How Many Hours Does a Firefighter Work?

Firefighters are one of the most vital emergency service providers in our society. They work tirelessly to protect life and property, putting their own lives at risk to ensure the public is safe from fire and other hazards. While firefighting is an honorable profession, a firefighter’s schedule can be irregular and can come with long working hours. 

Firefighter hours can vary depending on the department and location. In general, firefighters work in shifts, and many fire departments follow a 24-hour shift schedule, where firefighters work for 24 hours straight and then have 48 hours off. Other fire departments may have a rotating shift schedule, where firefighters work a combination of day and night shifts.

Additionally, firefighters may be required to work overtime, especially during busy periods or emergencies. Overtime can add additional hours to their workweek, which may already include weekend and holiday shifts. Overall, the exact number of hours a firefighter works can vary widely depending on the department, the specific job duties and the emergency response situation.

How long is a firefighter’s shift?

Firefighting is a demanding job that requires a high level of physical fitness and mental toughness. Because of the nature of the job, firefighters work in shifts that differ from the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. While the length of these shifts can vary depending on many factors, typically a firefighter’s shift is between 8 and 24 hours long.

What does a typical firefighter’s schedule look like?

Many fire departments follow a 24-hour shift schedule. With this schedule, firefighters work for 24 hours straight, followed by 48 hours off duty. This schedule is common in larger cities, where there are more calls for service and a larger number of firefighters are needed to respond to emergencies. Other fire departments may use a rotating shift schedule, where firefighters work a combination of day and night shifts. In this schedule, a firefighter’s hours are typically 10 to 12 hours per shift, followed by several days off duty.

How many overtime hours does a firefighter work?

In addition to regular shifts, firefighters are usually required to work overtime. Overtime may be necessary during busy periods, such as during a heat wave or a large wildfire. During these times, firefighters may work longer shifts or more days in a row. For example, during the 2020 wildfire season in California, firefighters worked 24-hour shifts for up to 21 days in a row to help contain the fires.

In the last decade, firefighter hours have increased significantly in some cities due to an increase in overtime caused by unprecedented public safety staffing shortages. In 2021, the Seattle Fire Department paid out $37 million in overtime, which was a 49% increase from 2019. These unprecedented staffing shortages have caused some firefighters in Seattle to work up to 4000 hours in 2021 alone.

Do firefighters work weekends and holidays?

Firefighter hours also include weekends and holidays. Because emergencies can happen at any time, firefighters need to be ready to respond 24/7. This means that firefighters may have to work on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving or other holidays. For example, during the 2021 winter storm in Texas, firefighters worked around the clock to respond to calls for service and help residents in need.

What do firefighters do when there is no fire to respond to?

When there is no fire, firefighters still have various duties and responsibilities within the firehouse. As first responders, a significant portion of a firefighter’s schedule is allocated to performing fire prevention activities. Even if there is no active fire to respond to, a firefighter’s work hours do not change. Firefighters must perform these duties to maintain their readiness for when a fire does occur. Some of these tasks include participating in training sessions, performing inspections, maintaining their equipment, participating in public education programs and participating in community outreach events and activities. 

Firefighters also respond to emergency situations that don’t involve active fires. In 2021 alone, over 71% of all calls made to fire departments were for medical emergencies and just 7% of calls made to fire departments were for active fires. There is also a large range of calls made to fire departments that are not medical emergencies but must be responded to. Firefighters respond to car accidents, gas leaks, specialty rescues, police assistance and more.

How does scheduling software help firefighter scheduling?

Due to the complex nature of firefighter scheduling, the implementation of scheduling software can save a fire department a significant amount of time spent making schedules. Scheduling software also assigns firefighters based on agency rules and fairly allocates overtime to mitigate fatigue risks and non-training compliance. By implementing scheduling software, fire departments can rest assured that they’re scheduling their firefighters intelligently, efficiently and safely.

The Bottom Line

Firefighting is a demanding profession that requires long hours and irregular schedules. A firefighter’s hours consist of shifts that can range from 8 to 24 hours long, with some departments using a 24-hour shift schedule and others using a rotating schedule. Additionally, firefighters may be required to work overtime and on weekends and holidays to ensure that the public is protected from fire and other hazards. Despite the challenges of the job, firefighters continue to serve their communities with dedication and courage, making them an essential part of our emergency response system.

Due to the complex nature of a firefighter’s schedule, fire department scheduling software can greatly benefit both firefighters and fire departments. Contact our team to learn more about our dependable scheduling solution built for fire departments.

Reach out to our team to learn more about InTime Wellness and how our wellness module can help your department schedule your officers better.

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