How To Become A Firefighter In Nebraska

I’ve heard lots of questions from aspiring firefighters asking how to become a firefighter in Nebraska.  Many states would claim to be the heart of America in terms of their history or their culture but, geographically, the title has to go to Nebraska.

This triple-landlocked state lies deep on the great plains and beside the Missouri River. This makes it perfect for agriculture, plenty of National Parks and also their fair share of tornadoes.

Between these risk factors and those in the state’s bigger cities, firefighters need the skills to handle emergencies effectively.

How to Become a Firefighter in Nebraska

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • US citizenship and local residency
  • A valid state driver’s license

As you can see, there aren’t too many hurdles to overcome here if you’re interested in how to become a firefighter in Nebraska. Most volunteer departments have these relaxed rules on applicants and the initial stages for career departments are similar.

You will, however, find that different departments have their own preferences and screening processes. So, it helps to contact them directly for more information.

Below I will look at some of the consideration to keep in mind about different departments and the training opportunities available. Before that, I want to discuss some of the risks and roles that you may encounter when working as a Nebraskan firefighter.

Firefighting in Nebraska

Nebraska encounters its fair share of extreme weather and storms. We often think of the worst weather events occurring closer to the coast but there are plenty of thunderstorms here.

A bolt of lightning in the wrong place in rural Nebraska can set fire to farms, forests and homes. Heavy rains could also cause flooding in some areas.

Fire crews need to be able to react to these situations, even if they are volunteers. That is why volunteer crews must be trained in all basic responses and EMT needs.

Nebraska can also experience some tornadoes due to its position within Tornado Alley. This is the prime spot for these disasters to occur, especially during the spring and summer.

A bad tornado can cause a lot of damage and injury those that caught up in them. Fire crews are often the first responders to help the injured, rescue those trapped in a building and make sure areas are secure.

Nebraska is also home to a lot of national parks. These sites need to be protected because of their history, ecology and appeal to tourists. The problem is that some visitors can be careless when camping or hiking here. There is big risk of wildfire in hotter, drier months.

Departments in these rural areas need to have proper training to manage wildfires. This either means controlling natural burns for the good of the landscape or protecting areas from man-made fires.

Wildland fire management skills are an essential part of further training out here.

Fire Academies in Nebraska

If you want to train to be a firefighter in Nebraska, there are a few different options as far as colleges and fire academies. However, the best are usually located in either Lincoln or Omaha.

You can start your education here to get a great foundation for your career. Alternatively, you can work as a volunteer and build on your skills through programs provided by your department.

The University of Nebraska in Omaha offers a Fire Service Management course as a Bachelor of Science Degree. This program works a little differently to those in other colleges in the US.

Here students get to specialize early on to narrow down their interest. They can pick two areas from a list that includes Natural Disasters, Urban Hazard Preparation, Public Health and Criminology.

Choosing two specializations here has its pros and cons. It doesn’t offer the more well-rounded education of some other courses. Yet, it does offer detailed training for future career options.

For example, those that want to work in emergency relief can focus on natural disasters. Those that want a more administrative role may choose public health. The urban hazard module may also help those that know that they want to work in major cities.

Find out more about here.

The Nebraska training division in Lincoln is a much better option for those that want to learn all the basics of an entry-level firefighting position. The academy can help applicants learn the right skills to take their exams for Firefighter 1 and 2.

This means a more comprehensive approach to equipment, procedures and strategies in different situations.

The academy also provides students with the chance to return as qualified firefighters to train in other disciplines. This includes courses on vehicle extraction, rope rescue, hazardous materials and more. Learn more here.

Major Fire Departments in Nebraska

The majority of firefighters in Nebraska work in volunteer departments. There are many smaller community departments in the state that take people on in this capacity to oversee small towns and county emergencies.

There are also a few departments with paid roles in larger cities and jurisdictions with higher demands. This includes Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Bellevue.

How to Become a Omaha, NE Firefighter

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • US citizenship and local residency
  • A valid state driver’s license

Omaha is the only metropolitan area in Nebraska and therefore has the largest urban population to protect. There are around 468,000 people over 141.81 square miles.

This means that the city needs a large, highly trained fire department to handle all the fire and medical-related calls that come in.

There is also a large airport here that needs its own station and adequate cover to protect passengers and aircraft. You can learn more about this department here.

Crews that handle the airport need to prepare for a range of issues from dealing with fuel fires and other hazardous materials to any structural problems in the airport itself.

Therefore, Omaha firefighters need to be vigilant with their training to stay up to date on strategies and equipment.

The airport authority will often carry out full-scale simulations of airline crashes and fires with multiple departments. It is all about preparing first response teams for the worst-case scenarios.

How to Become a Lincoln, NE Firefighter

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • US citizenship and local residency
  • A valid state driver’s license

One thing that you should be aware of in Lincoln is that they have a few additional preferences for applicants. If you meet these standards, then you have a better chance of working your way through the hiring process.

They like their applicants to have experience – either vocational or academic. So, those that have a fire science degree or volunteer experience stand a better chance.

There are also preference points for anyone that can communicate in a foreign language or those with military experience.

While Nebraska is predominantly white and English speaking, it does have residents of Hispanic, Native American and Asian descent. This is why language and communication skills are so important. Find out more here.

How to Become a McCook, NE Firefighter

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • US citizenship and local residency
  • A valid state driver’s license

The McCook Fire Department is a combination department with a mix of 27 volunteers and 7 career firefighters. They cover an area of around 360 square miles, which take them past the city limits and into the wider county area.

One of the more interesting statistics from this area is that they respond to significantly more emergency medical incidents than fires. In 2018 there were 977 EMS incidents and 194 fire incidents.

The staff at McCook are fairly open to anyone joining as a volunteer if they possess the right attitude and fitness levels.

For example, a past criminal conviction isn’t a cause for automatic disqualification here. They will look at circumstances to determine whether you are still a good fit for the department. What they want most is a commitment to learn and serve.

They want volunteers that can complete their Fire and EMT training, comply with the department standards and provide 12 consecutive months of service. This also means a firefighting schedule that includes being on call during weekends and holidays.

Those that prove themselves here set themselves up well for future roles in the fire service at career departments.  Find out more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Nebraska

Employment levels are quite low generally in the Midwest compared to some of the other regions and densely populated states.

Nebraska is recorded as having 1,140 firefighters with a ration of 1.17 per 1000 jobs. Both the Dakotas have half as many.

Nebraska does buck the trend slightly by offering a little more as a mean annual wage.

In 2018, the average salary for a Nebraska firefighter was $47,880 as compared to $44,710 in South Dakota and $43,810 in Wyoming.

Nebraska may not have as many stations and job opportunities as other states in the US, but it does find ways to help applicants become a part of the fire service. Those that want to take an academic approach can attend a community college in the state and get the right certification.

Others will find that volunteer departments are open to many people and they can get their experience and qualifications that way.

Whichever route you take, you can be sure of a rewarding career looking after your community if you are interested in how to become a firefighter in Nebraska.