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Firefighter: How I got my job and where I'm going

Ky-ree Toadvine shares his journey from engineering to firefighting. After realizing his passion, he pursued an EMT certification and gained experience through emergency transports. He highlights the rigorous Fire Academy training, the importance of continuous learning, and the vast growth opportunities in the field. His advice for aspiring firefighters is to work hard, recognize weaknesses, and capitalize on them.

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Video transcript

I'm Ky-ree Toadvine, I'm 25 years old, and I'm a firefighter. I graduated high school in 2009, from Crenshaw High School, and I was initially going to Cal Poly Pomona for mechanical engineering. I was pursuing that for a while, thinking I wanted to do something mechanical. It didn't really necessarily work out, because I could tell by the way that my performance was that I wasn't very passionate about it. So I decided to dial things back a little bit and go take different classes at a community college. And at that time when I was looking up classes, I actually had a personal emergency happen, not to me, but someone dear to me, that required the response of firefighters and transport to a hospital. That's when I realized that, what type of job they have. They have something that was dynamic, something that was always changing, and it just required you to be able to have a working knowledge and skill set that isn't, that doesn't require you to just sit at a desk, but also requires you to be able to continuously think in many different ways, and adapt as the times come. And that's when I knew that that was something that I wanted to do. That was along the lines of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So the steps needed to become a firefighter would be to first have your high school diploma or an equivalent, to have your EMT certification and be at least 18 years old. Once you meet those requirements, then you can apply to many different departments; larger departments mostly. If you would like to open up that, if you would like a wider array of departments to be able to apply to, for example to smaller departments, then you would need something like a fire academy, some smaller departments would like for you to be a paramedic as well. So I enrolled in community college, took my Emergency Medical Technician class, and it teaches you the basics for basic life-saving skills basically. You can, it certifies you to do basic things like take blood pressures, and respond to emergencies, and gets you ready mentally, especially, to be able to to respond to these incidents and know the tools that you have on board of the ambulance, so that you can use, you can utilize them effectively to actually respond to these emergencies. After I finished my Emergency Medical Technician class, I wanna find a job that does emergency transports with another fire department within the city of Los Angeles. I continued to work there for two years, and at that point, I gained experience and responded to many different emergencies, whether it be a gun shot wound victim, a stabbing victim, or just someone who needs to be transported from a hospital to another hospital. Those are called inter-facility transports versus an emergency medical transport. That gave me loads of experience doing the inter-facility transports and the emergency transports. The emergency transports gave me the, I would say, poise and knowledge to be able to use the tools and knowledge that I have that I gained from my Emergency Medical Technician class to respond to different emergencies, and an inter-facility transport gave me loads of experience with just dealing with people, just being able to make sure that I'm a people person, and that really lets you know if you're cut out for this job. The Fire Academy was pretty rigorous. We had, every day that we went in, we worked 10 hour days for four days, sometimes five, where we come in for an extra day for a few hours to get more practice on whatever tools that we needed to get more practice on. During those days we will start each day with physical fitness. So we would go into the gym that we had, and we would do whatever training regimen the cadre had for us. We would do that for an hour, hour and a half, two hours tops, and then we would get that part of the day done, we'd set up for the rest of the day as well, and then get into whatever training that we may have had. For example, firefighter survival, which is making sure that we keep our cool and that we're able to get ourselves out of entanglements or collapse, or know what to do when we can't get ourselves out to put out that Mayday call. Every fire department has a test, and an interview that you must pass in order to become an entry level firefighter with that department. So different fire departments have different tests, and they're geared towards different things as well. Some tests may have basic math and English on it, and some may go a little more in depth to other things that the department may want to gear their hiring towards, or to gear the type of people that they want to hire towards. So once you graduate the academy, then you start your probationary year, and at that point, you start to learn the different tools and the different tools and tactics that you need for fire suppression efforts. You also have to continue to train on the things that you learned in academy, for example, throwing ladders, and what we call phase testing, which is actually taking some of the things you've learned while during the academy, and actually doing them. The growth opportunities are vast. You can go into pretty much anything. If someone wanted to be an emergency dispatcher and see what that was like, they can go into the dispatch arena and become a dispatcher for a while. If you wanted to be a fire inspector, you could be an inspector. If you wanna be a paramedic, you could be a paramedic. If one day you wanna become a captain, then of course that takes a larger skill set than maybe the rest of the professions, but then you'll have to continue to make sure that you're as studious as possible to pass that captain's test, and also pass that captain's interview to become a captain. And then there are two ranks of captain as well. If you wanted to go even higher than that, to become a chief, then you can do that as well later on in your career. So the life of a firefighter is pretty much a long learning process. As long as you're career, you will be learning something new almost every day. My advice to people just starting out trying to become firefighters is to go as hard as you possible can, get as much under your belt as you possible can. Myself personally, I did everything I could to make myself stand out, and I also did everything I could to make sure that that interview went well. For example, when I was a CPR instructor, I did that so that I can hone or perfect my speaking skills for the interview. And I believe that helped me tremendously. You have to recognize your own weaknesses, and you have to fix it or capitalize off of it.