Fire Fighting in Canada

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Tips for new recruits: Fire departments constantly upgrade their hiring programs

As any potential recruit knows, fire departments constantly upgrade their hiring programs to develop more thorough ways to screen applicants,

December 11, 2007 
By Kory Pearn

As any potential recruit knows, fire departments constantly upgrade their hiring programs to develop more thorough ways to screen applicants, and that means applicants better be prepared. At the very least, today’s recruiters are looking for their department’s minimum recruitment qualifications, plus adaptability, knowledge, integrity, honesty, fitness and health, personality, morals, etc. Most applicants know that fire departments want these characteristics and list them on their résumés but recruiters know better than to accept these résumés at face value and continue to develop ways to recruit the best.

Fire departments place a lot of emphasis on personality traits such as dependability, honesty and common sense, which are usually preferred over qualifications and work experience. However, most candidates recruited will possess all the above personality traits and the necessary qualifications and work experience. Department heads constantly challenge potential candidates with interviews, written and physical testing and medicals to ensure they select the ideal candidate for the job. These measures, which may seem extensive, have proven effective and accurate. Another criterion created by fire departments is a list of minimum requirement. This list, which differs from department to department, helps to ensure that every candidate considered for a job possesses a certain level of skill. Every fire department that recruits new firefighters has a list of minimum qualifications that
candidates must possess before applying.

Here is an example of a fire department’s list of minimum requirements:
•    Legally entitled to work where you are living as a citizen, or landed immigrant;
•    Minimum grade 12 education or
•    Meet the prescribed visual requirements of 20/30 in each eye without the use of corrective lenses and also a colour vision assessment;
•    Communicate quickly in English;
•    CPR and Standard First Aid Certificate – Level-C;
•    Unrestricted Class 3 driver’s licence with air-brake endorsements;
•    Successful completion of the firefighting physical fitness test;
•    Successfully complete an aptitude test and associated interview;

Note: This is a general list; fire departments may request more or fewer requirements.


To find specific fire departments’ minimum requirements, visit the department’s website.
Fire departments aren’t required to have extensive lists of minimum requirements because rarely do they choose a candidate with just the minimum requirements. Since there are a limited number of fire fighting jobs available and an overwhelming number of applicants, candidates have raised the bar for acceptance. Generally, candidates nowadays have completed extra courses, are incredibly fit and healthy and have done their homework before even filling out an application, thereby making it more challenging for all potential recruits. Candidates who apply and aren’t selected to continue in the recruitment process deal with the rejection by taking more courses to boost their qualifications, exceeding the minimum requirements and improving their opportunities for success during the next recruitment.

Minimum requirements are an effective tool used in the preliminary round of a recruitment drive. However, they are just one tool of many, including written and physical testing, interviews, medicals and, in some departments, such as Calgary’s, a polygraph test.

Always be sure to learn the minimum requirements before you apply to a fire department. Minimum requirements differ from city to city and province to province depending on what’s important to the fire department doing the recruiting. For example, Ontario fire departments in the last couple of years have begun asking their candidates to possess a post-secondary fire education certificate or diploma, whereas this has been the case in all other provinces for several years. Another consideration is the geographical area the fire department covers. If there is a body of water in or near the city then the fire department will add water-rescue qualifications to its minimum qualifications list. An escarpment requires some level of high-angle rescue training.

How soon should an aspiring firefighter start applying to departments? Clearly, it’s not worth your time, effort or money to apply until you at least meet the minimum requirements. Some potential candidates use flawed logic and apply even though they lack the minimum requirements, just to see how they’ll fare. This is not an effective way to pursue a career in fire fighting. The application will immediately be rejected because you don’t have the minimum requirements and the recruiting officers will think you either can’t follow instructions or chose to ignore them. In addition, it’s expensive to apply to fire departments and this money would be better spent on courses or education that qualifies you to apply.

The best bet for your future in fire fighting is to invest in the minimum requirements and train hard.  Best of luck.

If you’re searching for fire departments that are hiring, you can search each department’s website or subscribe to

Kory Pearn is a full-time firefighter with the St. Thomas, Ont., Fire Department and the author of The Complete Guide to Becoming a Firefighter, published by White Knight Books. He is also the creator of the firefighter recruit website

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