

I want to salute you and thank you (and all our other FF, police and troops everywhere) for what you do. Without you, our lives would definitely be quite different and not for the better. Your willingness to accept the challenges and the dangers and to risk your all is too often not appreciated. Thank you, Blake. When I was much younger, I was a volunteer FF, so I know the risks you take everyday you’re on duty. Like our law enforcement guys and gals, your family don’t know if you’d be home at the end of that day when you leave for work. The FD, the PD and our armed forces need our support; after all you are out there for us. Most recently I was a volunteer at the Richardson (TX) PD and I want to encourage all who can to help our FD and PD especially when times are tough and budgets are being cut. Even helping out just one day a week could make a difference. So, how about it, all LJers, donate a day a week and see what you can help them help us? Thank you, Blake and to all the Blakes out there!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View SPalm's profile


5317 posts in 3846 days

#11 posted 01-31-2010 11:54 PM

Yippee! Yahoo!
That is just fantastic. Proud of you dude.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 3409 days

#12 posted 02-01-2010 12:03 AM

Congrats Blake & good luck. I’m sure you will do a great job.

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 3421 days

#13 posted 02-01-2010 12:16 AM

a big congratulations..

so are you going to be with this rig

-- Paul , Calfornia

View gfolley's profile


14 posts in 3321 days

#14 posted 02-01-2010 03:02 AM

Blake Congratulations. It’s great to get a job you will love. After retiring as a Captain with 33 years service you now have a second family. Learn all that you can and trust your training to keep you safe. You will go along way with your effort.

Work safe and play safe.

-- When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water. Gfolley, Ohio

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1892 posts in 3636 days

#15 posted 02-01-2010 03:21 AM

Congratulations Blake!!! Be careful!!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

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