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Take the Tests by Captain Dennis Childress, Orange County Fire

It's a statistical fact that there are over 3,000 Fire Academy graduates in the Southern California area looking for fire service jobs. And, those figures are a few years old, so it's quite probably that there are upwards of 4,000 by now.

So how does a young adult go about beating those odds and get a job in the fire service without waiting forever, or for all those test experienced other candidates to get hired and get out of the way?

The answer is really simpler than you think. You test! And test! And test some more.

What do I mean by test? Simple. Sign up for any and all exams that you qualify for, no matter where or for whom. Join one of the exam notification systems like the one where you're reading this, and take advantage of any open exam you can get to.

Let me explain why. It's going to expose you to the testing system. It's going to show you the exams and give you practice at them every time you test. And what do we say about practice? That's right. It will eventually make you perfect.

When it comes to testing, the fire departments are pretty smart. They buy exams from agencies that create tests. Rather than go to all the effort of creating a legal, fair, practical exam, they will purchase them. Knowing this, you can see the chances of seeing the same exam, or portions of past exams, are extremely good. In fact, in California we are just about all buying our exams from only one or two outfits. That practically guarantees that you will see repeat questions, or whole exams, each time you test. What better way to take an exam than to have seen the exam before? And, if you're tenacious enough, you will have seen it many times before.

Now let's add another ingredient into the mix. Practice exam books. There are a number of publishers selling practice exam books for firefighter entry exams. They've gleaned great numbers of actual questions from past exams and published them in a format that assists you in studying for future exams. Can it be any easier than that? Take a look at your local county library or go to one of the fire service publication services. The Firefighters Bookstore is one that comes to mind and they're on the net. There are others.

Last ingredient. And maybe the toughest. You have to go where the tests are. Don't stay in one area waiting for those departments to test. That's why there are so many other candidates looking for work. They don't want it bad enough. Be aggressive and go get the job you want no matter where it's offered.

You can't afford the luxury of staying in your local area. I've traveled the country in fire service related business for many years and the real truth is that we're all the same in the fire service. We use big red (or some other color) trucks to travel across town or terrain making a lot of noise, and moving people out of our way, to assist our fellow man. We all put the wet stuff on the red stuff and really enjoy our work. No matter what department you work for, you're going to love it. And, should you get hired way out of your area and want to go home, stay on a few years and get good at the job, then go for a lateral exam back into the area you want. By then you'll be an experienced firefighter and the testing will be much easier.

So, in conclusion, you need to put some gas in your car (or your friends car) and prepare to share a hotel room with a few car poolers, and get out there and take those tests. If you really want this job you're going to have go after it. Don't be like the boy who wanted a glass of milk so he walked into a field of cows holding out the glass waiting for one to back up to him and fill the glass. Chase your dreams. Be aggressive and take those tests.

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