Fire Department
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A Career In the Baltimore County Fire Department

Is It Right for You?

A career with the Baltimore County Fire Department brings a distinctive way of life with its own challenges and rewards. Before you decide if it’s for you, make sure you educate yourself about life in the fire service.

Paramilitary Structure

  • Like members of the armed services, firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) follow a command structure based on rank, with firefighters and EMTs at the lower end of the scale. A paramilitary structure requires you to take orders from those of higher rank.
  • Uniforms are required and provided.
  • You are held accountable for your behavior – off and on the job, inside and outside Baltimore County.

The Recruit Experience

  • Recruits are paid the starting salary ($35,125) from the time they begin training.
  • Recruits spend up to 18 weeks training at the Fire-Rescue Academy (FRA) in Sparrows Point. The program includes academic, practical and physical training and testing. Recruits experience regular physical fitness training.
  • Regardless of their certifications and experience, recruits may train in some or all of the following:
    • Emergency Response to Terrorism
    • Hazardous Materials Operations
    • Emergency Medical Technician-Basic
    • Intravenous Technician
    • Emergency Vehicle Operations
    • Crime Scene Preservation
    • Domestic Violence
    • Fair Practices Training
    • Firefighter I and II
    • Rescue Technician
  • To graduate, recruits must obtain all professional certificates required for the position. Certification requires passing written and practical exams, administered by the FRA and the State of Maryland.
  • After graduation from the FRA, recruits spend two years on probationary status.
Image of station crews preparing food.

Station Life

  • Most EMTs and firefighters are assigned to work on one of four shifts at one of the county’s 25 career fire stations. A few are assigned to work weekdays only.
  • Station personnel work a “two, two and four” shift configuration – that is, two days, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; two nights, 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.; followed by four days off. Firefighters and EMTs are responsible for all calls up to the end of the shift. If a call occurs just before you are scheduled to go off duty, you must go on that call, even though it will require you to work past your normal quitting time. Those with child care issues need to prepare for this.
  • Stations are equipped with a bunk room so crew members working night shifts may sleep between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. when they are not on a call or performing other station work. If you sleep, you will share the bunk room with other coworkers.
  • All station personnel are responsible for assisting with station daily chores such as cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, mopping and waxing floors, emptying the trash, and lawn care.
  • When on duty, EMTs and firefighters cannot leave the station to take care of personal business. They cannot make or receive cell phone calls while en route to or working on an incident.
  • EMTs and firefighters are expected to come work on time every day they are scheduled to work including during snowstorms, hurricanes or other severe weather. Lateness is not tolerated.

EMT Duties

Image of an emergency medical worker preforming a blood pressure check on an senior.
  • Each county medic unit (ambulance) is staffed with one EMT and one paramedic. The paramedic is in charge of patient care. The EMT assists with all patient care. Both paramedics and EMTs drive the medic unit.
  • Depending on the nature of the call, the EMT may be primarily responsible for a patient’s care.
  • EMT work can be emotionally stressful. EMTs are called to respond to a wide variety of emergency medical and trauma calls including heart attacks, strokes, trouble breathing, pediatric emergencies, falls, car crashes, assaults, etc.
  • EMTs are busy; more than 70 percent of all calls received by the Fire Department are emergency medical calls.
  • EMT work is rewarding; the department regularly receives letters from citizens grateful for the help provided by EMS personnel.

Firefighter Duties

  • Each fire engine and ladder truck is staffed with a minimum of four personnel, with an officer assigned to each unit.
  • A firefighter receives orders from the officer-in-charge and takes appropriate actions.
  • Assists with mitigating dangerous and hazardous situations, the saving of lives and property, and with extinguishing fires.
  • Utilizes firefighting and rescue equipment. Participates in public safety education, drills and training activities.
  • Performs basic patient assessment and takes vital signs.  Performs CPR and rescue breathing. Relays patient information to emergency medical staff.


  • Fire Department personnel receive a generous amount of annual leave. Time off is granted on the basis of seniority. New EMTs and firefighters should not expect to be able to take vacation whenever they choose.
  • EMTs and firefighters may retire after 30 years of service and after the age of 50, or with 10 years of service at age 60.
  • Starting salary is $35,125, competitive with neighboring jurisdictions.
  • With the proper training and credentials, EMTs and firefighters may promote to other positions.

Additional Information

A more comprehensive view of the Baltimore County Fire Department is available online.

For more information about emergency medical services in Maryland, visit the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

Revised July 22, 2015

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