Could You Pass a Firefighter Entrance Exam?



By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

So you want to be a firefighter. Well, there's a lot to learn first. For example, is it considered arson if the property a person burns is his or her own? And what should you do if you arrive at a call and find out that it was a false alarm? Report the caller for wasting your time? Hang around and hint that a cup of coffee would be nice? (If you said "yes" to either of those last two, you might want to hit the books ... hard). 

A lot of people want to be firefighters. There's just an allure to the job: the risk and challenge involved, the camaraderie of the firehouse, the respect of the public at large. But not everyone can make the cut. There's not only a demanding physical exam to prove that you're in top condition, but a written test of your knowledge and judgment as well. 

Ever wondered if you'd make the cut? Just for entertainment purposes, we've created a quiz resembling the one you'd have to take before you could actually put on the turnout gear and slide down the pole. Test your knowledge of one of the civil service's toughest jobs with our quiz!

If you turn out for a call, but the fire is out by the time you get there, you should ....

This happens from time to time. Even if the caller only believed there was a fire, but was wrong, it's still considered "good intent." They should not be blamed for a false alarm.


Which of these tasks might you have to perform as part of the physical exam?

A physical abilities test isn't just a test of your physical strength and stamina. You'll be showing evaluators that you can do actual tasks that are part of the job. Of course, strength and dexterity are certainly part of that.


The act of setting a fire deliberately with intent to do harm is ______.

Obviously, not all fire-setting is arson. Letting a backcountry campfire get out of hand can result in civil charges, but it's highly unlikely campers would be charged with arson.


A long pole with a hook on the end is called a ________.

A pike pole has several uses at a fire scene: catching onto and dragging items, or probing areas that aren't in easy reach.


The act of opening doors and windows to let heat escape is called _______.

In dire circumstances, you might break a hole in a wall or roof for ventilation. This should be avoided when a building and its contents aren't yet damaged, of course.


A substance used to make a fire spread is called a/an _______.

If there are traces of accelerant at a fire scene, it's possible that a fire was arson. However, industrial locations are full of substances, like petrochemicals, that act as accelerants.


The place where a fire started is the point of ______.

You might have known this from Patricia Cornwell's novel, "Point of Origin." Not surprisingly, it involved arson.


Which of these do you NOT have to worry about as you train for a physical abilities exam?

While the first two might be obvious, don't discount stretching. Flexibility is key to performing this demanding job without getting injured.


Which of these tools would a firefighter NOT use?

The other three tools are all used in firefighting. But a timing light is used to check the firing of cylinders in an engine. In other words, it wouldn't be used unless the ladder truck is idling.


When substances catch fire on their own, without exposure to a spark, this is called ______________.

Some substances can, when exposed to oxygen, generate heat so rapidly that they burst into flames. There's no evidence that human beings are among this group, despite claims made by the paranormal community.


Which of these emergencies would a firefighter NOT be called to?

Most fire departments are "all-emergency" services. So if you've ever called 911 for an elderly neighbor's chest pains, and wondered why a fire truck responded, that's why!


Axes, pry bars and saws are all classified as ________.

All of these are used to gain access to a structure when an open door or window is not available. The physical abilities test will often require you to demonstrate competence with one of these tools.


Which of these is a first responder?

Civilians are often first responders -- people who provide help at the scene of an emergency until professional help arrives. Many fire departments teach courses like "CERT," which stands for Community Emergency Response Training.


On a multi-colored triage tag, what does black mean?

The color scheme on a triage tag looks a bit like the national threat level scale: It starts with a green band, then yellow, then red, and finally black. The first responder tears off bands until the one showing the victim's condition is left. If this is black, nothing more can be done.


Who should be called if a firefighter sees signs that a fire was set deliberately?

The fire chief, despite being the Big Boss, isn't an investigator (though they might have fire investigation in their background). That role is filled by a fire marshal.


