Firefighting Career Path Update

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Blog entry by Blake posted 07-27-2008 07:31 PM 1984 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi everyone. I just thought I’d check in. Boy have I been busy.

The California wildfires have been indirectly keeping my very busy. I work as a part-firefighter with Central F.D. of Santa Cruz county. Whenever there is a vacant position they call me to staff that shift. So when our dept sends strike teams out of the district to the wildfires I get lots of opportunities to pick up overtime shifts at our home stations.

I have not actually gone to any of the wildfires around the state. But when I take these “overtime” shifts I get to work in the same capacity as a full-time (city) firefighter and I am really doing what I love. I feel like with all the time I have spent working shifts lately, I am really hitting my stride too. I am feeling more comfortable, confident, and I am learning a ton. The money is good, but he experience is priceless. This morning I got off of another 48 hour shift.

The fact that our full-time firefighters love (and need) their summer vacations after coming home from those fires also keeps me busy. The CA wildfires really started to blow up the day I finished my mom’s sewing table (glad I got that done). In the week after I finished that project I worked 110 hours for the department and two normal days at my retail job (the tool store). Thats about how my schedule has been going ever since.

But every time I take a shift at with the department, I trade a day with someone at the tool store. So I think I have given up weekends for about the next eight years. I don’t even remember my last day off.

Me at a live burn training on a controlled burn at Soquel High School:

Live structure burn training during my academy:

(I’m on the left)

In other news (several of you have been asking me for updates on this) I tested with San Jose fire dept. for a full time firefighter EMT position. So did five or six thousand other people, which is typical for big city tests. They narrow it down at each step of the way. First is the application process, then the written test, then the physical agility test, then the panel interview, then wait and wait and wait.

Anyway, I got my results back from my interview and looks like I did ok. The three categories are ”marginally competitive, competitive, and highly competitive. They placed me in the “highly competitive” category of the “qualified candidate pool.” So now I wait some more. It’s a pretty exciting process and I’m still stoked to be in the running. Next step would be a Chief’s interview, polygraph, background check and hopefully an academy.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but these testing processes tend to take many months or even years. Its a long trail to get hired in this line of business but I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve been a volunteer firefighter since I was 18 in the year 2000.

So not much time for woodworking, or Lumberjocks lately. But I’m still here. If I get hired full time I’ll probably have four days off after each 48 hour shift which leaves lots of time for projects :)

I’ve stopped by LJ’s a few times lately, but only about once or twice a week for a few minutes. I checked today and I had to go back through 10 pages of projects before I saw something I recognized. There is a lot of great stuff there everybody, I wish I had more time to gaze and join the conversations.

Hope you are all doing well. Keep up the good work and happy woodworking.

-- Happy woodworking!

20 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#1 posted 07-27-2008 07:52 PM

Blake – take care of yourself working all those hours. I hope your dream of FT firefighting comes true. The volunteer firefighters are the unsung heroes we need more of. Thanks for following this path.

Take care and thanks for your service.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3938 days

#2 posted 07-27-2008 09:06 PM

Blake. Great update. Glad to hear you are making progress toward a full time FD/EMT position. One good thing about living in SoCal, you dont have to worry about your tools getting rusty. Good luck.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View Davesfunwoodworking's profile


278 posts in 3904 days

#3 posted 07-27-2008 09:08 PM

I would like to say thank you for all the firefighters all around the U.S. As most people know of the fires we have had up here in Redding, Ca. We have had firefighters from all over the U.S. come here to help put these fires out. By the way they are still burning and summer has been very dark and not much sun light. But my hats off to all of you guys that try very hard to keep all of us safe from these fires. SO A GREAT BIG THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Davesfunwoodworking

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3968 days

#4 posted 07-27-2008 10:26 PM

Blake, I wish the best for you on your firefighting career. My son-in-law went through what you’re doing now and he could not wait the months and years it takes to get into a fire department. He had his Fire Fighter 1 & 2 certs, Hazmat, EMT and one course away from Paramedic and he ran out of time and steam. It’s a long hard road you’ve chosen, and all I can say is more power to ya. We need folks like you.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4106 days

#5 posted 07-28-2008 12:58 AM

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3752 days

#6 posted 07-28-2008 01:50 AM

Blake, thanks for the update. I wish you well in your pursuit of this career and agree with other comments here. Firefighters are too often taken for granted. Take care.

-- Martin, Kansas

View Karson's profile


35126 posts in 4429 days

#7 posted 07-28-2008 02:11 AM

Blake good luck on completing all of the interviews and tests to become a fireman. We wish you luck buddy.

-- 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 jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3828 days

#8 posted 07-28-2008 02:33 AM

Thanks for the update. Life takes us where we will sometimes and where it will most times. Keep at it, mon ami. it sounds like you love the work so don’t give up EVER! Life’s too short for any unnecessary compromises. I’m almost twice your age and I still have something that I’m striving for as well. Something different than when I was a younger man but the point is, there’s still a goal. Got a have ‘em!


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 3982 days

#9 posted 07-28-2008 05:33 AM

Keep plugging along and my offer still stands. Good luck buddy. If you need any help, refrences, tips, or just a sounding board….Holler.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View Bill Akins's profile

Bill Akins

425 posts in 3727 days

#10 posted 07-28-2008 02:51 PM

Good luck and take care of yourself. Firefighter is one of the few admirable jobs in this country. LJ’s are proud of you.

-- Bill from Lithia Springs, GA I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4190 days

#11 posted 07-28-2008 03:17 PM

how exciting. If nothing else, the journey has been fascinating but I hope your dream keeps unfolding the way you envision it.

It really sounds like this is your path. I can feel the excitement in your writing! Good luck.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jude's profile


147 posts in 3978 days

#12 posted 07-28-2008 07:22 PM

great work Blake. Keep plugging away at the FT job. It took my husband 2-1/2 years of volunteering and interviews with I think at least 5 different departments to get his structure fire job. Now he’s a Lieutenant and also Engine Boss for fire dispatches and he loves it. He didn’t get sent to Cali due to other obligations but RMF had 3 trucks/crew out there for the past 6 weeks. I’m sure you’ll meet him on a fire someday.

-- life can always be weaved into a song.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4128 days

#13 posted 07-29-2008 09:08 PM


so good to hear from you.

You definitely have the passion for what you do. All of the firefighters that I know seem to possess the same quality. You guys must have attended the same “firefighters enthusiasm course.”

Thanks for update.

Good luck and be safe.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4106 days

#14 posted 07-31-2008 07:37 PM

Blake…sounds like you are keeping busy…doing something you enjoy—-and as a fellow civil servant—-a personally rewarding field of helping others…Good luck with all…and thanks for thinking of us during these busy times…

Take care…matt

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4017 days

#15 posted 07-31-2008 07:55 PM

Great work Blake! Looks like you’ll be in the thick of things for years to come.

Remember my warnings. I know of a fireman that will never eat pizza with beer ever again. :-)

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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