Nebraska’s firefighters are diligent and well-trained professionals responsible for keeping the state fire-safe. In 2021, according to the data provided by the US Fire Administration, Nebraska had an average of 1.3 casualties and 8.1 injuries per 1,000 fires. The national average during this period was 2.3 deaths and 7.2 injuries per 1,000 fires.

Job Duties of a Firefighter in Nebraska

The job duties of firefighters can vary depending on the jurisdiction, specific role, and even the equipment available, but generally, firefighters in Nebraska would have duties similar to those of firefighters in other states in the U.S. Some of the typical duties could include:

Emergency Response

  • Fire Suppression: Respond to fire alarms and extinguish fires, employing various techniques and using specialized equipment.
  • Emergency Medical Services: Provide basic medical care and, in some instances, more advanced life-saving measures, depending on training and available equipment.
  • Vehicle Extrication and Technical Rescue: Use specialized equipment to rescue individuals trapped in vehicles, buildings, or other hazardous situations.
  • Hazardous Material Response: Deal with hazardous material incidents, sometimes requiring specialized training.

Prevention and Training

  • Fire Prevention: Conduct inspections of buildings and other structures to ensure they comply with fire codes. Offer recommendations for improvements where needed.
  • Public Education: Educate the public about fire safety through presentations, workshops, and distribution of educational materials.
  • Training: Continually engage in training exercises to maintain skills and knowledge, and to stay current with new firefighting techniques and equipment.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain firefighting equipment including fire trucks, hoses, pumps, and other gear to ensure they are in working order.

Administrative Duties

  • Report Writing: Document incident details, equipment usage, and other information for administrative and legal purposes.
  • Equipment Inventory: Keep records of equipment, maintenance activities, and other administrative tasks.
  • Teamwork: Work closely with other firefighters, as well as with law enforcement and emergency medical service professionals.
  • Meetings and Briefings: Participate in department meetings, briefings, and debriefings.

Additional Responsibilities

  • Specialization: Some firefighters may have specialized duties, such as being part of a wildfire fighting crew, an airport firefighter, or a member of a water rescue team.
  • Community Service: Participate in community service activities representing the fire department.

It’s worth noting that some smaller towns and communities in Nebraska may rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, who may have somewhat different duties and expectations.

Always consult local and state job descriptions for the most accurate and specific information.

Skills Required to Become a Firefighter in Nebraska

The skills required to become a firefighter in Nebraska are largely consistent with those required in other states, although local jurisdictions may have specific qualifications or requirements. Below are some of the general skills and attributes that are often important for the role:

Physical Skills

  • Strength and Stamina: Firefighting is physically demanding. Firefighters must be able to lift heavy equipment, break down doors, and handle other physically strenuous activities.
  • Agility: The ability to move quickly and easily through confined and potentially dangerous environments is important.
  • Endurance: Fires and rescue operations can last for extended periods, requiring physical and mental stamina.

Technical Skills

  • Medical Training: Basic life support (BLS) and sometimes advanced life support (ALS) skills are necessary for assisting with medical emergencies.
  • Equipment Handling: Knowledge of how to operate and maintain various types of firefighting and rescue equipment.
  • Hazardous Material Handling: Understanding of how to manage and contain hazardous materials (HazMat), especially in emergencies.
  • Firefighting Techniques: Knowledge of different firefighting techniques, such as venting, “surround and drown,” and others.

Cognitive Abilities

  • Problem-solving: Firefighters often have to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations.
  • Situational Awareness: Understanding what is happening in complex, high-stress situations is essential for safety and effectiveness.
  • Communication: Clear, concise communication is critical, especially when lives are at stake.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Teamwork: Firefighters work closely with other members of their team, as well as with police officers, EMTs, and other emergency responders.
  • Compassion: Firefighters often interact with individuals who are experiencing some of the worst moments of their lives; empathy and compassion are important.
  • Leadership: Senior firefighters and officers must be able to lead and instruct their teams effectively.
  • Public Relations: Ability to engage with community members to educate them about fire safety.

Other Skills and Qualities

  • Multi-tasking: Firefighters often have to manage multiple tasks at once, from operating equipment to administering first aid.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and tactics.
  • Attention to Detail: Whether it’s maintaining equipment or filling out incident reports, attention to detail is crucial.
  • Courage: Firefighting often involves entering dangerous and unpredictable situations.

Educational Requirements

Most fire departments require at least a high school diploma or GED. However, having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fire science or a related field may be advantageous.


In Nebraska, and in many other states, firefighters may be required to complete certification courses. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets many of the standards for such certifications, and additional state-specific requirements may also apply.

If you are interested in becoming a firefighter in Nebraska, it is best to consult local departments and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office for specific qualifications and training requirements.

Steps and Requirements to Become a Firefighter in Nebraska

Becoming a firefighter in Nebraska involves a multi-step process that includes educational prerequisites, examinations, physical and psychological evaluations, and specialized training. Each city and fire department might have its own specific requirements and procedures, but the general steps and requirements to become a firefighter in Nebraska are outlined below.

