How To Become A Firefighter In Michigan


how to become a firefighter in Michigan

Michigan is full of incredible fire departments, which leaves a lot of aspiring firefighters asking how to become a firefighter in Michigan. 

The state of Michigan is one of great contrast with all the different natural landscapes, small communities and major cities. It is also one that has struggled in recent years with funding and support in areas of public service.

The people of Michigan need the best personnel in their fire, police and medical services for the best responses. So, how can you make sure that you are a part of the fire service in Michigan?

How to Become a Firefighter in Michigan

  • 18 years old in most departments
  • Physically and mentally fit for the job
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • Resident in the area
  • EMT training highly recommended

Most departments in Michigan don’t want too much from their applicants in the early stages. If you are the right age with proof of residency then you should move onto the screening process with no issues.

You can expect multiple firefighter interviews, criminal checks, drug testing and physical exams. Those that are deemed mentally and physically fit and that pass all the right exams have a chance at employment.

Below, I want to talk about what new recruits can expect in different areas of Michigan. I also want to talk about some of the fire academies and departments that you can find in the state.

Firefighting in Michigan

Michigan is dominated by the lake with which it shares its name and the rest Great Lakes network more broadly. Water is an important part of the landscape and economy with visitors drawn to the lake shores and the inland lakes.

But, these bodies of water pose many risks to life. Firefighters often have to carry out rescue missions to help those in difficulties on boats or struggling in the water. In the worst cases, dive teams by also have to retrieve bodies.

This is a tough line of work and it takes the right sort of person to handle it. Not only do you need the fitness and skill to work in the deep waters, especially in dark conditions, but you also need the mental strength to handle the fatalities. Regular training is a must here to prepare for everything that the water has to offer.

There is also a large number of forests and state parts in Michigan, with 78 state parks in total. This is where you need a whole other skill set to be a Michigan firefighter.

Firefighters here need to be able to handle the equipment necessary for wildfires and maybe even rope rescue on some of the highest points. Specially trained volunteer firefighters in these areas are just as important as all those in the cities that can get more of the glory.

Then there are those that will spend the majority of their time working in urban areas. Major cities in Michigan like Detroit, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor are at risk of major fires and accidents on a daily basis.

That is because of the large population of residents, the commuters that add to the day-time population and all of the industry in the area. These crews must be able to handle fires in large buildings, structural issues, risks involving hazardous materials and emergency medical services.

Fire Academies in Michigan

The first option for those that want to train to be a firefighter in Michigan is to enroll in the Fire Protection Technology Degree in Detroit. This program is offered by Wayne County Community College and provides students with an education in how to handle fire situations and equipment in different situations.

There are different stages to the program. The first looks at some of the basics with the aim of preparing students for their Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications.

Then there is the Associate degree course in either fire administration or fire suppression. The choice may depend on your preference for elective courses across the two years. Both can provide a more comprehensive approach than the certificate for better employment prospects. You can learn more here.

An alternative option here is to work towards a Bachelor of Science Degree over a 4-year program. Lake Superior State University offers one such course where you can graduate as a Fire Science Generalist.

The idea here is that students can build on their skills and knowledge year after year to help them understand the finer details of the job. There is all the essential knowledge on fire suppression, prevention and equipment.

But, there are also modules on planning for emergencies, dealing with different crews and investigating fires. This can prepare students for a role in management higher up in a Michigan fire department.

There is also the chance to take a minor in Paramedic Technology for a better all-round education in the emergency services. You can learn more here.

Finally, there is also the option of training with the state government’s Fire Fighter Training Division (FFTD).

This is the ideal resources for those learning on the job as they have lots of experience. They work with 1,029 fire departments and have so far certified around 34,500 firefighters.

Their facilities, standards and classes are all at the highest level to ensure that Michigan firefighters are all on the same page. You can find out more about the program here.

Major Fire Departments in Michigan

The following is a list of major fire departments in Michigan.  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 Michigan.

How to Become a Flint, MI Firefighter

  • 18 years old in most departments
  • Physically and mentally fit for the job
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • Resident in the area
  • EMT training highly recommended

Another well-known city in Michigan is Flint. Again, this area has seen its own hardships of late with the recent water scandal. It is another city that needs all the funding and help it can get.

Their fire department is actually the only full-time department in Genesee County. So, the wider area does rely more on volunteer departments.

However, the good news is that they recently received a lot of new equipment. There are new firetrucks and other apparatus that will help serve the most vulnerable. This suggests that the department is heading in the right direction. You can find out more about a possible career here by following this link.

How to Become a Detroit, MI Firefighter

  • 18 years old in most departments
  • Physically and mentally fit for the job
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • Resident in the area
  • EMT training highly recommended

Detroit is the largest city in the state and actually one of the largest in the whole country in terms of its population. However, it is also a city which has had its fair share of problems in terms of its funding and the general economy.

The fire department here has a lot to deal with in regard to the number of residents, some of the old industrial buildings, the infrastructure and the new rise in tourism. That is why there are 46 stations dotted across the city for the best access to all of their districts.

The requirements to sign up are pretty much the same as anywhere else in the state but they do highlight the need for a cardiovascular stress test in their physical screening. This perhaps indicates the intensity of the work here. You can learn more here.

How to Become a Lake City Area, MI Firefighter

  • 18 years old in most departments
  • Physically and mentally fit for the job
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • Resident in the area
  • EMT training highly recommended

The final area that I want to talk about here is a more rural area of Lake City and Township. This area is surrounded by natural resources that are vital for industry and tourism. This includes the lakes and rivers but also the forests and agricultural land.

This means a lot of different fire risks and the need for diverse skills in rescue and medical aid. The jurisdiction of this department is 38 square miles to cover all this land and the residences within. They have divisions in wildland fire management, urban interface fire suppression and also severe weather spotting. A career here is sure to be varied and highly rewarding. You can find out more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Michigan

As of 2018, Michigan had 6,640 firefighters, which equated to 1:54 per 1000 jobs. The majority of these post could be found in the growing towns and cities.

The average annual wage for firefighters in Michigan is $45,440, which is about average for the country and the region.

The employment figures in neighboring Indiana and Ohio appear to be better but we have to remember that Ohio has the 4th highest rate in the country with 19,210 and 3.55 per 1000 jobs. The wage is comparable for the area as Indiana firefighters only made around $4000 more a year on average.

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For those interested in learning how to become a firefighter in Michigan, just know they have a high need for firefighters to keep its large population safe in fire and medical emergencies.

Those that are able to pass the screenings and can commit to ongoing training can make a big difference to communities across the state. It isn’t easy to be a firefighter here and you will have to put up with a lot physically and mentally. But, the effort is worthwhile for the difference you make to those in need.

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