How To Become A Firefighter In Vermont

There aren’t that many American’s that you will meet that say they come from Vermont, but there are plenty interested in how to become a firefighter in Vermont.

With just 626,299 residents in 2018, it is pretty sparsely populated and dominated by its natural landscape.

With such slow growth and a slower pace of life, you might expect this state to be an easy place to be a firefighter. But, this isn’t necessarily true. So, what does it take to become a firefighter in Vermont?

How to Become a Firefighter in Vermont

  • 18 years old
  • Proof of residence and state driver’s license
  • Physically and mentally fit
  • High school diploma or higher
  • EMT training preferable

The minimum qualifications here are just the starting point for anyone that is interested in how to become a firefighter in Vermont. A good education means more than just a high school diploma.

Therefore, Vermont firefighters are expected to continue their education and training as best they can over their career to help their communities. A good character means more than the willingness to serve with a friendly smile.

Departments here will run background checks to make sure that you have no felonies or any history of illegal drug use. The latter also means drug testing during your physical. If you can pass all of this and the required exams, you are on the next step to an interesting career.

In this guide, I want to talk about the different risks and responsibilities encountered in Vermont and the required training. From there, I will look at the training options available, some of the departments and the job prospects in the state.

Firefighting in Vermont

There is a misconception the hardest-working, bravest firefighters in the US are the ones that run into massive burning buildings in cities or deal with large-scale disasters. This does a disservice to all those that work tirelessly out in the harsh landscape and remote communities of places like Vermont.

Vermont is a beautiful place to visit and its forests and mountains will always attract visitors. But, it is also an unforgiving place in the winter when the snow falls, and communities become cut off.

Firefighters out here need to be able to deal with the problems of their communities in a compassionate, efficient manner. This means dealing with the snow and ice when the weather gets bad, providing medical assistance in life-threatening situations, attending fires and helping those in vehicular accidents.

Crews stationed around the forests and national parks need to be able to handle rescue attempts, medical aid and wildfire management whenever the calls come in. Those that work in agricultural areas need to know how to handle fires on the land, deal with livestock, prevent structure collapse and handle any hazardous materials.

Of course, not all firefighters in Vermont will help those out in the countryside. There are many towns and cities in the state with their own dedicated fire departments.

These cities may be small compared to those in other states, but they contain a large percentage of the population and essential infrastructure. Therefore, firefighters need to be ready to handle different incidents and protect the population at all times.

Fire Academies in Vermont

There are some states in America where I could write a long list of the different training facilities and fire academies available to firefighter trainees.

However, Vermont doesn’t seem to have the same range of institutions providing these services. Therefore, there are two options that I want to highlight here. The alternative is to train on the job as a volunteer with your local department.

Volunteer firefighters are an important part of the fire service in this state. Simply put, the departments in rural areas with a lack of funding and support wouldn’t cope without them.

They don’t have the money to pay handsome salaries to firefighters, but they do have years of experience and plenty of knowledge to pass on. This will help shape new recruits into well-rounded crew members and provide better services for these smaller communities.

Vermont does have a technical college that provides students with the opportunity to learn about Fire Science. Students get to work in the classroom and get hands-on experience in fire technology and suppression skills.

The information learned here should be enough to help you towards your Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications. I recommend following this link to bypass the log-in issues on the website and then requesting a brochure as they are a little shy about giving up too much information online.

The Vermont Fire Academy

The alternative for those that want to train in a professional environment is to go to the state fire academy in Pittsford. They train thousands of trainees in their facilities to ensure that they meet all the right standards for their Firefighter I and II training.

One of the interesting developments here is the Entry Level Exterior Support Firefighter course. This is designed to help the local department build their own training programs to widen the reach of the academy.

This could, in turn, improve the availability of services for firefighter applicants in the future. If you want to learn more about this academy and the courses available click here.

Major Fire Departments in Vermont

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

How to Become a Burlington, VT Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • Proof of residence and state driver’s license
  • Physically and mentally fit
  • High school diploma or higher
  • EMT training preferable

Burlington is the largest city in Vermont, and therefore requires the largest fire department and the best staff possible. The 2010 census showed a population of 42,417 over 15.5 square miles.

This is a dense population with higher risks of accidents, building fires and calls for medical attention.   One of the things that is impressive about the Burlington department is their training facility.

The department has to provide the best possible education to its recruits that can’t attend the options above. It does so with an intense recruitment course that lasts for 8-weeks.

Here trainees will learn everything that they need to know about their roles, equipment and working at the stations. One of the perks here is the mentoring program where recruits are partnered with a senior firefighter.

They will work with them to make sure that they are shadowed and meet the right standards at the right pace. There is also the opportunity to work on ambulances to develop EMS skills. Find out more about the department here.  

How to Become a Springfield, VT Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • Proof of residence and state driver’s license
  • Physically and mentally fit
  • High school diploma or higher
  • EMT training preferable

This next fire department is a great example of what can be achieved in a small area in this state. Springfield is large by Vermont standards by small by everyone else’s.

It is just 49.6 square miles with 9,200 people. The department here can expect to handle an average of 2,300 calls a year – and not all of those are emergency calls. You might expect this small area to have a minimal crew. But, there are 50 members here providing services across multiple divisions.

That is because the team is responsible for the city and some of the villages in the neighboring area. The department can provide expertise in dealing with hazardous materials, extraction from vehicles, technical rope rescue, ice rescue and more. You can find out more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Vermont

There isn’t a lot of data available for Vermont in the past year to compare its prospects against other New England states.

One thing we do know is that the average pay per year for firefighters in Vermont is $37,070.

This is below average for the country and much lower than New York’s $73,710. Of course, there is a big difference here in the types of departments employing crews and the responsibilities.

Still, the rate was $48,640 over in New Hampshire. There were 140 employed in the Burlington-South Burlington area and 100 in the southern non-metropolitan area.

Another thing that I want to highlight here about job prospect is the idea that Vermont is struggling to fill vacancies. This story dates from last year and highlights the problems in some areas.  

Some departments said they were short on volunteer service personnel and wanted state funding to recruit more. This reiterates the point above about the value of the volunteer firefighter in this state.

This is a great way to gain experience when training is unavailable for career roles. It is valuable work in vulnerable areas. Don’t assume that the roles here won’t be as dangerous, fulfilling or important to those they protect.

Is its easy to look at these stats and the lack of training facilities in Vermont and feel despondent about your prospects. There aren’t many people currently employed, the departments are small and there aren’t many colleges with higher education courses. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that those that are interested in how to become a firefighter in Vermont with the right set of skills and attitude are always wanted. Vermont is a fantastic place to serve because of the different roles and the communities here. Put in the effort and it will be rewarded.