How To Become A Firefighter In Oregon

The state of Oregon has many great fire departments, in fact, my brother in law works for Salem Fire Department! How to become a firefighter in Oregon is a question I hear from many applicants in the Pacific Northwest.

How To Become A Firefighter In Oregon

  • 18 years or older
  • Pass medical and physical exams
  • Possess high school diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Able to obtain EMT-B certification
  • Able to obtain firefighter certifications

The state of Oregon is one that has something for everyone when it comes to the landscape and the cities. It isn’t surprising that so many residents and business want to set themselves up in the major cities along the western coast.

But, they can only do so if they know there is a strong, skilled fire department ready to handle any emergencies.

Oregon is one of the leading states for salaries in metropolitan areas and has some great training facilities. In this article, I want to discuss how you can become a firefighter in Oregon.

At their core, the basic state requirements are as you might expect.

However, there are some quirks in different departments and some recommendations to keep in mind as stations with career positions want to find the very best in the state.

Below I will talk more about what you can do to stand out, where to continue your training and a little about the major fire departments in Oregon.

Becoming a firefighter in the state of Oregon.

While most departments are similar, there is an interesting approach to the requirements and guidance issued by the Medford Fire Department in Oregon.

Here they offer advice to aspiring firefighters that goes far beyond what to expect on any written test or firefighter interview.

They recommend that you showcase your passion from high-school, with related projects and fitness plans to highlight your experience and drive. It isn’t always enough to have a diploma or GED without the projects to back that up.

They also recommend taking on a role in a volunteer department at 18 to gain professional experience. From there, you can earn all the right accreditation and certification such as EMT certifications and your Firefighter 1 and 2 training.

Usually, this means a passing score on the CPAT and a written test to determine the candidates general aptitude.

Those that pass move on to other screening processes and interviews. The order of the tests and the specific requirements can alter between departments.

Expect to be subjected to a drug screening and background checks for criminal activity. Some departments may also choose to add a psychological exam to the process as well.

Firefighters in Oregon need to be able to handle emergencies in many different disciplines and environments.

One of the best traits about Oregon is the is the natural beauty. There is the vast coastline on the Western boundary, vast forests running down to California, the high desert to the east and mountains throughout the state.

Each area poses its own risks with chemical incidents, industrial fire, wildfires and major accidents.

Then there are all the homes and businesses in the major cities and suburbs. This means that Oregon firefighters need the skills to match the unique landscape of their department’s location.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is an important resource for firefighters that want to understand wildfire and how to control it.

The ODF offers regular statistics on all the wildfires that spread within the state.

That means that there are 16 million acres of both public and private land to protect. Skilled firefighters need to control these wildfires as soon as possible, steer them away from people and property and regain control.

Oregon firefighter applicants that learn these skills can show that they have more knowledge and a better understanding of local issues than most other firefighting candidates.

Fire Academies In Oregon

The following is a list of fire academies and fire science programs in Oregon. 

Salem: Chemeketa Community College

Portland: Portland Community College

Ontario: Treasure Valley Community College

Newport: Oregon Coast Community College

Coos Bay: Southwestern Oregon Community College

La Grande: Eastern Oregon University

Bend: Central Oregon Community College

Monmouth: Western Oregon University

Grants Pass: Rogue Community College

The basic firefighter 1 course is a must to make a start beyond being a volunteer firefighter. But, there are lots of other courses out there that are useful for your career.

A firefighter 2 certification is the next step up for advanced learning to become a firefighter in Oregon.

Certifications in hazardous materials as well as specific apparatus and Wildland operations are also important skills to learn.

The more you know, the better an asset you are to any department.

Another suggestion from fire departments is for new recruits to look into gaining a degree in Fire Science.

There are many college courses and community college programs in the state of Oregon that can offer higher education and training is an essential part of the process when learning how to become a firefighter in Oregon.

Some departments will recommend specific schools and programs which are applicable to their needs. One that appears to have a good reputation with fire officers is the Chemeketa Community College in Salem.

One of the appealing things about this course is the combination of practical and theoretical work.

