Becoming a firefighter in West Virginia is a noble and challenging career choice that demands physical fitness, mental resilience, and a strong commitment to community service. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,060 firefighters are working in the state as of May, 2022.
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West Virginia recorded 5.2 deaths and 9.1 injuries per 1,000 fires as per the information provided by the US Fire Administration. These figures are considerably higher than the national average of 2.3 deaths and 7.2 injuries. This comprehensive guide is designed to navigate aspiring firefighters through the essential steps required to join this esteemed profession in the Mountain State. Whether you are just starting to explore this career path or are ready to take the plunge, our insights will help you understand the demands and rewards of this vital and fulfilling role.
Steps to Become a Firefighter in West Virginia
To become a firefighter in West Virginia, there are several steps and requirements that must be met, as outlined by various sources:
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Have a high school education or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.
- Be a resident of West Virginia.
- Possess a valid driver’s license.
- An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate is preferred.
- Basic firefighter training for Firefighter 1 and an EMT certificate for medical emergencies is typically required.
- There are a few educational institutions in West Virginia that offer academic fire courses, including American Public University in Charleston, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, and West Virginia University Fire Service Extension in Weston.
- Public Service Training in West Virginia offers training approved by the West Virginia State Fire Commission, including the 120-hour Fire Fighter 1 class, which meets NFPA 1001, 2019 edition, and covers HazMat Awareness/Operations and First Aid/CPR. The 40-hour Fire Fighter 2 class, which is a prerequisite for responding to vehicle extrication calls, is also available.
- The 16-hour Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) is essential for operating any emergency vehicle.
- After passing the initial application, candidates face a screening process that typically includes a background check and may include a polygraph test, especially in major cities.
- Candidates must clear written, oral, physical, medical, and psychological tests and interviews.
- Volunteer firefighting experience is also advantageous and may be required depending on city requirements.
These steps are essential for anyone looking to pursue a career as a firefighter in West Virginia, and meeting these requirements is crucial for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of firefighting personnel in the state.
Salary of Firefighters in West Virginia
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that firefighters in Washington earned the following annual mean and median salaries:
- Annual Mean Salary: $37,110.
- Annual Median Salary: $36,820.
Career Outlook for Firefighters in West Virginia
O*Net Online predicts a very favorable job growth of 7% for firefighters in West Virginia between 2020 and 2030.
Firefighters Training Academies in West Virginia
In West Virginia, there are several certified major firefighting training academies for new recruits, offering a range of courses and specialized training to prepare individuals for a career in firefighting:
West Virginia University Fire Service Extension
- The WVU Fire Service Extension has been providing fire training since 1974. It offers a variety of new training courses, standardized curricula, National Fire Academy courses, national qualification testing, and certifications. The training is conducted at regional schools and the annual State Fire School.
- The facility is well-equipped with a 25,752-square-foot training area that includes office and classroom wings, and a bay area for indoor training.
West Virginia Public Service Training (WVPST)
- WVPST provides an extensive array of fire service and related training, approved by the West Virginia State Fire Commission. This includes specialized classes for Fire, Rescue, EMS, Law Enforcement, and Emergency Management.
- The training includes a 120-hour Fire Fighter 1 class meeting NFPA 1001, 2019 edition, which covers HazMat Awareness/Operations and First Aid/CPR. A 40-hour Fire Fighter 2 class is also available, focusing on vehicle extrication with a prerequisite of Firefighter 1. Additionally, they offer a 16-hour Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC).
- WVPST also offers specialized fire service training tailored to departmental needs, including topics like Basic Pumps, Building Construction, Fire Investigation, Incident Safety Officer, and many more.
- WVPST has regional offices in Beckley, Charleston, Clarksburg, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, and Wheeling.
These academies play a crucial role in training and preparing firefighters in West Virginia, ensuring they are well-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively respond to various emergency situations.
1)West Virginia Employment Trends – Firefighters: https://www.onetonline.org/link/localtrends/33-2011.00?st=WV
2)West Virginia Fire Loss and Fire Department Profile: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/states/westvirginia.html