While the minimum educational requirement for firefighters in many U.S. fire departments is a high school diploma, many large urban fire departments prefer candidates with a college degree in fire science or fire engineering. There are colleges and universities that offer these courses throughout the country. The five most prestigious firefighter schools offer training for students who have completed their high school and college education.
L.O. Brayton Fire School
The L.O. Brayton Fire School is part of Texas A&M University and is considered one of the top firefighter schools in the country. In addition to basic firefighter training, this school offers advanced training courses including HAZMAT, WMD terrorism, forest fires, aircraft rescue and firefighting, and emergency medical services. There are additional courses in leadership, arson investigation and strategic command, offering a well-rounded approach to firefighting education.
Central Florida Fire Academy
Located in Orlando FL, the Central Florida Fire Academy offers excellent advanced courses in urban search and rescue including collapsed buildings and water rescue. Additionally, they offer classes in HAZMAT, rescue from high places, rapid intervention and emergency medical services. They provide training for fire officers, instructors, inspectors and investigators. Students can choose to take as many advanced classes as they wish upon completion of basic instruction, which is a 398 hour course.
Firefighter 1 Academy
In San Leandro, CA the Firefighter 1 Academy has a highly rated basic firefighter course which leads to a completion certificate. In order to receive firefighter 1 certification, students must work for 6 months as a full time firefighter or 1 year as a volunteer and take additional courses. The basic course consists of six classes in fire technology. Although Firefighter 1 Academy has firefighter schools at other locations, the San Leandro location is considered the best.
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North Texas Fire Academy
The North Texas Fire Academy in Rockwell, TX offers basic firefighter training and advanced courses for first responders. Owner and director, Michael C. Simmons is a former firefighter with first responder qualifications and he started the academy in 1998. The academy classroom courses are offered online with a 2 day skills training program in Rockwell. Both basic and advanced training is available including HAZMAT, EMT, investigator and inspector courses.
The Sycuan Firefighting Academy, El Cajon CA
This program is a 30 day “boot camp” style teaching academy. Graduates are certified under rigorous federal firefighting standards. The academy specializes in aviation and wilderness fire training and recruits must have physical strength and stamina to complete the course. First preference is given to Native American applicants who meet the academy's high standards. Among the top firefighter schools, only Sycuan offers federal firefighter certification.
Although there are many fine firefighter schools and academies throughout the United States, these five schools are consistently named by firefighters as the best training programs in the country. Since training programs are usually paid by employers, most schools provide information on tuition upon request. Some schools may require a referral from an employer for advanced courses. Whichever school and payment arrangement is chosen, aspiring firefighters will not be disappointed by the training offered at any of these prominent firefighting schools.