There are many hours spent in classrooms and dealing with lab work. But, there are also 24-hour shifts with the Chemeketa on-campus fire department.

This is the ideal place to learn as it provides a more hands on introduction to the real work involved.

This crew is a back-up crew that can assist on emergency calls. There will be supervision while obtaining the first-hand experience of fires and accidents.

There is also the opportunity to coordinate this degree with another course for a wider skill set.

You can link it up with the EMT-B or the Paramedic course to earn both degrees within three years.

This sets you up to stand out from the other candidates at a faster pace and shows your willingness to learn. The course offers many of the same modules as you would expect in a firefighter I course.

There is information on the equipment, safety procedures, materials and operational strategies. Upon completing the course, recruits can continue with fire departments or enroll in further education for advanced skills.

Major Fire Departments In Oregon

There are several large departments that employ many firefighters in the state.  While this isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list of all major fire departments the requirements to work at these departments will be the same or similar to any department in Oregon.

How to Become A Medford, OR Firefighter:

  • 18 years or older
  • Pass medical and physical exams
  • Possess high school diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Able to obtain EMT-B certification
  • Able to obtain firefighter certifications

Medford is home to around 90,000 people and requires plenty of crew members located across the area.

There are five stations in total and 85 personnel. This includes fire marshals, EMTs and other support staff.

Recruits here need to be ready for major emergencies and difficult situations and are highly trained.

The department handles many calls for structural fires, vehicle accidents and medical incidents. So EMT training and strategic training are essential. There are also cases with hazardous materials.

The department prides itself on its quick response time and professionalism.

https://www.ci.medford.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=5

https://www.ci.medford.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=1292

How To Become A Portland Firefighter:

  • At least 18 years of age at the time of conditional offer of employment
  • Excellent health, free from any mental or physical condition which would interfere with effective performance on the job
  • Possession of a high school diploma or GED at the time of conditional offer of employment
  • Possession of a valid driver’s license and in good standing, at the time of conditional offer of employment
  • Ability to become certified as an EMT-B with the State of Oregon Health Authority before an offer of employment.

Portland is the largest department in Oregon with 750 employees and 30 stations across the city and wider area.

These stations house a vast range of apparatus and skill sets, including those that can handle Chemical and Nuclear issues.

Therefore, applicants need to come to this department with enough prior training and the willingness to take on additional courses in these specialty areas.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/fire/

How To Become A Salem, OR Firefighter:

  • United States citizen
  • At least 18 years old
  • High School graduate or GED Certificate
  • Current Oregon EMT paramedic certification or a paramedic student or National Registry certification (to qualify for reciprocity)
  • Valid driver license

The Salem fire department serves the state capitol with the same level of dedication but fewer resources than a city like Portland.

There are 11 stations across the city which house engines, aerial ladders and more.

There is a strong link between the Salem department and EMS services, with the department offering patient transport ambulances as needed.

This means that Salem firefighters need to have the best qualifications for this type of care. Applicants are recommended to keep up with their CPR and EMT training.

There is also a division that helps with providing SWAT medics to the police.

https://www.cityofsalem.net/salem-fire-department

Job Prospects for Firefighters In Oregon

The City of Medford site does warn potential applicants that there are 400-500 applications per hiring period.

This explains why they are so adamant that qualified firefighters start their preparation so early.

Anyone seeking how to become a firefighter in Oregon or the Pacific Northwest in general can expect to enjoy a slightly higher wage in metropolitan areas.

Looking at the highest payment rates by metropolitan area, Washington was the second highest after California.

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area saw an annual mean wage of $83,550 and mean hourly of $40.17.

Close behind was the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area that covers Washington and Oregon. Here firefighters can see $81,760 annually and $39.31 hourly.

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm#st

As you can see, the hiring process in Oregon is very competitive and you will need to prove yourself and meet all the right criteria to get hired.

There does seem to be a little bit of bias towards those that have experience from a very young age, such as cadets and high-school students.

But, there is no reason why older, dedicated applicants can’t succeed at one of the many fire academies in the state.

Once you get the right qualifications, you can then enjoy a long career as a firefighter in Oregon.