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What Firefighters Do

Firefighters protect the public by responding to fires and other emergencies. They are frequently the first emergency personnel on the scene of an accident.


Firefighters typically do the following:

When responding to an emergency, firefighters do tasks assigned by a superior officer. They might be responsible for connecting hoses to hydrants, operating pumps to power the hoses, climbing ladders, or using tools to break through debris. Other firefighters might be responsible for providing medical attention.

Most calls firefighters respond to are medical, not fire, emergencies.

Firefighters’ duties may change several times while they are at the scene of an emergency. In some cases, they might remain at disaster scenes for days, rescuing trapped survivors and assisting with medical treatment.

Firefighters may specialize in responding to forest fires or hazardous materials incidents.

Forest firefighters use heavy equipment and water hoses to control forest fires. They also frequently create fire lines—a swathe of cut-down trees and dug-up grass in the path of a fire—to deprive a fire of fuel. Some elite forest firefighters, known as smoke jumpers, parachute from airplanes to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Some firefighters work in hazardous materials units and are specially trained to control, prevent, and clean up hazardous materials, such as oil spills and chemical accidents. For more information, see the profile on hazardous materials removal workers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition