Firefighters are people whose job is to extinguish fires and rescue people. Besides fighting fires, firefighters rescue people and animals from vehicle accidents, collapsed buildings, hazardous atmospheres, entrapment, disabled elevators and many other types of emergencies. Firefighters also typically respond to HazMat incidents as well. Firefighting is a job which requires bravery, strength, quick thinking, level-headedness, and a wide range of skills.
Firefighters are based at and respond from a building called a fire station (also known as a firehouse or fire hall). When a call comes in and their help is needed, they drive a vehicle called a fire engine or fire truck, which is also referred to as a fire apparatus, to the incident scene. These vehicles are appropriately equipped for the emergencies they respond to and typically can pump water and foam to put out fires. Fire engines also carry ladders, cutting tools and lots of different types of rescue equipment. Most carry first aid kits to help people who are injured or hurt. Another type of common fire apparatus, known as a “ladder truck”, is fitted with some variation of an articulating and telescoping ladder assembly which can be strategically positioned to give firefighters another means of access to an incident scene, as well as another means of egress for distressed victims or firefighters.
Firefighters wear heavy clothing to protect them from the heat when they are fighting a fire. This is called bunker gear or turnout gear. They wear a self-contained breathing apparatus and mask to protect themselves from breathing in smoke and super hot air and gasses.
Depending on the country, the agency firefighters work for is called a fire department, fire service, fire and rescue service or fire brigade. Fire departments are usually government agencies that are funded by taxes and look after a local area. Some sites employ their own firefighters, such as airports and some factories.
Some fire departments employ firefighters who work full-time and wait at the fire station to be called out. They have to work both in the daytime and at night, though they can usually have a rest if they have nothing to do at night. Villages and small towns usually have part-time firefighters who have other jobs outside of the fire service. These firefighters will drive from their home or workplace to the fire station when their help is needed. They may be volunteers, or they may be paid for doing this (known as retained firefighters in the UK).
In some places such as large US cities, it is common for the fire department to run the emergency medical services. In those departments, such as the New York City Fire Department, most of the fire department's calls are medical emergencies rather than fires. Although these are usually dealt with by full-time paramedics, many firefighters are trained in first aid and they may assist in medical emergencies, even bringing the fire engine to the scene.