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Why do you want to become a firefighter? by Paul Lepore – Division Chief

Why do you want to become a firefighter?
Paul Lepore – Division Chief

One of the most commonly asked interview questions is: Why do you want to become a firefighter?

Some “experts” will tell you to tell the panel a “signature story” of how you come to realize this was your calling. As a person who frequently sits on the other side of the table I can tell you that this is bad information. Here is why; we interview 12-15 candidates every day. I am looking for people who can make it through my initial training (the academy is very demanding and we fail out up to 35%, people who will make it through the difficult probationary period, and people who will get along in the fire house. I dont have time (not the inclination) to sit and listen to your story.

Your answer should begin with: The reasons why I want to become a firefighter are…………
If it involves telling a story you need to rework your answer!
The reasons why I want to become a firefighter are:

I really like to help people- I work now as an EMT and I really enjoy somebody holding my hand and looking me in the eye and saying thank you. You made a difference in my life. This means a lot to me.

I like the excitement of the job. I like the fact that I can be cleaning the station and the bells go off and I can be fighting a fire, working on getting someone out of a car, a hazardous materials spill, or a medical aid. I like the fact that every day is different.

I like the teamwork that exists in the fire service. Everyone works together toward a common goal. I like the fact that the crews are very tight. It is not uncommon for a crew to vacation together with their families. I really like the friendships that are made in the fire service.

I like the fact that the pay will allow me to reach my goal of getting married and buying a house one day.

The time off will allow me to continue my education and to coach my kids in little league.

I like the fact that my position in the fire department is controlled by my own initiative and hard work. If I earn the respect of the men and women of this department I could promote to engineer one day, and who knows, maybe even a Captain.

I like the fact that if I dont know how to do something on a call, there is someone there that has seen and done it before. The knowledge and experience of the firefighters is amazing!

So, these are just a few of the reasons I want to become a firefighter.

You may get people who will tell you, “Do not tell them that you want to help people.” I disagree with this advice. I really like helping people. That is why I got into this business. Having a job where you can do what you really like to do and to get paid and be able to support your family is a great recipe for job satisfaction.

It is up to you to personalize your reasons. Once you have taken the time to sit down and think about it, complete the answer by qualifying it. What I mean by this is to explain why this is important to you. You will notice that I elaborated on all of my answers. I didnt just read a list of reasons.

About the Author: Paul Lepore is currently a shift Division Chief for a fire department in Southern California. In addition to managing the emergency responses for the City, his responsibilities include managing the EMS Division, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the CERT program.

Prior to this position, Chief Lepore spent 23 years on the Long Beach Fire Department. He spent 5 years as a Battalion Chief working predominantly in the northern part of the city. He was also assigned as the Battalion Chief in charge of the EMS Division for two years. He feels very fortunate to have run some major incidents typical of a big city fire department, including working as a member of the Operations Section during the Paradise Gardens Apartments fire, the largest in the city for the past 25 years. Chief Lepore has also managed some challenging personnel issues during his tenure as a chief officer. He has written, developed and proctored numerous promotional examinations, and shares both his operational and administrative experience with others to help them achieve their promotional goals.

Chief Lepore entered the fire service as a civilian Paramedic for the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. After completing his education at the Los Angeles County Paramedic Training Institute, Lepore worked in the high impact area of South Central, Los Angeles. He was hired by the Long Beach Fire Department in 1986 and completed a 12-week academy. He spent the next two years working as a firefighter until he was promoted to firefighter/ paramedic. Lepore was promoted to Fire Captain in 1998 and to Battalion Chief in 2005. He took an outside Division Chief promotional exam for a neighboring department, where he was hired in 2010.

Chief Lepore earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocational Education from California State University, Long Beach. He also earned an AS degree in Fire Science from Santa Ana College.

Lepore has conducted hundreds of entry-level interviews, as well as served as a rater for dozens of Battalion Chief and Captain’s promotional exams. He holds instructor credentials for EMT, Hazardous Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

He has presented to local and national audiences at Firehouse World in San Diego and Las Vegas, the CSFA Conference in Long Beach, as well as the Northern California Training Officer’s conference. Presentation topics include Tactics and Strategy, Promoting in the Fire Service, and Formulating a Plan to Promote. He has also conducted numerous seminars to teach and mentor entry-level candidates.

Chief Lepore and his wife founded EMS Safety Services, a corporation which provides emergency response training programs, and sells quality, cost-effective emergency response products. Lepore and his lovely wife Marian have two daughters, Ashley and Samantha, and two granddaughters.

As an avid saltwater fisherman he has also written a book titled, “Sport Fishing in Baja”.

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