Firefighters are some of the hardest-working individuals on the planet. They bravely sacrifice their lives to put out fires and rescue others, but how often are they on the clock? Does a firefighter work every single day?
Firefighters do not work every day. Many follow the 24/48 schedule, which means they work for 24 hours and then receive 48 hours off. Alternatively, they’ll work a shift schedule for 12 or 14 hours per day for three or four days, followed by three or four days off.
This guide will delve deeper into the work schedule of a firefighter, which is something you must carefully consider if you’re interested in working this job!
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Do Firefighters Work Every Day?
Aspiring firefighters will be relieved to learn that no, firefighters do not work every day. If they did, they’d be so burnt out that they would be ineffective.
A firefighter must be at their best when working, as they can’t afford to make a mistake. It’s not like screwing up a spreadsheet, where you might get lambasted by your boss. Instead, mistakes when firefighting are very often a matter of life or death.
However, do be aware that even though a firefighter gets time off (more on that to come), they’re technically on call anytime they’re away from the fire department. Even then, they don’t work every day unless in extraordinary circumstances.
How Often Do Firefighters Work?
Okay, so if a firefighter doesn’t work every day, how often are they on schedule? That all depends on the fire department. Let’s go over the two most popular scheduling systems for firefighters.
Most fire departments utilize 24-hour shift schedules. The firefighter will be scheduled to work for 24 consecutive hours, then receive 48 hours off. After those 48 hours pass, the firefighter would work for another 24 hours, with about 10 shifts a month.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the firefighter will receive an additional day off somewhere in their schedule.
We know what you’re thinking: 24 hours is a long time to work. However, a firefighter isn’t necessarily working the entire time.
Let’s explain. The firefighter must be in the fire department for their 24-hour shift, but what they do varies. They might cook for other firefighters, clean up the fire department or the trucks, or do other work of that nature.
They might also sleep during some of the time, which is allowed. The one thing they can’t do is go home, at least not until their shift is over.
The firefighter is ready to drop what they’re doing at any point and get to work, possibly even several times over their shift. When they’re done, they return to the firehouse.
12-Hour Shift Cycle
The other shift a firefighter might work is a 12-hour shift cycle. Most fire departments prefer the above schedule, but some might opt for the 12-hour version.
A firefighter’s shift will begin during the daytime. They’ll work for eight to 12 hours, then several night shifts lasting 12 to 14 hours. They’ll repeat these night shifts for three or four consecutive nights and then receive the next three to four days off.
How Many Hours Per Week Do Firefighters Work?
If a firefighter follows the 24-hour shift schedule, they’ll work anywhere from 48-56 hours per week depending on their contract with the city. A 2023 article from Indeed cites data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics that reports that 34.6 hours is the average per week for most jobs.
Several industries were mentioned as having more hours than average. They include construction, emergency services (specifically firefighters and paramedics), military, extraction, agriculture, healthcare, and marine jobs.
Do Firefighters Get Any Holidays Off?
When choosing a job, one of the top considerations for many (besides pay) is the number of hours worked. People prioritize having a work/life balance more than ever, which means their job can’t take up all their time.
What does that balance look like for firefighters?
Admittedly, it’s tricky. When a firefighter gets scheduled, it’s according to the 24 hours on, 48 hours off, or 12 hours on over three or four days, then three or four days off. They will work nights, as that’s required of both shifts.
They’ll work weekends if a weekend happens to coincide with their shift, and the same goes for holidays. Although a firehouse doesn’t go out of its way to schedule a firefighter on a holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or Easter, it happens all the time.
Even if a firefighter wasn’t shifted for a holiday, they’d still likely have to work. According to a Massachusetts news source, some of the biggest days for house fires are December 24th (Christmas Eve), December 25th (Christmas Day), December 31st (New Year’s Eve), and January 1st (New Year’s Day).
Thanksgiving might not have been on that specific list, but it’s broadly recognized as one of the biggest days for housefires.
People burn turkeys, pies, and side dishes on Thanksgiving. Christmastime is another season for baking and cooking mishaps, not to mention electrical issues with Christmas tree lights and candles catching the home on fire.
The debauchery associated with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, plus the customary lighting of firecrackers, is a bad combination.
A firefighter might not always be called to work on these holidays, but they expect to be.
Firefighters do not work every single day. Rather, the most frequent shift for firefighters is 24 hours on at the station, followed by 48 hours off, then another 24 hours on, and repeat for over 50 hours per week.
Some firefighters might work 12 to 14 hours during the day, then another 12 to 14 hours every night for up to four nights, followed by up to four days off.
No matter which schedule a firefighter follows, they’re always on call during their time off, especially on holidays. Wintertime holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s have some of the highest incidents of fires, and someone must be ready to answer the call.