How To Become A Firefighter In Florida

Thousands of people are drawn to Florida, and this leaves many asking how to become a firefighter in Florida. 

Families will come here to raise their kids and enjoy life in a sunnier state. Retirees will relocate here in their Golden years to enjoy the laid-back nature of the area. Then there are all of the tourists that come to the coasts, national parks and major attractions here.

Such a vast population means that there is a high demand for skilled firefighters across all departments. So, how can you become a member of the Florida fire service?

How to Become a Firefighter in Florida

  • 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid Florida driver’s license
  • State of Florida Firefighter Certificate of Compliance
  • Paramedic or EMT Basic Certificate by the State of Florida

As you can see, the minimum requirements here are about as straightforward as they get concerning age and background.

Departments will check your criminal and employment records too and require a drug test.

Departments here aren’t fans of tobacco use so it is best to quit now to avoid lengthening the application process.

In this guide on how to become a firefighter in Florida, I will look at some of the training options and major fire departments in the state. This is important for all new recruits as the more you understand your area and its needs, the better able you are to serve.

Firefighting in Florida

Florida changes dramatically depending on which part of the state you are in. So many regions have their own identities, demographics and risk factors.

In one corner, you have the Everglades and the other the tourist paradise of Miami. There are all kinds of communities from the retirement complexes up to the towns and cities in the Panhandle.

Then, of course, there is Orlando and all the attractions there. Each city needs a fire department that can handle the challenges it brings. New applicants need to be prepared for what awaits them.

This means not only understanding what lies within the jurisdiction and its climate, but also means a willingness to learn new skills and train on the job. Those that can do this will go far.

Let’s take a closer look at those communities and the challenges they bring.

Challenges for Firefighters in Florida

Thousands of seniors relocate to the sunnier climate of Florida and its dedicated retirement villages.

These well-maintained gated areas provide everything that seniors need for a relaxed way of life. The scale of these developments and the public safety risks of older residents means that Florida needs skilled fire and EMS staff on hand to look after them.

The Villages is one of the largest communities in Florida with 140,000 people living in five cities over three counties. This is an area of 55 square miles.

The Villages Fire Rescue provides care and support across this vast area. It also looks after the few family’s communities and schools within its jurisdiction.

In 2018, they handled 25,000 calls, 58% of which were medical emergencies. This is why it is so important that firefighters here get their EMT certification as soon as possible.  Learn more about the department here

A major concern for health and safety in Florida is the prevalence of major hurricanes and tropical storms. Many that make landfall in the US tend to hit the coast of Florida first and do so with a devastating impact.

Therefore, fire departments the length of the state need to be prepared to handle the aftermath of the weather. This means helping those in flooded areas, dealing with damaged structures and offering aid in cut-off communities.

The more hurricanes that develop, the more resources and man-power is needed. That is where it is so important that Florida fire departments are trained in all kinds of specialist skills.

Another consideration for those learning how to become a firefighter in Florida is that there is the chance of being sent out to other communities or even to the Caribbean islands.

This happened recently as Florida crews relocated to the Bahamas to help out in Nassau.

Again, advanced training in communications and strategies are vital here because you need to be able to work with new departments and agencies in a new location.

The diversity of Florida and the challenges it brings for new firefighters continues at the tourist attractions.

Florida is home to both Universal Studios and Cape Canaveral – among many others. Both sites have their own departments dedicated to protecting the area in case of fire, medical emergencies and other major risks to life.

They can be interesting places to work for those that want to follow a more specific passion. The Cape Canaveral service also looks after Port Canaveral and other marine areas so needs firefighters with good marine and dive rescue training.

They also run a lot of outreach programs for the community. Find out more here.

Finally, there are those that need support out in the Everglades, and this may sound like a more laid back option than Orlando or Miami.

However, there are still plenty of residents and business to protect. There are also plenty of tourists that may get into difficulties out on the water. Firefighters stationed in this area need to understand water rescue operations, fire suppression and hazardous material containment – among other skills.

The port is at risk of fire, accidents and contaminations. Also, there is the risk of wildfire. Just this June, a massive fire in Sawgrass that put the Everglades at risk. Port Everglades has a fire department on-site and they expect crews to be able to handle chemical spills, truck rollovers, major fires and medical emergencies.

Learn more about the department and the services they provide here

Fire Academies in Florida

Wherever you choose to work or happen to reside in Florida, you need to make sure that you have the right training to meet the standards of the department. Most major towns and cities in Florida have some form of training program or fire academy available.

HCI has campuses in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and offers a Fire Science course. This program helps those interested in progressing through a career in firefighting to gain the additional knowledge they need for the Fire Officer and II exams as well as the Fire Inspector exam.  Learn more about the college here.

Valencia College:

This Orlando College offers a fire academy program that gives students the tools to handle the Firefighter I and II certificates.

From there, students can use their vocational credits to move onto an Associate degree in the field of Fire Science Technology. Requirements for enrollment are the same as to join the fire service itself. Learn more about the program here.

Major Fire Departments in Florida

I have already covered some of the more interesting fire departments in the state when looking at The Villages, Cape Canaveral and Universal Studios. But, we can’t forget about some of the other large departments in Florida.

How to Become an Orlando, FL Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid Florida driver’s license
  • State of Florida Firefighter Certificate of Compliance
  • Paramedic or EMT Basic Certificate by the State of Florida
  • No tobacco use in the past 12 months

Orlando follows most of the same rules when it comes to age, residency and experience.

An additional consideration here is that they don’t take anyone that has used tobacco products in the past year. The department is the only one in Florida with an ISO 1 classification and it sets high standards for fire prevention, suppression and other specializations in the city.

You can learn more about the Orlando fire department here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Florida

As of 2018, Florida is the third-highest employer of firefighters with 22,690 and a high ratio of 2.64 per 1000 people.

The metropolitan area of Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach is the highest employer in the state with 7,020 and 2.71 per 1000 jobs.

Florida’s annual mean wage for firefighters was $53,340, which is significantly higher compared to the rest of the country.

Getting into the fire service in Florida isn’t too difficult. You can join from an early age and the hiring process isn’t too difficult. T

he hard part comes when it is time to step-up within your department. You need to understand what it takes to work in your chosen area. That means understanding the population and risks as well as the skills needed for the job.

If you have the passion to serve and can continue to learn, you should find that you can enjoy an exciting career as a Florida firefighter.