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Firefighter: What I do and how much I make

Ky-ree Toadvine, a firefighter, earns $65-70,000 per year. His job involves responding to emergencies, learning new skills, and maintaining physical and mental fitness. He works three 24-hour shifts per week and studies building construction to improve his firefighting skills. His income can increase with overtime and additional certifications.

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Video transcript

My name is Ky-ree Toadvine. I'm a firefighter, and currently I make anywhere from 65 to 70 grand a year. As a firefighter every day is different, there is not really a routine to it. We could be going to a medical emergency at one moment which we're in someone's home and helping them, or we could be going to an actual structure fire in which we will have to utilize fire suppression efforts to put out the fire effectively, or even we could respond to a traffic accident in which there is a trapped, pinned victim and we need to unpin them. There's a lot of different things going on and its always different. Well right now I'm just a probationary member, and its not necessarily a bad thing to be a probationary member it just means that I'm still learning at the moment. I'm actually in the field, I've passed the academy, and I'm learning the ropes of what to actually do while in the field. And my main role I will say is to learn as much as possible so that I could be as effective at my job as I possibly can after this probationary year. So as a firefighter I currently make 65 to 70,000 dollars a year just for my probationary year. There are pay increases that come in through over time, about six months in I'll get another pay increase and then a year in I'll get another pay increase. And then there are other certifications that we could get, like our paramedic certification which will give us a bonus. If you like to be USAR, Urban Search and Rescue Certified then you can also go and take the classes to get that certification which will also give you sort of a bonus. Same thing for hazardous materials if you're at that specialized station then you can get those classes taken care of and receive those certifications for that bonus. I study as often as I possibly can. There's loads of information that I don't know anything about. One such example is building construction. I didn't have a building construction background coming into this career field so I have to take the initiative to make sure I study it as often as possible just to make sure that I don't let the knowledge, or skill set, slip away from me. I'm studying building construction because, say if we're on top of a roof during a fire, we have to ventilate the building. We have to know what typical rafter direction is so that we can effectively cut the roofing off of the roof and allow the fire to ventilate outside of the roof, or to ventilate vertically. That will allow us to also tell if there may be signs of collapse going on. Also, I have to mention being physically and mentally fit, we have to make sure that we take on a set of fitness that's not just aesthetic. You have to make sure that its actual, functional, actually functional, excuse me, and take that and make sure that we're actually adaptable in the field as well with our fitness and what we can do in the field. And it keeps us mentally fit as well because it allows us to keep the edge off and takes off the stress a little bit as well so we can continue to think effectively, and be effective in our field as well. Within our work week, we work three 24-hour days out of a five day work week, typically. From that we start our week with working one day, 24 hours, having one full day off, working the next day 24 hours, having the next day off, and then working one last day, and then having four days off, but that's also not counting any overtime in which you may want to pick up and which we also work 24 hours. And within that 24 hours like I said we would be responding to a number of amount of incidents, non-emergency, emergency, maybe doing community service as well. So during our 24 hours we are at the station a majority of the time. That's if we're not running calls. If it's not a busy day, that we may be out running calls or if there is an errand to be done, then we may need to go out and do an errand, or if there's training to be done we will be out doing our training with another company. When I'm working for 24 hours at a time on platoon duty we're not awake for exactly 24 hours throughout the day. We do have times where we can rest, and cook or do whatever we need to take care of what we may need. The station is basically like a house, and we're all there together. The challenges of a firefighter within the city versus say the country, say LA versus like you said, Boise, Idaho, would be the first thing I think of is Downtown Los Angeles, high rises, they're tough to climb. (laughs) It's a lot of different construction aspects to go into, it's a lot of different elevator problems you will go into as well. There's a totally different, well not totally different, but there is a different approach you take to structural firefighting within a high rise as well. That's the first thing, and also a denser population of people. You have a lot of different type of people, you have a lot of tourists coming through so at any moment you could be responding to a medical call which we run 80 to 90 percent of within the department, but you may be running on someone who's from Italy and doesn't even speak English. Okay, so different skills and mindset that you need to have is just more likely just being adaptable. You have to know that there's never going to be a been there, done that situation. You have to be committed to taking in loads of information that you may know nothing about at the time, and also make sure that you're able to comprehend what may be going on at the time, and not freeze up or anything of that nature when it's time to perform.