  1. Educational Requirements
  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum educational requirement for becoming a firefighter.
  • Post-Secondary Education (Optional): While not always required, some applicants choose to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fire science, emergency management, or a related field to make themselves more competitive candidates.
  1. Basic Requirements
  • Age and Citizenship: Applicants usually must be at least 18 years old and be a U.S. citizen or have permanent resident status.
  • Background Check: A criminal background check is often required, and certain convictions may disqualify candidates.
  • Driving Record: A valid driver’s license and a good driving record are typically required.
  1. Examinations
  • Written Exam: Most departments require applicants to pass a written examination that tests basic skills like reading comprehension, mathematical reasoning, and mechanical aptitude.
  • Physical Agility Test: A physical agility test is usually required to assess an applicant’s physical fitness and ability to perform job-related tasks.
  • Medical Examination: A comprehensive medical evaluation, including drug screening, is generally required to ensure that applicants are physically capable of performing the job.
  • Psychological Evaluation: Some departments require a psychological evaluation to assess the mental fitness of candidates.
  1. Training and Certification
  • Fire Academy: Once hired, new recruits typically attend a fire academy for specialized training in firefighting techniques, fire prevention, hazardous materials handling, and emergency medical services.
  • State Certification: Nebraska has a certification program for firefighters that is usually required after completing the academy. The certification process might include both written and practical exams based on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
  • Probationary Period: After graduation from the fire academy and getting certified, firefighters often work for a probationary period under close supervision.
  • Continuing Education and Advanced Certifications: Firefighters are expected to continue their education and may seek additional certifications in areas like emergency medical services, technical rescue, or hazardous materials handling.
  1. Optional Steps
  • Volunteer Experience: Gaining experience as a volunteer firefighter can be beneficial both for skills development and as a resume booster.
  • Specializations: Some firefighters choose to specialize in areas like hazardous materials handling, technical rescues, or fire investigations, which may require additional training and certification.
  • Promotion: As firefighters gain experience, they may have the opportunity to take promotional exams to become fire engineers, lieutenants, captains, or even higher-ranking officers.

To get started, it’s a good idea to check with your local fire department or the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office for the most up-to-date information on requirements and hiring processes.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Firefighter in Nebraska

The time it takes to become a firefighter in Nebraska can vary depending on several factors including the specific fire department’s hiring process, the training requirements, and any educational programs you may choose to complete. Here’s a general outline that gives you an idea of the time commitment:

Educational Requirements

  • High School Diploma or GED: 12 years of primary and secondary education, although this is often completed before individuals decide to become firefighters.
  • Optional College Degree: 2-4 years for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fire science or a related field, although this is not mandatory for most fire departments.

Hiring Process

  • Application Period: The time for this can vary. Some departments have open applications year-round, while others may have specific hiring windows. This could take anywhere from weeks to months.
  • Written Exam and Physical Agility Test: Preparing for and taking these exams can take several weeks to a few months.
  • Interview and Background Checks: This phase can take several weeks to a couple of months depending on the department and the thoroughness of the checks.


  • Fire Academy: The length of time spent at a fire academy varies by program but typically lasts between 3 to 6 months.
  • Probationary Period: New firefighters often work under a probationary period which can last from 6 months to a year
  • State Certification: Gaining certification as a firefighter in Nebraska might involve both written and practical exams. The time to prepare and take these exams can range from weeks to months.

Optional Steps

  • Volunteer Experience: If you choose to gain experience as a volunteer firefighter first, this could add additional time to your journey, potentially a year or more.
  • Specializations and Further Training: If you decide to specialize in a particular area, additional training could take several months or even years in some cases.

Total Time

  • Minimum requirements (high school diploma, hiring process, fire academy, and probation): Approximately 1 to 2 years, not including the time to earn a high school diploma.
  • With optional college degree and specializations: Up to 4 to 6 years or more.

It’s essential to check the specific requirements of the fire department you are interested in as they can have unique hiring practices and training programs that could affect the time required.

Firefighter Salary and Career Outlook in Nebraska

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), firefighters in Nebraska earned:

Annual Mean Salary: $ 60,990

Annual Median Salary: $ 55,500

O*Net OnLine predicts a 7% increase in employment opportunities for firefighters in Nebraska between 2020 and 2030.

Firefighting Careers in Nebraska

In Nebraska, as in other states, there are various career paths within the field of firefighting that individuals can pursue, each with its own set of responsibilities, requirements, and benefits. Here are some career options and specializations in firefighting:

Municipal Firefighter

  • Responsibilities: Fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials handling, and public education.
  • Requirements: High school diploma or GED, physical fitness tests, written exams, and state certification.
  • Career Growth: Opportunities for advancement to roles like Lieutenant, Captain, and Battalion Chief.

Wildland Firefighter

  • Responsibilities: Fighting wildfires in forests and grasslands, controlled burns, and fire prevention.
  • Requirements: Specialized training in wildland firefighting, physical fitness.
  • Career Growth: Advancement to roles such as Crew Leader, Engine Boss, or even becoming a Smokejumper.

