How To Become A Firefighter In Washington

Washington is a state with a lot to offer.  This is why so many aspiring firefighters are wondering how to become a firefighter in Washington. 

So many trends and businesses start out in this northwest corner and trickle down into other states. Startups and young entrepreneurs come here to make their fortune and the cities continue to grow.

With so much wealth and expansion, as well as so many wonderful natural resources, Washington needs the very best protection in order to stay productive and safe.

Firefighters play a big role in this with their fire suppression skills and medical training. They need to be ready to handle incidents in the cities, the forests and the water. So, how can you become a Washington state firefighter?

How to Become a Firefighter in Washington

  • 18 years of age at time of application
  • Possession of a valid Washington State Driver’s License at the time of appointment
  • High School diploma, GED or equivalent
  • A non-smoker/tobacco user within the last two years

The minimum requirements in Washington are straightforward at entry-level. Those that are the right age with the right education can progress into training and working as a volunteer firefighter. The focus on the use of tobacco and drugs is notable so it is important to stop the use of any illegal substances that may be frowned upon.

In this guide, I want to talk about the training requirements for different areas of Washington, the facilities available and some of the biggest departments.

Firefighting in Washington

One of the most important resources found in Washington is its forests. There are millions of acres across the state that provide incredible habitats for wildlife, places for tourists to explore and privately-owned timber estates.

The wood is a vital resource and a stream of income for the state. So, it is essential that fire crews can protect it at all costs from dangerous wildfires.

Wildland fire training is essential when learning how to become a firefighter in Washington. It’s important they understand the behavior of fire and its risk factors in this area.

Crews working in these remote areas will also need to be educated on rescue technique and perhaps rope rescue.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

There are many training facilities and fire departments across Washington that will provide support for wildfire training. But, one of the best organizations to turn to is actually the state department. That is because they are the largest employer of firefighters and specialize in wildland management.

They have 1500 employees that look after 13 million acres of land. This cohesive approach across the state means the same standards and equipment, including helicopters, water tenders and other apparatus.

In addition to this, they are also responsible for providing fire forecasts to help with fire safety in these areas. This is vital for landowners and the weather service. You can learn more about their work here.

Away from the forests inland, Washington also has a long stretch of the Pacific coast. This is another important place for industry and tourism and it needs just as much protection.

Here, fire crews need to be ready to handle any marine or water-based problem that comes along. This could mean medical aid for those struggling in the water, search and rescue operations for missing people, fire suppression in boats and ports and chemical spills. Coastal storms may also bring flood risks and damage that require aftercare.

Then there is the other, more modern side to Washington. Many major billion-dollar companies have set up campuses in the state.

The area is a haven for tech giants and companies like Nintendo, Microsoft and Amazon are all here. These big campuses mean lots of buildings, tech and workers that need the best fire prevention strategies.

Fire departments, such as the Redmond department near Nintendo, must be ready to create strong fire prevention plans for rescue and suppression if the worst ever happens.

Fire Academies in Washington

There are community and technical colleges right across the state of Washington that offer some form of fire education. The following are some of the towns with notable fire academies in their area. There may be other training opportunities near you so don’t forget to check with local departments and schools.

One of the best resources for fire training in the state is the Fire Service course at Bates Technical College. This is all entry-level work where those with no previous experience can gain the skills and knowledge needed to move forward into the profession.

On graduation, students are able to test for certificates in Firefighter I and hazardous materials.

During the course, they will also gain their certificates for wildland training, EMT certificates and vehicle operations.

This all means that students can leave the college fully prepared for the responsibility of a job in a major department. You can learn more here.

An alternative approach would be to join the recruit academy program at the Washington State Patrol academy.

This center near North Bend has almost everything that you could ask for when training for different situations. New recruits can learn all the fundamentals in training grounds and classrooms to get ready for their Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates.

More experienced crew members will return here to take a course on advanced subjects. This includes their marine program and aircraft rescue program.

The marine facility includes a simulation of a ship with all the parts and obstacles firefighters would find out at sea. It is ideal for those that will end up working in the Port of Seattle or other coastal areas.

Major Fire Departments in Washington

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

How to Become a Seattle Firefighter

  • Minimum Age: Candidates must be at least 18 years of age
  • Education: Candidates must have a high school diploma or must have passed an equivalency test (G.E.D.).
  • License: Candidates must possess a valid Driver’s License.
  • EMT Certification: Candidates must have a current Washington state EMT certification or be eligible for certification sponsorship upon hire. The Seattle Fire Department will offer an EMT course to selected candidates who do not meet the EMT requirement.
  • Meet or exceed established standards throughout the hiring process

There are two different areas of interest to discuss when talking about Seattle: the city and the port.

Starting with the city, Seattle’s metropolitan area is vastly populated with just under 750,000 people. This large population means a need for a large department and there are 1000 firefighters manning 33 stations. The main roles here will always consist of medical care, fire suppression and assistance in accidents.

However, there are additional divisions that require more specialist skills. These include their disaster response team, wildland fire unit and the urban search and rescue team. You can learn more about what it takes to be a firefighter here by visiting this link.

The Port of Seattle is so large and important to the success of the city that it has its own fire department. This is a major hub for transportation and industry with the airport and its marine port.

This means a lot of cargo, a lot of travelers and a lot of employees that need constant protection. The fire department has grown significantly to meet the demand with 81 personnel now working from the airport station.

Technical rescue, fire services and medical aid are common calls. The requirements to work here are the same standards as those state-wide because of the importance of the facility. Learn more here.

How to Become an Ocean Shores, WA Firefighter

  • 18 years of age at time of application
  • Possession of a valid Washington State Driver’s License at the time of appointment
  • High School diploma, GED or equivalent
  • A non-smoker/tobacco user within the last two years

The Port of Seattle isn’t the only place in this coastal state that relies on firefighters with water rescue skills. There are lots of smaller communities and tourist areas such as Ocean Shores.

This town in Grays Harbor has around 23 miles of water in its rivers, lakes and canals. Therefore, anyone working here needs to be ready to pull people out and handle issues with boats and fuel.

The staff here is smaller than that of the big cities with 21 career personnel and additional volunteers. They work hard to take care of the 5,500+ population, tourists and business with fire, rescue and medical calls.

Wildland fire training is also important here because of the risk in the coastal landscape. Strong winds off the Pacific make things a whole lot worse. You can learn more about the department here.

Job Prospects for Washington Firefighters

As of 2018, Washington is the third-highest payer for firefighters. The average mean wage annually was $73,850 and the hourly rate was $35.50. anyone working in the Pacific Northwest 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 firefighter can see $81,760 annually and $39.31 hourly.

Western Washington non-metropolitan area the highest payer in that category. $65,340 annual compared to $58,190 at closest rival Southwest New York. Mean hourly rate of 31.41.

If you’re wondering how to become a firefighter in Washington there are a lot of great opportunities for those that join the fire service.

The pay is great and there are interesting and varied roles in different areas. It is up to you whether to pursue a role in a big city, on the coast or in the forests. Just make sure that you maintain the state’s standards at all times, train hard and serve your community well.