How To Become A Firefighter In Delaware

While Delaware is a very small state by American standards, I have been asked a few times how to become a firefighter in Delaware.

It is a predominantly coastal and agricultural area with a few major cities.

Therefore, it shouldn’t have as many calls for large fire departments and massive emergencies as some other states. But, that doesn’t mean that firefighters here have it easy. While there are many volunteer firefighters on hand to help their communities, they still have some career departments.

So, what does it take to join the profession in Delaware and what are the basic requirements?

How To Become A Firefighter In Delaware

  • 18 years of age (sometimes 19)
  • Proof of residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license

Firefighting in Delaware

The small size and population of Delaware mean that the districts and major cities don’t have as many opportunities and positions for career firefighter positions as other states.

Another interesting difference here is that Dover is the only state capital where the fire service is 100% voluntary.

So, what does this mean for entry requirements here and across the rest of the state?

Below I will talk a little more about the difference between volunteer and career roles in Delaware, with Dover and Wilmington as prime examples.

I will also talk about some of the best firefighter academies in the state.

Basic requirements to become a firefighter in Delaware

The requirements will vary depending on your chosen location and position. There aren’t that many requirements for those that want to become a volunteer firefighter here aside from the standard age, residency and fitness criteria.

Those that want to go on to become a paid career firefighter have a few more standards to meet with their training and experience.

One thing that you will notice on the recruitment pages of some of the major departments is a relaxed and welcoming feel.

They don’t seem overly concerned with the experience of recruits because of the training at the station.

Everyone will be trained to that department’s specifications as long as they are a fit for the department and willing to put in the work.

A notable difference in Wilmington compared to some other paid stations is the requirement to be 19 at the time of application rather than 18.

Otherwise, most people that have the right residency and age qualifications can start the application process.

Career Firefighting in Delaware

From there, the screening process can get a little more intensive and challenging.

Everyone is welcome to apply because of the demand for voluntary firefighters. But, you do have to successfully pass a lot of steps before they will hire you on.

One side of this is the range of physical requirements for Delaware firefighters. There is the usual strength and fitness test (similar to the CPAT) to get applicants started.

This tests a candidate’s ability to physically handle the equipment and to keep up with other crew members. There are also medical exams, drug tests and stress tests being done across Delaware.

Then there are the different written tests and firefighter interviews to see how well candidates express themselves and their skills.

Officers will want to carry out interviews (including the chief’s interview) to see if you have the character and mentality for the role.

In some departments, this could consist of both an audio interview and a panel interview.

The latter allows for more than one opinion on your suitability for the job. In addition to this, there is a mechanical aptitude test and a vocabulary exam.

Finally, all candidates need to go through screening for past behavior and criminal activity.

The department will check criminal records for any felonies or misdemeanors, especially those related to traffic incidents, substance use and DUIs.

Some may carry out a specific driving history check to ensure that your license is completely clean. Then there are the reference checks for your professional and personal history.

This may all sound like a lot. But, the more you comply and engage with the process, the better your chances.

Fire Academies In Delaware

If you want to enroll in training to become a firefighter in Delaware, then Dover is your best bet.

This is where the two best facilities are located.

The Delaware State Fire School does have facilities in each of the three counties in Delaware. But, the main headquarters are in Dover.

This facility is the ideal place for anyone in need of fire training. The courses are varied and include everything from basic training and Firefighter I to more specialist skill courses and Firefighter II.

If you are serious about a long career in the fire service at a more senior level, you may end up attending a lot of classes here.

Thankfully, the facilities offer extensive training with great success rates.

Those that want to get started with a comprehensive idea of the basics should start with the Basic Firefighting Skills course.

Then there is the Firefighter I course for those looking to go into a career role. The former isn’t essential for volunteers. But, it does showcase a willingness to learn and prior knowledge that may allow you to stand out in the application process.

Basic Firefighting Skills in Delaware

This 36-hour course takes applicants through some of the basics needed to succeed in the profession.

There is a lot of training based around the apparatus and equipment used on engines and at emergency scenes. This includes the ability to use extinguishers, ground ladders, breathing apparatus, hoses and more.

There are also courses on some of the health and safety elements to the role and creating a safe, secure scene with crew members.

This includes modules on how to behave on the scene and contaminated atmospheres. Students will also learn about strategic approaches to situations, forced entry and more.

The aim is that this will act as a comprehensive starting point for those that want to progress within the service. Those that pass the course can continue their training and move on to other courses at the training facility.

The next step after succeeding with the basic course is to complete the Firefighter 1 course.

This training program provides applicants with the knowledge needed to work within a fire station and handle incidents with greater ease.

Almost all career departments in Delaware will expect their recruits to go through Firefighter I level training. The subjects above are again covered here but in more detail.

There are also modules on communications, incident management, leadership skills and other operational requirements.

The course will also offer guidance on working with the public and acting as a professional team.

Here, there are mandatory sessions online and a final exam at the end. Those that pass the exam with 70 or more should get their Firefighter 1 certification.

Major Fire Departments in Delaware.

Those that want to pursue a long service in the Delaware fire department may turn to one of the largest cities rather than their local voluntary force. The opportunities and requirements are different in Dover and Wilmington.

How To Become A Dover, DE Firefighter

  • 18 years of age
  • Proof of residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license

As I mentioned above, Dover is the only capital city in the US that has a purely voluntary service manning its stations. While unusual, this doesn’t undermine the quality of the service.

There are dedicated fire personnel with experience and training working their way through the ranks. It is a great place to learn and serve communities in different situations.

Recruits will handle many emergencies out of the two stations while also working on community outreach projects.

How To Become A Wilmington, DE Firefighter

  • 19 years of age
  • Proof of residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license

Wilmington is a bigger city compared to Dover with a larger department.

There are 70,600 people in Wilmington over 43.88km so the departments need a lot of highly trained crew members across its stations.

The basic requirements here are pretty simple. Applicants must prove their age and residency to apply – 19 years old rather than 18 – and have appropriate educational certificates.

This means a GED or high school diploma. The department stresses that all applicants are “encouraged to study, prepare and practice”

They are also on the lookout for those that have a strong work ethic and motivation to work with the team.

Job Prospects For Firefighters In Delaware

The good news for new applicants is that there are so few requirements to get your foot in the door to become a firefighter in Delaware.

You can start off with a volunteer position in a town, or maybe even Dover, and work your way up.

The bad news is that there is plenty of competition for paid jobs in Wilmington because there are so few career positions in the state.

They claim that the Wilmington Fire Department gets as many as 300 to 400 applications during each recruitment period.

Those that pass all the screenings in Wilmington can expect a starting salary of $35,691.84.

Becoming a firefighter in Delaware isn’t as difficult as in other states as long as you are determined.

The process is less about what you know coming into the profession and more about your willingness to learn and contribute to the community.

The Dover Fire Department is a unique place to work that offers a great training program for newcomers. The Wilmington Fire Department is a little more challenging and focused on the career roles.

Wherever you go in this small state, you will make a big difference.