How To Become A Firefighter In Oklahoma

Oklahoma has a lot of history and a lot of heritage among its many communities which leads many to ask how to become a firefighter in Oklahoma.

The state is ever-evolving to meet the needs of the current population. Right now, that means a lot of born-and-bred Okies and a native community in Choctaw Nation.

Each community needs a fire service that understands it needs and will always respond to any emergency. It takes the right skills and character to do this.

How to Become a Firefighter in Oklahoma

  • 18 years old
  • High school education or higher
  • A valid driver’s license
  • Citizenship and residency in the area
  • EMT training often preferred

The minimum requirements to be a firefighter in Oklahoma aren’t too demanding but many major departments will have their own rules.

One thing that seems to stay the same is the age restriction. No older than 45 and no younger than 18.

Some departments may take the screening process and firefighter interview more seriously than others.

Also, expectations vary between volunteer and career departments. In this article, I want to look at some of the key considerations when applying for a position as an Oklahoma firefighter. I will also look at some of the major departments and training options available here.

Firefighting in Oklahoma

Bi-lingual firefighters may do better here in Oklahoma.  According to the 2010 census, there are more than 16,000 people of Vietnamese descent in Oklahoma. Most of those are in Tulsa or else in Oklahoma City.

These major cities are also home to immigrant families from other nations and a lot of Spanish speakers. This means that the families you help on your calls may not have English as a first language.

If not, will you be able to explain to them the dangers and current situation? Can you calm relatives? This is why additional language skills are so helpful if you want to be a firefighter here.

On top of that, there is a language-themed incentive pay system in Tulsa. They offer more money for those that speak Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as those that understand Sign Language.

This could also mean that those from Vietnamese backgrounds could be a step ahead when applying in Tulsa.

Dealing with major weather events in Oklahoma.

Tornadoes are part of life in the state of Oklahoma, but we can never take them for granted if they pose a risk to life and/or property.

Oklahoma firefighters need to be prepared to handle the aftermath as best they can to help victims recover. If you plan to be a firefighter in areas that are often hit, you need to prepare to take on extra training.

Emergency situation training with skills in different equipment and strategies can help teams create a more effective plan. The more efficient the process, the less distress and damage on-scene.

There were 61 tornadoes in Oklahoma in May of this year alone. If you are interested in how to become a firefighter in Oklahoma, just know you will eventually find yourself caught up in one at some point.

Training to be a firefighter in the Choctaw Nation.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma needs its own department of firefighters that understand the risks and needs in their community. This is now the third-largest tribe in the United States to be federally recognized. Durant’s fire department have 3 stations with a local crew to handle medical issues, fires and accidents.

The Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma also has a forestry department with its own trained fire personnel. It is a 24/7 service to ensure that someone is always on-call in case of a major fire.

The team can handle forest fires in a controlled, skilled manner to protect the landscape as well as the lives and properties within it. However, they have also been known to help out with other incidents if needed. This includes support following major weather events.

Fire Academies in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has several community colleges and other fire academies that include this Choctaw program and other higher education courses. Success here can help you progress on into a career with a major department.

Wildland firefighting is a big part of life as an Oklahoma firefighter. The Southwestern Oklahoma State campus offers an associate degree that focuses specifically in wildland firefighting.

Students get to learn all the theory and the academic side of fire management. This means learning about strategies, fuel planning and more. There is also the chance to put this to practice with hands-on training out in the forest. To learn more about this program visit this link.

Alternatively, you could work to become a graduate with an associate applied science degree from Tulsa.

Here they have a Fire and EMS Technology course in their Northeast campus. This is a great choice for those just starting out as you essentially get a 2-for-1 deal.

You get your fire training and EMT training side-by-side as the perfect way to prepare you for your career. No prior experience is required so it really does suit absolute beginners.

Those that don’t want to opt for the full degree can take the shorter Certificate first to see how they get on. You can find out more about the program here.

Major Fire Departments in Oklahoma

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

How to Become an Oklahoma City Firefighter

  • Applicants must be 18 to 44 years of age.
  • Must possess a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent, at the time of application.
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Must possess an Emergency Medical Technician license prior to completion of one-year probationary period.
  • Must maintain Emergency Medical Technician license in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Successfully pass a testing process consisting of a written examination, physical ability test, interview panel, background/polygraph test, and a medical evaluation

The Oklahoma City Fire Department has a large staff with around 1000 paid crew members working out of 36 stations. This is a large number because the city and surrounding jurisdiction are so large.

There are around 650,000 people here over a 621 square mile area. That means that there are many risks of accidents, fires and medical emergencies.

With 70,000 calls per year, the department is stretched to its limit. Therefore, you need to be ready to work if you’re thinking about applying here. 70% of calls are medical in nature so Paramedic training is a good idea.

Some special operations divisions can handle more advanced situations in case of a major emergency. You can learn more about the department here.

The city also has a training division where recruits get their basic training. This is a good alternative to the academic options mentioned above.

The academy program run for up to 18 weeks and consists of lots of exams, lessons and hands-on classes. It is an extreme introduction to what it takes to work in that city. Successful recruits then move onto their probationary period for one year.

How to Become a Tulsa, OK Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • High school education or higher
  • A valid driver’s license
  • Citizenship and residency in the area
  • EMT certification

The Tulsa Fire Department is smaller, but not by a lot. They have 30 stations over five districts with 676 active crew members.

The team is responsible for the health and safety of a population of around 400,000 people. They can take on around 57,000 calls in a single year and, like Oklahoma City, find that the majority are for medical emergencies.

This is why EMT certification is mandatory here.

Another interesting fact about working in Tulsa is that they recently changed their policy on the minimum age. It had been 21. Now you can apply if you are between the ages of 18 and 45. This wider gap is perfect for those that want to sign up straight out of school and train on the job.

Learn more about the department here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has a large number of firefighters for its size. There were 3,530 employed by the state in 2018 with a ratio of 2.22 per 1000 jobs.

The average annual pay for firefighters in Oklahoma was $43,450.

For comparison, Kansas firefighters only got $37,930 in the same period. Another perk here is the Oklahoma City incentive pay scale. You can increase your salary if you have certificates as a Hazardous Materials Technician, an EMT-Paramedic or an Underwater Rescue Diver.

If you had been wondering how to become a firefighter in Oklahoma just know, no matter your background and circumstances in Oklahoma, there are opportunities out there to train, learn and build a strong career in the fire service. Work hard to gain experience in local communities, understand what you can do for your area and apply that to your training.

Once you pass the hiring process, continue that training with specializations to protect the state from natural disasters, major fires and more.