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Can a Felon Become a Firefighter?

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Many grow up with a dream of being a firefighter.  It is one of the most common youthful aspirations.

While for many it remains just a dream, for some it does become reality. Then for others just the opposite may occur.

They may get off track, losing sight of previous life ambitions and take up a life of crime.

For those who continue along this path, it can have disastrous consequences.

Just as with becoming a police officer that was covered in another recent blog post, an honorable life’s dreams are smashed by that terrible felony conviction and time served in prison for that crime.

After incarceration some may still have that desire to become a firefighter.

This blog post will cover whether felons can become a firefighter.

  • Qualifications to Become a Firefighter
  • To Serve and Protect
  • Living Out the Dream
  • Encouraging Felons in Becoming a Firefighter


Qualifications to Become a Firefighter

There is no federal or state law prohibiting felons from becoming a firefighter.  Such rules are up to individual jurisdictions to establish.

In some areas, regulations impose that applicants may not have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, which is lying, stealing, or fraud under State or Federal law or the Code of Military Justice.

They may not have been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, such as assault with bodily injury, or Class B misdemeanor, such as drug possession, in the past five years, a DUI within 10 years, or a Class C misdemeanor for family assault/domestic violence within three years.

Additionally, they may not have had a felony conviction related to a firefighter position, such as arson, burglary, larceny, or murder.  While these may not be an automatic ban from employment, it does complicate the application process.

Some regulations state that applicants may not have any criminal record showing even a series of misdemeanors indicating habitual disrespect for the law.

They may not be under indictment for any criminal offense or wanted by any law enforcement agency at the time of applying.

Another factor typically checked in any firefighter application is credit history showing a commitment to paying debts, including number and types of debts and extenuating circumstances.  These reflect an applicant’s judgment and integrity.

To Serve and Protect

Last week’s blog post stated that police officer candidates are measured on the five I’s, which are integrity, intellect, industry, initiative, and impact.

While this is not expressly stated for firefighters, the reasoning is the same.  Those who are desired for a firefighter position will be honest and ethical, intelligent, unafraid of hard work, able to think independently, take charge, and make a positive impression on others.

After all, a firefighter is in the position of saving lives, and as public servants, they are there to serve and protect.

Those who are already firefighters understand the commitment required for the position.

Many think that what if one of my fellow firefighters has a felony record?  Here I am working alongside them in a dangerous fire, not only rescuing other people but responsible at least in part for my and other firefighters’ lives as well.

Do I want to be in this life threatening experience with someone who has shown a significant history of turning their back on societal rules and the well-being of others already?  Can I trust them to have my back and others as well?

Then there is the point that those with a felony conviction are at very high risk for a return to their criminal ways and 67% returning to prison within two years.

Will they maintain an honest life or resort to old ways?

Equally difficult for felon applicants is when they indicate a felony record on the application.  There are numerous applicants for firefighter positions with high competition.  Having a criminal record can be enough to eliminate most of those with a criminal history.

It is considered discrimination to disqualify someone for employment strictly for having a conviction.  It is not discrimination to eliminate an applicant because of how their conviction could impact the company and their job performance.

Living Out the Dream

Nevertheless, some will keep their dream alive and pursue this career.  They are to be commended for their persistence.  What will help them in this endeavor?

First, they will have a better chance of succeeding the more time that has passed since their conviction.

Also, the more they have done to seek help and rehabilitate themselves the better.  There are re-entry programs available to felons upon returning to society.  They may seek to have their record expunged.

One suggestion for those such persons, is to initially apply for a volunteer firefighter job for the training and experience.  There will usually be far less competition for those jobs.

Getting a foot in the door can make a big difference, showing the commitment, desire, and persistence to overcome obstacles.

Encouraging Felons in Becoming a Firefighter

Families of those felons wanting to have a career in firefighting can encourage their loved one to look into volunteer firefighting to begin.

Then with this experience and living an honest life, they can go far in keeping their dream alive.  Help them pursue their dream.

Remind them of the importance of setting, working toward, and reaching a goal, especially one as honorable as to serve and protect one’s fellow man.

What do you think about this blog post?  Have you or someone you know with a felony tried to become a firefighter?  What was it like for them, and were they successful?  Please tell us in the comments below.

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