How To Become A Firefighter In Montana

I get a surprising number of questions from individuals asking how to become a firefighter in Montana. While it may not be as busy as a New York or Chicago, there are still several options to begin you firefighting career.

This wide-open state has some major cities with dense populations to care for. There are also big risks of wildfires here, similar to California.

Therefore, there is still a need for well-trained, dedicated staff to man the stations. If you are interested in joining a department here, this is what you need to know….

How To Become A Firefighter In Montana

  • 18 years old
  • High School (or GED) diploma
  • Valid Montana drivers license
  • Pass a physical exam
  • Fingerprint/background check
  • Pass a minimum firefighting certification

Be aware that you may have to deal with additional requirements from different departments and stations to proceed with your application.

Below I will talk more about some of the training options and requirements of different departments in Montana. This includes some of the volunteer roles for those that aren’t looking to become a career firefighter as well.

Background Checks for Montana Firefighters

One of the interesting qualifications for Montana firefighters is the need for a fingerprint screening.

Some states will be happy to conduct background checks in other ways. Here the fingerprints provide direct access to criminal records to see if applicants have anything in their past.

Departments can proceed from there with their own policies depending on the severity and timelines of incidents.

Small misdemeanors from years past could be overlooked in some situations. Convictions for driving offenses and substance abuse issues such as a DUI are a bigger problem.

Most departments won’t hire anyone that has been convicted with a felony charge.

The Montana Firefighters Testing Consortium

The qualifications and requirements mentioned above come from the Montana Firefighters Testing Consortium.

This is a resource used by many of the major departments and fire districts in the state with which to find suitable candidates.

The idea is that all firefighter applicants in Montana apply through the consortium and undergo the same process.

Those that pass go into a pool of new candidates for that year. Departments can then pick the best and brightest.

There are pros and cons to this approach for applicants. It does streamline the process and create a level playing field for testing. But, it can encourage greater competition.

The departments/districts that participate are Missoula (including the wider Missoula Rural region), Billings, Helena, Bozeman, Big Sky, Central Valley, Great Falls, Havre, Butte and Miles City.

Firefighter Testing In Montana

The testing process at the consortium comprises of two main components.

First, applicants must take part in a written test. This highlights knowledge, aptitude and other skills needed to move on into further training.

Those that receive a score of 70 or more can then move onto the next portion, which is the physical test.

Physical testing is essential to ensure that all candidates are fit enough to handle the role. They need to be strong enough to handle the equipment, flexible enough to handle difficult scenarios and have the general fitness capabilities to be effective during emergencies.

Those that don’t make the cut here can’t continue into their further training.

Wildland Firefighter Training in Montana.

One of the biggest threats to the state of Montana is the risk of wildfires. This risk is increasing with more incidents reported over recent years.

Therefore, Montana must have plenty of personnel that can handle these massive fires. The Montana DNRC service is an important tool in the fight against wildfire and the threat to life that it poses.

They can provide high-end certified training for Montana firefighters that wish to add this skill to their resume.

Doing so will help them better understand wildfire management techniques and responsibilities. The DNRC has a comprehensive program of classes and activities to teach applicants about the fundamentals of the wildland firefighting.

This also helps them save more lives and properties in the long run.

If this is something you would be interested to learn visit here.

Fire Academies in Montana

There are a few academies beyond local fire stations that offer an education in firefighting to some extent. The following is a list of fire academies in Montana:

Great Falls: Great Basin College and Great Basin College

Billings: Montana State University-Billings

Helena: Helena College University of Montana

Major Fire Departments in Montana

Montana is not a highly populated state. It’s population just broke through the 1 million residents mark in 2012. But, it is is growing and there are major metropolitan areas that need a lot of coverage.

The biggest of these is Billings.

Firefighters looking to train as a career firefighter in an urban setting with lots of challenges may do well here. However, other areas provide a great service with both career and volunteer positions.

