How To Become A Firefighter In Colorado

Colorado is one of the most sought-after states for aspiring firefighters.  This leads many to ask how to become a firefighter in Colorado.

It’s a dream destination for many people out-of-state that want to relax and head into the wilderness for a while. Conversely, it’s not quite so relaxing for all of the fire crews on call 24/7 in the towns and cities.

Colorado’s residents and national parks require on-going professional protection to keep everyone safe. So, how can you join the Colorado fire service and play your part?

How to Become a Firefighter in Colorado

  • The minimum age-range is often 21-36
  • Must be a US Citizen with Colorado residency
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must be physically fit
  • EMT training recommended

As you can see the minimum requirements to be a firefighter in the state of Colorado aren’t too strict. If you as you are prepared to work through the stages and the training, you have a good shot at entering the profession.

In this guide, I want to talk about the different ways that you can do so through training programs and different department hiring processes. Before that, I want to look at some of the considerations to keep in mind when applying to become a Colorado firefighter.

Firefighting in Colorado

The state is only 37th in population density but 8th in area. The majority of residents reside in the major towns and cities and there are a few spread across the wilder landscapes and mountains.

This means there are two contrasting sides to the fire service here.

On one side, you have all the urban fire risks in the big cities. Denser areas with great risks of vehicular accidents, major fires and medical emergencies need crews with a range of skills and EMT training.

Then there are those out in the more remote areas. Colorado is, of course, home to a large part of the Rocky Mountains, which means a lot of high-altitude landscape and visitors exploring its peaks.

Firefighters in this region will need a different skill set to those further down on the Plateau or in the major cities. Rope rescue skills will help here, and many fire academies will offer this course after crew member complete their Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates. Skills with water rescue also come in handy here.

Then there are risks from the climate and weather. There are some severe wildfires in the state of Colorado because the area is so dry and prone to drought.

However, when the storms do come in, this can create serious hail and thunderstorms and place the major rivers at risk of flooding.

The state is not without its earthquakes either, with four notable occurrences in 2018. The ability to handle the aftermath of any of these all comes down to the training you pursue.

Can you use medicinal marijuana as a Colorado firefighter?

Colorado was one of the first states to make the headlines in recent years about its drug policies. Recreational marijuana is controlled but legal. Medicinal marijuana, meanwhile, has been legal in Colorado since 2000. So, what does this mean for firefighters when so many US fire departments oppose drug use in any form?

Denver doesn’t seem eager to change the rules. Anyone that has used it recently needs to be clean for 3 years and then reapply.

Over in Aurora, the requirement is 1 year without using it. That is because they are more lenient. They understand that college kids will take it if they can legally do so. There is no rule about the use of alcohol prior to employment at the same level.

Obviously, recruits can’t use the drug when employed by a department. Drug testing in the application process is still highly likely.

The best advice is not to use it at all in case its use might inhibit your abilities or the department’s perception of your “moral character”. Find out more here.

Fire Academies in Colorado

Red Rocks have what is essentially their own Fire Academy on campus. It operates much like any other facility to provide a short, comprehensive training program to new applicants.

The course covers all the basic information required to get students ready for their Firefighter I and II training. The main focus here is more vocational than academic with a quick route into the profession.

You can learn more about the program and the Lakewood campus here.

For a more academic approach, you might be better off going to Stirling and enrolling in their Fire Science degree program. Here there is a one-year certificate and two-year associate degree depending on your career plan.

One of the benefits in applying here is that the two-year program offers specializations beyond the Firefighter I and II certificates. There is a focus on EMT training, Hazardous Materials and Wildland Firefighting.

This can give students a boost up the career ladder as they have key skills before applying with a department. You can find out more about the school and the program here.

Finally, I want to mention the potential for Spanish courses here. 20.7% of the population on the 2010 census were Hispanic or Latino American.

This means the potential to encounter a lot of Spanish speakers and you may already be aware of this in your own town or city. It doesn’t hurt to improve your Spanish skills in order to better communicate with these families in times of trouble.

Major Fire Departments in Colorado

The following is a list of major fire departments in Colorado.  While it isn’t comprehensive it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to become a firefighter in Colorado.

How to Become a Denver, CO Firefighter

  • The minimum age-range is often 21-36
  • Must be a US Citizen with Colorado residency
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must be physically fit
  • EMT training recommended

The Denver fire department definitely have their work cut out for them handling the calls of one of Colorado’s biggest cities and its neighbors. They handle the needs of the 690,000 population in Denver – which covers 155 square miles – as well as Glendale, Skyline, Englewood and Sheridan.

The main department here is a career department with over 1000 employees and they operate from 38 stations. Specializations here include their wildland fire team, airport crash facilities and heavy rescue.

Denver has a three-step program to help applicants make their way through the hiring process.

The first is a self-assessment. This could be a stumbling block for many people. Therefore, if you don’t have a state driver’s license, a high school education, Colorado residency or US citizenship, you are out of luck. You also need to be 21 in order to apply here, not 18.  

Find out more here

How to Become a Colorado Springs Firefighter

  • The minimum age-range is often 21-36
  • Must be a US Citizen with Colorado residency
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must be physically fit
  • EMT training recommended

Colorado Springs is a little smaller in regard to its scale and equipment offered. But, there are still, 400 crew members ready to cover 194 square miles of the city from 22 stations.

One of the primary aims here to help with medical emergencies. Therefore, all personnel here must be a trained EMT and should continue their training throughout their career.

Their skillset is diverse with calls relating to major fires, vehicle accidents, wildfires, water rescues, rope access and structural collapses. Again, recruits starting out here need to be prepared to continue with their training on the job to earn certification in these areas.

The minimum qualifications are a little different here than in Denver. You can apply at the age of 18. Applicants are also expected to have their EMT certification and to pass all relevant exams, such as the CPAT and FireTEAM tests.

Those that aren’t yet qualified in EMT training can take a summer course at the department. Veteran preference points are also available here if you have an honorable discharge from military service.

Those that pass the tests will receive a conditional offer and move on to the screening process. This means checking your background and criminal record as well as a series of firefighter interviews. You can find out more about the finer details of the hiring process here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Colorado

Southwest Colorado a high paying non-metropolitan area with $54,940 annually and $26,41 hourly.

Starting pay in Denver is currently higher than that at $57,323. Colorado Springs works on a monthly rate where a 4th class firefighter gets $4,892 a month and 1st class firefighter gets $6,657.

This rises significantly if you are a Firefighter/Paramedic. 1st class personnel here get $7,575. In 2018, the state average annual salary was even more at $61,160.

At this time, there were also 5,560 firefighters at a ration of 2:12 per 1000 jobs.

If you’re interested in how to become a firefighter in Colorado, be ready to test your skills and take part in all kinds of operations.

The mountain rescues, wildfire situations, water rescues and urban fires all keep personnel on their toes. Then there are all the medical emergencies to deal with.

You need to commit to training in Colorado to become a career firefighter. Those that do so can enjoy a long career with a lot of perks – in both their impact on the community and their pay.