I Want To Be A… Firefighter

By Arkansas Next on Friday, October 21, 2022

Hannah Jobe
Christopher Walker is a fire apparatus engineer at Little Rock Fire Department Station 7.

Hometown: Little Rock

My training: Little Rock Fire Academy, Southern Arkansas University

My job: Fire apparatus engineer at Little Rock Fire Department Station 7

As a child, Christopher saw movies featuring firefighters and always thought it was a cool profession, but he also recognized the dangers of the job. After high school, Christopher pursued a career in the medical field. He enrolled at Southern Arkansas University where he earned a degree in health science, with expectations of going to nursing school. His goals changed, however, and Christopher soon found himself applying to paramedic school through the Little Rock Fire Department (where he was immediately hired after graduation). 

His transition from nursing to emergency response (and ultimately, firefighting) made sense, as a lot of calls firefighters respond to are medical emergencies. And while this route didn’t require a traditional four-year degree, it was still a lot of hard work. “To become a firefighter, it takes lots of training and studying,” Christopher said. “The fire academy can be extremely difficult, if you don't prepare yourself physically and mentally; and you must be willing to make sacrifices.”

Christopher is inspired by his team. No matter what situation is thrown their way, he knows he can depend on his teammates to follow through. Although there are ranks within the department, Christopher finds value in every team member’s input. “You build relationships and bonds with [people] that will last forever,” Christopher said. “We all get together on our off days and hang out with family and friends.”

“Another thing I love, is the response we get from the community we serve,” he said. “We visit the local grocery store and everyone is so friendly and welcoming, and these are the same people whose houses we go to when they are in need of help.”

Christopher was recently promoted to apparatus engineer, so his daily duties include making sure the fire engine is in working order at all times. He inspects the apparatus every day, checking the firehose, medical equipment, tires and more. 

“To anyone looking to pursue a career in firefighting, [you] must be strong-willed and strong-minded,” he said. “...and some departments allow you to do a ride-along just to get a feel for how the job goes.”

Becoming a FIREFIGHTER in Arkansas

► Education required: 

  • Technical certificate or certificate of proficiency
  • Basic firefighter training program in the city or community of interest

► 210 annual projected job openings for firefighters in Arkansas 

► 12% projected job growth for firefighters in Arkansas by 2028

► 75% of Arkansas firefighters pursued two years or fewer of college after high school

► $36,750 - median annual wage for firefighters in Arkansas

► $80,090 - median wage earned by the top 10% of firefighter supervisors and fire chiefs 

Climb the Ladder (while climbing the ladder!)

Advance into supervisor roles and earn more money. Cool jobs to work towards:

  • Battalion fire chief
  • Engine boss
  • Fire captain
  • Fire management officer
  • Fire marshal
  • Fire suppression captain
  • Forest fire specialist supervisor
  • Section forest fire warden

Source: All data from bls.gov/oes/ar unless otherwise stated

Need More Heroes

“Nationally, the supply of working paramedics is not keeping up with demand. Due to this shortage, fire departments experience increasing difficulties in hiring paramedic-firefighters. This staffing challenge is a growing problem for public safety…”

► 2,760 Estimate number of firefighters, forest fire preventionalists and firefighter supervisors in Arkansas

► 1,830 - Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in Arkansas

Source: Homeland Security Affairs

WANTED—Girl Power!

► Only 8% of firefighters in the U.S. are women

► Only 21% of paramedics in the U.S. are women

► Only 30% of EMTs in the U.S. are women

Source: nfpa.org and bls.gov/cps