An official nickname for Kentucky is “Bluegrass State”, and this is largely due to green bluegrass stalks grow purplish buds each spring and give large fields a bluish cast when seen from long distances. Among many interesting facts and nationally known great names from the states, do you know, Colonel Sanders, who is best known for opening the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at a roadside stand in Corbin in 1930s, was once a proud firefighter.
Firefighting in Kentucky State has a unique challenge. Nearly half (48%) of Kentucky’s total land area consists of dense forestry populated by the second most diverse mix of hardwood tree species in the entire nation. As such, wild land fires pose a constant threat that occurs with an average frequency of 1,447 forest fires per year. Due to unique skills and expertise required for this niche sub-specialty, Kentucky wild land firefighters have far above-average earnings expectations.
Basic Plan for Becoming a Professional Kentucky Firefighter
Kentucky has no uniform regulations for specific requirements to be a firefighter at any of the currently 676 FEMA-registered local fire departments within the state. However, a high percentage of paid and volunteer firefighters work at three of Kentucky’s largest municipalities in capital city Frankfort, Louisville or Lexington. Therefore, the guidelines below will focus on those particular leading employers.
• Minimum age of 18 (except Lexington-Fayette, which is age 21 or older)
• Valid Kentucky Driver’s License
• High school diploma or equivalent
• No felony criminal history
• Local residency (Frankfort firefighters must live within 1 hour’s driving distance but Lexington and Louisville have no specific residency requirements)
• Pre-Hire Tests
• Minimum passing scores vary but are mandatory for placement on the official list of eligible potential new hire lists by local fire departments.
Frankfort – combined written exam and physical agility testing, with preferential ‘bonus’ points added to certified EMTs’ scores. Psychological evaluations, a comprehensive medical examination, polygraph testing and background check are also required.
Louisville – same as above, except level of prior training, education and relevant experience are taking into consideration
Kentucky Firefighter Certification Training
Although no statewide regulations apply, prospective applicants are well advised to consider Firefighter I and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications as de facto requirements. This is because all large fire departments and the majority of smaller ones in Kentucky require these minimum credentials for employment.
• Firefighter I Certification
Avoid wasting valuable time and money by verifying that any prospective FF-I certification program is fully accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC). This not only ensures that all practical skills training and coursework study materials meet nationally recognized quality assurance standards but allows graduates to receive guaranteed transfer credit in most IFSAC states with reciprocity.
Common topics covered in Kentucky Firefighter I certification courses include:
• Emergency rescue and evacuation procedures
• Forcible building entry
• Fire vehicle and equipment operation
• Hazardous Materials Handling and awareness
Kentucky Wildland Firefighter Careers
However, unlike most western states with similar topographical landscapes, Kentucky wild land fires are extinguished by manned crews with training in the proper use of specialized equipment and techniques. Wildland firefighting takes high-quality training in the latest techniques and procedures to gain additional certification required for employment as a Kentucky wild land firefighter.
Even conventional firefighting careers require proper training to certify competence in specialized skills and expertise essential to save lives in extreme adversity. Therefore, completing an accredited FF-I certification training program and volunteer experience are vital universally accepted prerequisites for maximum career success.
To learn more about local fire department job requirements and the latest career-related developments, check out the Kentucky Firefighters Association official website. Another excellent resource is the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s site.