 How To Become A Billings, MT Firefighter:

  • High School Diploma (or GED)
  • Valid Montana drivers license
  • 18 years or older
  • EMT-Basic certification
  • Vision corrected to 20/30
  • Pass pre-employment medical exam and psych test (post offer of employment)
  • No tobacco use while on the job (condition of employment)

Those that wish to take on a role as a firefighter in Billings will be able to enroll in the Fire Science program at Montana State University.

This is a great local program that offers knowledge in a wide range of firefighting disciplines. The idea here is that this provides training on theory and strategy as well as some of the basics on equipment, materials and procedures.

From there, any graduates that wish to advance their career further can take the Bachelor of Science Outdoor Adventure Leadership – Fire Science degree.

Any firefighters and volunteers in the areas are advised to head to the following link to learn more.

How to Become A Great Falls, MT Firefighter:

  • High School Diploma (or GED)
  • Valid Montana drivers license
  • 18 years or older
  • EMT-Basic certification
  • Vision corrected to 20/30
  • Pass pre-employment medical exam and psych test (post offer of employment)
  • No tobacco use while on the job (condition of employment)

http://www.greatfallsmt.net/

The city of Great Falls isn’t that large. The service area includes a population of 65,000 people across an area of just 25 square miles with 4 stations.

However, there are also 18 contracted fire districts outside the city that the crews need to look after.

This means a lot of work in fire rescue, prevention and other community efforts. They claim to respond to around 7,000 calls each year so if you are hired here expect to stay fairly busy.

An alternative option for a firefighting education is to head to The Fire Services Training School in Great Falls.

This facility is the state level facility for fire training.

Here recruits can learn all they need to work professionally in the fire service. The course is run in partnership with Montana State University to provide the best possible comprehensive and consistent training schemes for volunteers and new recruits.

Those that wish to take part in this course can learn more by following this link: http://www.montana.edu/wwwfire/

How To Become A Missoula, MT Firefighter:

  • High School Diploma (or GED)
  • Valid Montana drivers license
  • 18 years or older
  • EMT-Basic certification
  • Vision corrected to 20/30
  • Pass pre-employment medical exam and psych test (post offer of employment)
  • No tobacco use while on the job (condition of employment)

The big difference here is new applicants must talk to recruiting officers about current practices and the details of the criteria.

These rules mean the same minimum age, qualification documents and educational requirements. They also look to recruit applicants with their EMT-Basic qualification so that they can handle first aid roles in addition to other duties.

They currently have 95 personnel over 5 stations to serve the city.

https://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/241/About-Us

Volunteer Firefighter Positions in Montana

The alternative for those that want to join the service is to work as a volunteer firefighter in one of the smaller community stations.

This can be just as rewarding in the smaller, close-knit communities. A great example in Montana is Big Sky. Here the majority of crew members are non-paid.

The department hasn’t been around that long, it was only fully established as a fire district in 1979.

Yet, it has grown significantly to serve an 80 square mile region of south-central Montana and the resort area of Big Sky.

There are two stations here that look after the needs of all those living and staying in the area.

They can respond to over 750 emergency incidents a year so they definitely need the staff.

The basic requirements are minimal because it isn’t a career position. But, you still need the right dedication to the cause and personal history. Learn more about Big Sky Fire Department at: https://bigskyfire.org/

Job Prospects for Montana Firefighters

As you can see, there are two routes to take here.

You can either take on minimal training and work as a non-paid firefighter in a smaller station or progress further as a paid career firefighter in a bigger department. The choice depends on your wants and aspirations.

Your location will make a difference too unless you are prepared to move. Volunteer positions are easier to come by.

As of 2018, there weren’t that many firefighters employed in the state. There were just 760 which mean 1.63 jobs per 1000.

This means that competition may be pretty fierce between applicants. The annual mean wage is currently $49,230.

More information available at: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm#st

Finally, you shouldn’t be discouraged by the low number of firefighters employed in the state.

The low, wide-spread population and varied landscape mean that the state needs firefighters far and wide.

Many positions may be volunteer roles. But, they are in great districts with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.

When asking yourself how to become a firefighter in Montana, consider your training options, look at your rural and urban options and make sure you meet their minimum requirements.