How To Become A Firefighter In Arkansas

If you’re wondering how to become a firefighter in Arkansas, you will certainly be in for a challenge.  Arkansas lies geographically in an interesting position within the United States.

It is not quite far enough inland to miss all the tropical storms but far enough inland to hit tornado valley.

It is also home to many communities with their own challenges for their fire departments. It’s important that firefighters here need to be ready for anything.

How to Become a Firefighter in Arkansas

  • 18 years old (with some variations)
  • A resident of the area
  • A valid driver’s license
  • High school education or higher
  • Good fitness and moral character

The minimum requirements to work as an Arkansas firefighter aren’t that difficult for entry-level applications.

Basic qualifications on age, residency and education are enough to get you to sit for the written exam in most departments.

However, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. Below I will talk about some of the rules and the hiring process, as well as the different training considerations when working in the fire service in Arkansas. I will also discuss some of the different fire academies and departments in the state.

Firefighting in Arkansas

As long as you are the right age, a resident of the area, physically fit and have the right documents, you should be able to progress through the hiring process of most state departments.

However, it is important to check the individual requirements of each city or volunteer department first.

Some may have preferences for those with EMT training or other specialty training. An example of this is Little Rock.

Here, they won’t recruit anyone that isn’t 21 at the time of their exam. This is much older than most volunteer departments that will take people on at 18.

Another oddity here is that they won’t take on new, inexperienced applicants under the age of 35. This is very young as the maximum age limit is typically past the age of 40.

Arkansas is no stranger to extreme weather events. Some regions will see significant thunderstorms, heavy rain and snow over the course of the year.

These events can then cause a lot of damage and flooding in some areas. Heavy snow may cut small communities off from major towns and infrastructure.

This only gets worse when the state feels the aftermath of any tropical storms that make landfall in the Gulf states.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the region also lies within Tornado Alley. This is the stretch in the Midwest that continues up North and sees regular, devastating tornadoes

In these situations, Arkansas firefighters need to be ready to deal with emergency situations, rescues and flood relief. They come into badly affected areas to evacuate residents, save people and property in danger and secure areas damaged by the water or high winds.

Structures damaged in tornadoes can be repurposed if needed for the safety and function of the area.

Thus, the need for firefighters to be trained in more than just firefighting.

Fire Academies in Arkansas

Many colleges and academies across Arkansas can provide a strong education in firefighting for eager recruits. You can choose a location that is close to home or compare courses to find one that offers a more specific training program.

There are four different approaches to training in Arkansas. There are the training facilities created by fire departments, specialist training programs for those focusing on a certain discipline, intensive courses for those already working as firefighters and college courses for higher education.

Many community colleges like the Black River Technical institution in Pocahontas offer fire science associate degrees and certificates.

This college offers a program that combines classroom and lab-based lessons to teach students the basics of fire prevention and suppression. There is also the chance to work with local fire departments to see what they’ve learned in action.

The coursework and studies prepare students for their Firefighter 1 and 2 examinations. Making it a great stepping stone into career firefighting. You can learn more about the program here.

Camden is home to the Arkansas Fire Training Academy. This accredited facility offers an entry-level education to new recruits to ensure they are ready for their first examinations.

Those that progress well through all the different modules can take their Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 and join their chosen department. The center also offers guidance for other certificates such as firefighter engineer, EMT and those related to incidents involving Hazardous Materials.

This is an important starting point for those that don’t enter the fire service through the college system.

More information is available here.

Over at Arkansas Tech, there is a Wildland Fire Academy that offers more specialized training in wildland fire control and prevention. This is a skill that is becoming more valuable as weather patterns change.

Thus, those working towards becoming a career firefighter are encouraged to add this training to their arsenal to improve their appeal to departments.

There are courses of different lengths to suit different abilities, needs and circumstances. The accredited course is comprehensive and helps hundreds of students every year improve their knowledge of the subject. You can find out more here.

Another training opportunity of interest to many aspiring firefighters in Arkansas is the Fire Boat School. This annual event brings together departments and personnel from across the state.

Attendees often include those from the fire service, forestry commission, department of health and the Coast Guard.

