CFFJAC Career Expos Target Next Generation of Firefighters

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Would-be firefighters from throughout California got a chance to get an up-close look at what it takes to become a first responder at CFFJAC’s Firefighter Career Expos, held this past September at the Firefighter Candidate Testing Centers in Sacramento, Orange and Livermore.

Sponsored by the CFFJAC’s Commission to Recruit Women for the Fire Service, the expos saw fire departments from throughout the respective regions helping candidates get started, providing them with information about job opportunities and requirements.

“We are looking to build the next generation of firefighters, said CFFJAC Chair Daniel A. Terry. “The fire service is a great career for anyone with the skill, intelligence and commitment to service.”

Prospects also got to try their hand at the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), the test used to assess readiness for a career in the fire service. The CPAT consists of eight job-related events that must be completed within a set time. CPAT certification is considered a prerequisite for many fire departments throughout California.

In addition to direct recruitment and hands-on demonstrations, the fair featured several female firefighters – members of the CFFJAC’s Women’s Commission – running attendees through a presentation detailing “a day in the life of a firefighter.”

“Generally speaking, we try to recruit from areas like the military or people who are adventurous,” said Tracey Hansen, a member of the JAC Board of Directors and president of the California Fire Chiefs Association. “It’s a great opportunity, and the Women’s Commission doesn’t just go out to recruit women, but underrepresented communities throughout the fire service.”

The three expos drew hundreds of prospects from local high schools and community college career programs. The events also attracted many who previously thought a career with the fire service was out of reach.

“I never really thought it was an option,” said Danielle Lovato, an expo attendee from Sacramento. “One day, I was driving and heard a fire engine. I pulled over and saw it was a woman driving. I thought to myself, I could do that.”

As they have in past years, the 2014 Career Expos also provided the opportunity to reach out to military personnel transitioning to civilian life. The armed forces are built around many of the same principles and values practiced in the fire service, in particular the emphasis on conditioning, training and teamwork.

“Military personnel are fit, have the right work ethic and understand structure,” said Wendy Dowdy, a retired firefighter who successfully transitioned into the fire service after a career in the U.S. Navy. “They know what it takes to get the job done.”