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.
-- Happy woodworking! http://www.blakeweber.us