Fire Investigator

  • Responsibilities: Investigating the causes of fires and explosions, collecting evidence, and working with law enforcement.
  • Requirements: Additional training and certification in fire investigation, often requiring several years of experience as a firefighter.
  • Career Growth: Opportunities for specialization, such as in arson investigation.

Fire Inspector

  • Responsibilities: Inspecting buildings for compliance with fire codes, reviewing building plans, and educating the public.
  • Requirements: Certification in fire inspection and code enforcement, knowledge of local and state codes.
  • Career Growth: Advanced roles such as Chief Fire Inspector, or diversifying into other forms of inspection and compliance roles.

Airport Firefighter

  • Responsibilities: Specialized in aircraft-related fires and rescues, often part of an airport’s emergency response team.
  • Requirements: Specialized training in Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF), basic firefighting certification.
  • Career Growth: Positions of higher responsibility within the airport emergency services, or transition to other firefighting roles.

Fire Instructor

  • Responsibilities: Training new recruits or providing continued education to experienced firefighters.
  • Requirements: Significant experience as a firefighter, additional certifications in training and education.
  • Career Growth: Advancement to roles in educational administration or specialized training roles.
  • Responsibilities: Specialized in handling hazardous materials incidents, including spills and containment.
  • Requirements: Additional training and certification in hazardous materials handling.
  • Career Growth: Advanced HazMat roles, team leadership, or roles in emergency management.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) / Paramedic

  • Responsibilities: Medical response during emergencies, often working alongside firefighters.
  • Requirements: State certification as an EMT or Paramedic, which involves additional schooling and clinical experience.
  • Career Growth: Advanced medical roles or transitioning into other healthcare professions.

In Nebraska, different municipalities and agencies may have specific requirements for each of these roles. Overall, the state offers a range of opportunities for those interested in firefighting careers, from urban settings to rural communities and wildland areas. Some firefighters in smaller communities might start as volunteers before transitioning into full-time roles.

Educational institutions in Nebraska also offer degrees and certifications in fire science, emergency management, and related fields to support career development in firefighting.

Firefighter Colleges in Nebraska

Nebraska offers several educational institutions that provide firefighting and emergency services programs. These programs can range from fire science degrees to emergency medical services (EMS) training, and are often designed to help individuals meet state and national certification requirements for various roles in firefighting and emergency response.

Here are some colleges and educational institutions in Nebraska that may offer programs relevant to aspiring firefighters:

Southeast Community College

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Programs: Offers a Fire Protection Technology program that provides both academic and practical training for those aspiring to become firefighters, fire inspectors, or fire investigators.

Central Community College

Location: Multiple campuses, including Hastings and Grand Island

Programs: Provides courses in fire science and emergency medical services, among other fields.

Metropolitan Community College

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Programs: Offers a range of emergency services programs, including fire science, fire service management, and EMS training.

Northeast Community College

Location: Norfolk, Nebraska

Programs: Offers training in emergency medical services.

Western Nebraska Community College

Location: Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Programs: While primarily focused on other fields, they may offer relevant courses or training programs.

University Programs

Some universities in Nebraska might also offer relevant coursework or degree programs, particularly in fields like emergency management, public safety, or health sciences, which can be complementary to a career in firefighting.

Before enrolling in any program, it’s essential to verify that it meets the certification requirements for the specific firefighting career you’re interested in. Many programs are designed to align with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards and other state and national criteria, but always confirm these details with both the educational institution and your local or state fire services agencies.

Note that program availability and details can change, so it would be wise to check with individual schools for the most current information.

Fire Departments in Nebraska

Fire departments in Nebraska serve a crucial role in emergency response, providing not just fire suppression services, but also emergency medical assistance, search and rescue, and public education about fire safety. Nebraska has a mix of paid, volunteer, and combination (both paid and volunteer staff) fire departments that serve cities, towns, and rural areas across the state.

Here are some key points about Nebraska fire departments:

Types of Fire Departments

  • Career Fire Departments: Mostly found in larger cities like Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, these departments have full-time, paid staff.
  • Volunteer Fire Departments: Common in small towns and rural areas, these departments rely on volunteers from the community.
  • Combination Fire Departments: A mix of both paid staff and volunteers, often found in medium-sized cities or rapidly growing small towns.

Notable Fire Departments

  • Omaha Fire Department: One of the largest fire departments in the state, offering a wide range of services including fire suppression, emergency medical services, and specialized rescue operations.
  • Lincoln Fire & Rescue: Serves the city of Lincoln, providing fire suppression, EMS, hazardous material response, and other specialized services.
  • Grand Island Fire Department: Provides comprehensive fire and emergency services to the Grand Island area.
  • Fire Training and Standards
  • Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office: Responsible for overseeing fire prevention, investigation, public education, and the training and certification of firefighters in the state.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

Many fire departments in Nebraska also offer EMS services, sometimes operating their own ambulances or coordinating closely with local or regional EMS providers.

Wildfire Response

In addition to structural fire fighting, some departments also engage in wildland firefighting and may work in coordination with state and federal agencies for wildfire response.

Public Outreach

Fire departments often engage in public education activities, such as fire prevention week, school visits, and community training sessions for CPR and fire safety.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it would be beneficial to consult the websites or contact specific fire departments directly.

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