In job rankings, what comes after Basic Firefighter?

A Hipster Firefighter would come to your house, put out the fire, and then tell you he liked Dalmatians before they were cool.


What differentiates a volunteer firefighter from a professional one?

Many volunteer firefighters are as skilled and committed as their professional peers. However, they give their time without pay, often in rural areas.


What is triage?

Sometimes there's more going on at an emergency scene than personnel to handle it. The commander at the incident has to quickly decide what to do first: treat the worst of the injured, contain the fire, et cetera. EMTs perform triage as well, at scenes with a large number of victims.


What is a drawback to the Jaws of Life?

The Jaws of Life has undeniably saved lives in situations where people were trapped behind heavy, hard-to-move barriers. But it's hard to respond quickly to a scene with such a heavy apparatus, which requires its own generator for power. In other words, it's not really flexible.


SCBA equipment is better known as a/an ______.

SCBA stands for self-contained breathing apparatus. It allows a firefighter to breathe in clean air, in smoke-filled buildings.


The protective clothing firefighters wear are called ________.

A "turn out" is a call to report to the scene of a fire or an emergency. So turnout gear is what firefighters wear to do that.


The ADA is the Americans With ______ Act.

The ADA is relevant to the firefighters' exam because it means that candidates with physical or mental challenges must be allowed to apply and train for jobs, and reasonable accommodation must be made for them.


Which of these is NOT typically a requirement of being a firefighter in the US?

Fire departments must make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, like not requiring a Jewish firefighter to work on the Sabbath, or making sure a Muslim has the opportunity to pray the prescribed 5 times daily.


True or false: A firefighter can be a smoker if he/she only smokes off duty.

This might seem like interference in an employee's private life, but firefighters do sometimes bring medical claims related to smoke inhalation. Obviously, being a smoker would interfere with a doctor's ability to discern whether that claim is legitimate. Therefore, some departments forbid their personnel to smoke, on or off duty.


Which of these would be used to extricate people from a wrecked car?

The "Jaws of Life" is the trademarked name of a powerful rescue tool. An air chisel is a generic name for a tool that uses compressed air to cut sheet metal.


What, in terms of the job, is "probation"?

Though "probation" has negative connotations when it's part of the criminal justice system, here it just means an extended tryout period. If a being a firefighter isn't working out, and that person is dismissed during this time, he or she has less grounds to bring a lawsuit.


About how long is a typical probation period?

A year is a common probation period, although it can be longer. It takes time before a new firefighter doesn't need supervision and evaluation to make sure he or she is living up to the demands of the job.


Yes or no: Is it arson if you burn property you own?

People certainly do burn their own property, and with criminal repercussions. A common motivation is to collect insurance money.


Which of these words means "the mechanics and science of heat"?

Every long-time firefighter is a bit of a physicist. He or she studies the nature of heat and fire, what makes things burn and stop burning.


About how much does an air pack weigh?

Some of the exercises in the physical abilities exam will require you to wear a 25-pound pack while completing them. This is to simulate actual job conditions.


Which of these substances might a Class A fire involve?

A Class A fire is one in which common and not-very-dangerous substances burn: wood, paper, or cloth, for example. From there, classes of fires get more dangerous.


Which of the following is NOT part of an exam?

While public speaking about fire safety is part of the job, it would be rare for a department to ask you to do it as part of the exam! Once on board, you'd be given training and practice prior to giving a talk.


What do firefighters often call a work shift?

You might be more familiar with this term in relation to the military. Soldiers serve "tours of duty."


Will having long hair or unconventional facial hair disqualify you to be a firefighter?

Most departments will not disqualify you based on grooming. But they might require you to cut your hair or shave a long beard once you're on the job. After all, long hair around open flame is not the wisest choice!


How long is a typical training period for a firefighter?

Once a conditional offer of employment is made, firefighters will start their training period. This is followed by probation, in which they work for a fire station, under supervision.


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