Tuscaloosa Fire Department and other Southern Municipalities

Firefighting is (and has historically been) a very tough task. Today's fireman also has many other duties to perform in the course of his work for the fire district or municipality. Many fire departments have strict hiring processes and training practices to assure that the people they serve receive the best possible candidates and most of them will be in service for at least 20 years or more. The term “in service” is typically used when referring to equipment (such as fire trucks) but to simplify matters we will use the term interchangeably whether referring to people or equipment.

While the current unemployment rate has cause an increase in applicants and competition for the fire service, not all of these applicants would be practical candidates. Most paid fire districts do a significant background and criminal history check. In some areas of the country, they have also begun to do credit checks on potential employees. There is also a written test with minimum requirements before someone can pursue a career in the fire service. And most fire departments have adopted the Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT).

Basically the municipalities and fire districts have a duty to their taxpayers (and dues payers) to provide the best service at the lowest possible price and those two things can be contradictory. Areas that pay the lowest wage tend to lose their firefighters to other departments and remain in a perpetual hiring cycle. Employers are tasked with the challenge of paying a high enough wage to attract career firefighters and still remain within a reasonable budget.

The responsibility of the fire service has extensively expanded over the years. In the 1960s and 70s most fire departments only responded to fires. In today's world fire trucks respond to almost every 911 call where there is even the potential for property damage our bodily injury. So while the number of fully involved house fires (as measured yearly per 1000 rooftops) has dropped over the years (mainly due to modern building practices -sheetrock and other non-combustible materials), the actual run volume per 1000 houses has increased in most areas.

Even though the nature of many of the calls has changed, the backbone of the fire service is still a firefighter wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). And the most commonly used equipment at a house fire (other than the SCBA) is still the fire hose and the fan. Although over the years it has changed from an exhaust fan to a positive pressure ventilation fan.

Due to national standards in safety practices the number of firefighters (including those in supervisory roles) recommended only typical fire ground has increased over the years. The square footage of a typical residential structure has also increased dramatically since the 1960s. Today's average home is larger than the two family shotgun houses that were very common during that era. The electrical requirements of modern household appliances, entertainment and computer equipment has also had an impact on contemporary firefighting tactics.