How To Become A Firefighter In South Carolina

South Carolina has always had a great reputation for its hospitality and sense of community.  That means how to become a firefighter in South Carolina is a common question for aspiring firefighters in this state.

The people here want to look after their own and create towns that are attractive to their residents, students and visitors. The emergency services are a massive part of this community as they provide services in community support, safety demonstrations, medical aid and fire suppression.

Therefore, a dedicated, skilled firefighter can make a massive difference to the safety and well-being of those in the area. So, how can you become part of the South Carolina fire service?

How to Become a Firefighter in South Carolina

  • 18 years old
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Physically fit
  • Of good moral character

The bare minimum requirements to volunteer and apply to be a firefighter in South Carolina aren’t that different from those of other states. Applicants of the right age, residency and fitness levels have a good chance.

But, the differences come when you get to the hiring processes of different departments. There are some areas that have different rules and expectations. Some will also have their own preference points systems.

Therefore, it is important to check to see what is expected at your chosen department. In this article, I want to talk about the risk factors in South Carolina, the training options and some of the departments.

Firefighting in South Carolina

South Carolina is in an interesting point geographically in the United States. For the most part, it doesn’t get the really bad cases of weather like in other areas.

The hurricanes don’t always come this far or hit quite so hard. The winter storms off the Atlantic are more intense further north. The tornadoes tend to die away closer to the more infamous Tornado Alley.

However, there are still chances that smaller events and the tail-end of larger events could impact on communities in the state. This means that it pays for departments to be prepared for all kinds of rescue missions and storm relief.

Another risk here is that of earthquakes. Some people in South Carolina may think little of the earthquakes here because they don’t register that high on the Richter Scale. But, they are frequent.

Residents that get caught up in one can require the help of the fire service. The tremors could damage roads leading to car accidents. They could cause structural damage to buildings that require expert handling or entrapment responses. They might also cause contamination risks though hazardous material leaks.

Again, the more firefighters understand the risks involved here and train for them, the better the chance of helping residents.

Then there is the need for marine firefighting services in South Carolina. There is a long stretch of coastline here that is popular with residents and tourists alike.

Those that work in the ports and out at sea are at risk of accidents and fires onboard ships. There are also risks of oil spills and other cargo issues.

Residents in coastal communities also need to be able to understand water safety so outreach programs are a good idea here too. Therefore, you need to be a strong swimmer to work in many South Carolina fire departments and have the determination to train in all these specialty areas.

Fire Academies in South Carolina

There aren’t that many major colleges or fire academies in the state with official training programs. This could be a problem for some people that live in more rural areas and need access to professional training.

If this is the case, it is best to train with a local fire department as a volunteer firefighter. The best departments will offer recruits the chance to build knowledge on a regular basis.

If you want a more traditional approach to training as a firefighter in South Carolina, the South Carolina Fire Academy is a great choice.

The reason this center is so popular is the range of learning options. On one side there is the more familiar fire academy where students can learn the basics of their profession in a classroom environment.

Some of these are also a little more specialized, such as their work with aircraft rescue, Hazmat and structural collapses.

On the other, there are the online courses for those that may not be able to attend the facilities in person. Find out more about the opportunities here.

An alternative option is to go to a community college to earn a certificate or an associate degree in a fire-based subject. These courses can provide more information and college credits.

From there, you can complete a longer degree course or move into a profession with the fire service. Greenville Technical College offers a range of courses in its Fire Science department.

You can start out with the Basic Firefighter I course, then the advanced module and onto the courses for Firefighter II. From there, you have the choice to enroll in additional courses for advanced learning or to apply for a job in a department.

Additional courses include looking at fire prevention methods, administration, legal aspects and more. Find out more here.

Major Fire Departments in South Carolina

The following is a list of major fire departments in South Carolina.  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 South Carolina.

How to Become a Charleston, SC Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Physically fit
  • Of good moral character

Charleston has had a fire department since 1882 and over the centuries it has grown into a diverse ISO 1 rated department.

The department has had to grow and evolve to keep up with the development and demands of the capital. The area is now 134 square miles with 140,000 residents.

The city also sees millions of tourists who come for its history and culture. That’s a lot of people to care for in a large area. In addition to their fire suppression and EMT divisions, Charleston also has a marine service.

One thing that Charleston’s city government website is eager to point out is the importance of Selective Service registration.

Selective Service means that men aged between 18 and 26 in the state of South Carolina must sign up for availability for military service. Those that do so show they are prepared to fight for their country.

Fire departments may not be interested in hiring those that don’t because the action doesn’t fit with their ideals about a good moral character.

How to Become a Spartanburg, SC Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Physically fit
  • Of good moral character

Further inland there is the community of Spartanburg, which also has an ISO 1 rating. The department is 100% full-time with only career opportunities for its firefighters.

There are five stations across the 20 square mile area and this allows them to respond with ease to the 37,000 residents. This means helping with medical emergencies, fire suppression, aid in accidents, rescue situations and more.

Each station is strategically positioned with some handling more rural suburbs and other residential areas. There is also one in place to take care of the airport and another near the local colleges. You can learn more about working out here by heading to this link.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in South Carolina

There aren’t that many firefighters employed in South Carolina for its size. As of 2018, there were just 5,300 with a rate of 2.59 per 1000 jobs.

However, the metropolitan area of Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort had the highest concentration of jobs anywhere in the country that year. There were 6.83 per 1000 jobs and an annual wage in the district of $42.680.

The average annual wage across the state is low compared to the national average with just $36,300.

Regionally, this is comparable to their neighbors, as North Carolina firefighters earned $35,500 and Georgia crews got $38,060.

There are a lot of hurdles in place if you’re interested in learning how to become a firefighter in South Carolina. The lack of major college courses and some of the individual department rules could hold some people back.

However, there are opportunities out there for those that want to start from the very bottom. Work hard, train hard and become a valuable member of the department.

From there you can learn those additional skills for rescue attempts and strategies in your area. Make the most of the opportunities that come along, and you can thrive as a firefighter in South Carolina.