Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Not all firefighters are created equal!

You mean you didn't know there is a difference between firefighters? Well there is. These differences can be broken down in to categories like physical traits, mental acuity, and aptitude. For example in the old days (like the late 1970's when I began) firefighters were selected primarily for their physical prowess or at least a lot of weight was given to strength.

A physical agility test was given to every applicant and it was a son of a bitch. Following the competition of my first agility test I almost passed out and vomited for a good half hour after. It took me a couple of days to recover physically from the ordeal. I really wanted the job so I pushed hard, and I was also only 25 years old and had no idea of my mortality.

These tests were grueling and weeded out the small, weak, frail, and the unsuitable applicant of the era. See in those days anyone and I mean anyone with even a casual interest in becoming a firefighter could apply for the job.

We would end up with hundreds and hundreds of people applying for the job on testing days. The first part of the application process was a written exam and it would be scheduled to occur over the course of an entire weekend. A huge facility had to reserved for the two day event. I took my written exam at Pikes Peak community college along with nearly a thousand other wannabees.

We were scheduled in waves of nearly a hundred at a time. You found a seat, got an exam book and answer sheet and waited for instructions to be given. The test had a time limit on it and as a rule of thumb you could assume that nearly half of applicants would be eliminated at this point because they had no business holding a writing utensil, let alone trying to spell their name correctly.

I joke, you had to have already spelled your name correctly to get to that point, it was spelling other things and doing long division that tripped them up. So after a couple of days of testing everyone went home and waited to find out if you made the cut and would be offered the chance to go kill yourself on the physical test.

The physical was broken down into five or six (can't remember for sure it was over 30 years ago) stations. Stations like climbing a full extended (100 feet) ladder truck up and down as quickly as possible, picking up 5 wet rolls of 2 1/2 inch hose (around 50 pounds or so) from the ground one at a time, lifting them up and over the tailgate of a pick-up truck. Then taking them out and stacking them in a free-standing tower, once again as quickly as possible.

You had a few minutes to recuperate in between stations, but it was never enough. This event would go on for days as well. People got hurt, sick, scared, and just flat out quit. The end result was a much smaller number of wannabees would advance to the oral board component.

The oral board was much like being a murder suspect in some ways. You were lead into a bright room, at the front of the room was a table with three fire officers seated facing you. A single chair was positioned in front of them. You were "On" from that moment forward. Everything you did was evaluated, your posture, your wardrobe, haircut, cologne and of course family name. Nepotism was a fact and an unspoken advantage to some lucky people, an advantage I didn't have.

I tell you about this particular form of abuse tomorrow. Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

November Rain - k~ said...

Sounds like a grueling event!