There are a few different criterion that departments use to sift through all of the potential candidates that they get. The most common methods of sifting are interviews, written tests, and physical ability tests.
All of the departments near where I live rely on the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) for testing. The CPAT was developed by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and 10 fire departments in 1997.
The CPAT measures the physical capabilities of each candidate in eight job-specific areas. It is designed to be holistic, objective, and consistent.
There are a series of physical ability tests that are laid out in a sequence of events designed to simulate an actual fire scene. There is an overall test time and the failure cutoff is 10 minutes, 20 seconds. The test is only pass/fail and departments cannot rank candidates upon CPAT times.
You will have two orientation meetings within 2 months of your test date. You can get familiar with the equipment. You will also get 2 timed practice runs using the actual equipment and may take as much time as necessary. During your practice runs, proctors will be present to help you know how to improve your physical performance and conditioning prior to the actual test.
The events are as follows:
- Stair Climb (climbing stairs while carrying an additional 25 lb. simulated hose pack),
- Ladder Raise and Extension (placing a ground ladder at the fire scene and extending the ladder to the roof or a window),
- Hose Drag (stretching uncharged hoselines, advancing lines),
- Equipment Carry (removing and carrying equipment from fire apparatus to fireground),
- Forcible Entry (penetrating a locked door, breaching a wall) and
- Search (crawling through dark unpredictable areas to search for victims).
- Rescue Drag (removing victim or partner from a fire building),
- Ceiling Pull (locating fire and checking for fire extension),
Throughout the test, you must wear a hard hat, gloves, and a 50-pound vest (to simulate breathing apparatus and protective gear).
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