Do Firefighters Get Vacation?

According to a news article from Inc., the ideal amount of vacation time is approximately eight days. Most people can just go to their boss or manager and request time off, but how does it work for firefighters? Do they get paid vacation time?

Firefighters do get vacations, although how much time they’re allowed to have off varies. Sometimes, a firefighter will trade time off with another firefighter if their vacation time isn’t sufficient on its own. 

This article will answer your most burning questions about firefighter vacation time. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand how a firefighter schedules time off, how much time they can get off, and whether they can be called back to the station when they’re on vacation.

Let’s get started! 

How Does a Firefighter Take Vacation Time?

Whether you go on a sunny beach getaway or enjoy a staycation at home with the kids is up to you, but it’s for your long-term health that you take a vacation from time to time.

A Fox News article from 2017 reports that failing to take a vacation can reduce your immunity, raise levels of inflammation, increase the stress-causing hormone cortisol, and cause your blood pressure to go up.

Keeping that in mind, how would a firefighter take a vacation?

Well, in this regard at least, a firefighter’s job isn’t all that disparate from a standard nine-to-five office job. 

The firefighter would go to their superior and tell them that their family is planning a weeklong vacation to Disney World or Myrtle Beach. They can also say they just need some time off.

They’d explain to their superior when they want to take the time off and for how long. If the firefighter’s vacation request is granted, then now it’s up to the others in the fire department to pick up the slack.

Most of the time, this means that another firefighter or two will take on extra shift work, which is usually credited on their payroll as overtime. 

Since firefighters can sometimes be paid 1.5 times the usual rate for working overtime, it’s a tantalizing proposition for many of them.

For smaller fire departments, even if a firefighter or two is doing overtime, there still may not be enough manpower to respond to incidents. 

In that case, then the fire department might enlist firefighters from another local department to come on over and help. 

Usually, this would mean that the original fire department would be willing to send their men over to the other department if they had to. 

Local volunteers can step in too!

How Much Vacation Time Does a Firefighter Get?

Now that you know how a firefighter’s vacation request would work, you’re curious how much time they’d get off. 

The answer? It varies! 

Really, it all depends on how the fire department structures the schedules for firefighters

For example, a firefighter’s usual schedule if they work 24 hours is to then get 48 hours off. That makes it a lot easier to plan their vacation time.

After all, if a firefighter takes even one day off, then they’d already have three days off. 

Other fire departments have their firefighters on the 48/96 schedule. With this schedule, a firefighter would work two consecutive days of the week in a row, such as two Mondays. Then they’d receive off that same day over the next four weeks.

If that’s a firefighter’s schedule, then they’d get several shifts, each shift 24 hours, to take off for vacation per year. The number of shifts can be between six and 25, so a firefighter could have up to 580 hours off. 

Outside of their allotted vacation time, a firefighter can also chew into their personal and/or sick time if they wanted to take an extended getaway with their family. 

What If a Firefighter Is Short on Vacation Time?

If a firefighter is new to a fire department, then they might not have that much vacation time built up yet. However, if they already promised their family that they can go on a huge trip, what is a firefighter to do in such a situation?

That’s easy!

Firefighters have the option to trade shifts with another firefighter in their department. 

This isn’t all that different from other shifted jobs. If you have a coworker who’s willing to do you a favor and work for your shift, then you can later repay that favor. For firefighters, it’s the same.

Of course, a firefighter can’t just trade schedules willy-nilly. They must have their superior approve of the trade.

A firefighter shouldn’t use traded time alone to take a long vacation. Rather, they should combine the traded shifts with sick time or personal time as well as vacation time to go on that getaway they so desperately need. 

Can a Firefighter Be Called into Work During Their Vacation?

You’ve probably read on the blog that even when a firefighter is at home enjoying their time off as part of their regular work schedule that at any point they can be called back into the fire department. 

Can the same thing happen when a firefighter is on vacation?

No, unless in the most desperate of circumstances, it shouldn’t.

building on fire

A firefighter’s vacation is not a surprise. The rest of the department knows it’s coming, and so everyone has adjusted accordingly. That staff should be enough to accommodate the original firefighter’s absence so they can enjoy their vacation.

After all, even if the firefighter is on a staycation, they need this time uninterrupted.

As you’ll recall, a short-staffed fire department can always call on other departments in the area to borrow some firefighters, so to speak. They can also rely on volunteers. So there should be no shortage of bodies to fill in the role. 

Now, what if it was a five-alarm fire event that was extremely catastrophic and wide-spreading such as a wildfire? In that case, then a firefighter on vacation might have to cut their time short. This would be an all-hands-on-deck situation.

However, that would be the exception, not the rule.

In almost every case, when a firefighter goes on vacation, they’re left to enjoy peace, quiet, relaxation, and family time. 

Firefighters are some of the hardest workers on their planet. Their jobs are immensely more stressful than most, and so they definitely need a vacation when the time comes for one.

Fortunately, a firefighter can take an extended vacation and enjoy the time away from the department!