The aim here is to create scenarios that test their skills in stressful, life-threatening conditions. The simulations at the event can actually be pretty realistic. Teams receive the brief and go on to create a strategy to deal with the incident, protect the people involved and reduce damage to the property and/or environment

In previous years, rescuers were placed in a simulated plane crash where a light-aircraft had crashed into the lake while others dealt with stranded survivors in a simulated flood.

The diverse range of scenarios to contend with put teams through their paces to see how they would perform during a real event. The sharper their skills, the better their chances in a real emergency.

Anyone thinking of pursuing a long career in emergency services should consider this when they continue their training as a career officer.

Major Fire Departments in Arkansas

The following is a list of three departments in Arkansas. While they are all different, each are great departments that offer a variety of opportunities to aspiring firefighters.

How to Become a Little Rock, AR Firefighter

  • Be at least 20 and 1/2 years of age but less than 35 years of age* by the date of the written examination. No person shall be hired as a Firefighter who has not arrived at the age of 21. Any applicant who arrives at the age of 35* during the selection process shall be immediately disqualified and will not be eligible to receive an offer of employment. *Exception for Maximum Age: Any person who has at least two (2) years of previous experience as a paid firefighter with another fire department and whose years of experience as a paid firefighter when subtracted from the person’s age leaves a remainder of not more than thirty-two (32) years shall be eligible.
  • Have graduated from a standard high school or have a high school equivalency certificate, i.e., General Education Diploma (G.E.D.).
  • Have no felony convictions.
  • Have acceptable vision (uncorrected visual acuity must not exceed 20/50 in either eye, correctable to 20/20 in the stronger eye and 20/30 in the weaker eye).
  • Be a United States citizen by date of hire.
  • Be in good physical condition.
  • Be of good moral character.
  • Obtain or hold a valid Arkansas Class D Driver’s License by date of hire.
  • Successfully complete all required Selection Procedures.

The state capital has an extensive network of 22 stations and 400 employees. The scale of their operation is essential because there are 122.31 square miles to cover and 197,000 citizens to protect.

The main divisions here include the operations, community outreach and aircraft rescue divisions. The latter works with the Clinton National Airport. Find out more here.

How to Become a Fayetteville, AR Firefighter

  • FireTEAM test:  in order to be eligible to complete the testing process. The minimum passing scores for this test are: 75% Human Relations, 65% Mechanical, 70% Reading and 70% Math Birth Certificate or proof of citizenship
  • GED or High School or College Diploma
  • Driver’s License
  • DD-214 for applicants with prior military experience
  • Proof of passing the Candidate Physical Ability Test

Another major city with a big fire department is Fayetteville. Here there are fire stations and an Aircraft Rescue center to oversee work at the airport.

This department has an ISO rating of Class 1. This means standards and expectation will always be high for new applicants.

For example, there are some very strict rules on the FireTEAM test. Once completed, applicants will then face two firefighter interviews. To find out more click here.

How to Become a Pine Bluff, AR Firefighter

  • 18 years old (with some variations)
  • A resident of the area
  • A valid driver’s license
  • High school education or higher
  • Good fitness and moral character

Finally, new applicants shouldn’t overlook the potential challenges and interesting communities away from the major cities. Pine Bluff is a small but dedicated department with 6 stations and an unstaffed facility at Grider Field Municipal Airport.

The University of Arkansas and some of the wider Jefferson County sit within their jurisdiction. This means around 77,435 people over 85 square miles of land.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Arkansas

As of 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,410 firefighters were working in the state of Arkansas.

This meant a ratio of 1.99 posts per 1000 jobs. Opportunities are out there in growing communities and major cities will always have hiring opportunities.

Be aware that this isn’t one of the higher-paying states. The mean annual wage for firefighters in Arkansas was $37,800.

For comparison, they got $43,450 in neighboring Oklahoma and $52,520 in Texas.

There is a lot to consider, if you’ve been wondering how to become a firefighter in Arkansas. There are lots of interesting positions and opportunities across the state from volunteer departments to extreme emergency care.

Those that succeed with their initial training at a community college or fire academy have plenty of chances to increase their prospects with additional certification. The pay may not be the best in the US, but the job is just as rewarding.