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CDF or Reserves?

Whats the best option for getting some firefighter experience under my belt?

I've applied for both CDF and Reserves this year. I have interviews for Humbolt and Mendocino County and am still waiting to hear back from the Reserves.

If I'm lucky enough to have all three offered to me, what would you guys suggest I take?

I have no firefighting experience under my belt except for a couple ride alongs in my home town. This is also where I would be a Reserve.
This message was edited by cultex on 2-17-05 @ 6:20 PM

In SoCal CDF FFI's work 96 hour work weeks, with the opportunity to be gone for much longer on strike teams.....but you get paid. Reserves normally don't get paid, yet get to really see how city station life is like. Depending on where you want to end up, is how your decision will be made. Not knocking CDF'ers, but Schedule B (wildland) station life is nothing like working for a city department. Not that city department life is better, just totally different. CDF is alot more laidback, their hiring process is a joke. They have good people, but they primarily end up with all the dumbass*s that could not get hired by a CITY department. I have worked around both as a reserve/volunteer. Now that I have a career position with a city, I am glad I never got wrapped into CDF, either schedule A or B. Just an opinion.

CDF will be a great place for you if you want to fight fire. Yes its different, not better or worse just different. ...and stewpitt...for a fireMAN that doesnt want to knock CDF, you sure do a good job. Lets see...Dumba**s that couldnt get jobs in 'city' departments, testing process a joke...Good job. Way to be encouraging and supportive. Are we all to assume that County departments are a joke as well, afterall they are not city departments. And just for your info, Ive known a few fairly questionable folk that worked for city departments as well.....

Thanks for the tips.

The Reserves in my city does pay while you're on training and when you answer calls.

CDF is an excellent way to get into the fire service and even to persue as a career. I am slightly irked at stewpitt's comment's that CDF firefighters are the dumb@$$*s that couldn't get hired by a "city" department. I was offered two firefighter/medic jobs in the same week for "city" departments and additionally was offered a CDF Engineer/Paramedic position two days later. I was elated after testing for almost three years I finally had multiple job offers. It so happened that the 72 hour shift configuration worked best for my home life with a one day a week 2 hour drive to work. So it only made sense to accept the job offer with CDF at a Schedule A contract station. It baffles me that someone who represents themselves as a professional firefighter can be so quick to judge another person in the same profession. We all belong to the same "brotherhood," so let's start acting like it. Yes, some of CDFs hiring process is a little quirky, but that's the State's way of doing things. I hope whatever decision you make furthers your dream as a professional firefighter.

It's all good. Unfortunately, I have run into alot of real KOOKES that work for CDF. Then again, I have worked with some really sharp individuals from CDF. Let me clarify........NOT ALL, BUT MOST I HAVE WORKED WITH. It seems that misfits (mostly overwieght, complacents) have an easier time getting hired by CDF than with city or county departments that have AN ACTUAL TESTING PROCESS( structured interviews, stringent backgrounds, agilities etc.). Seriously, where else, but with CDF do you get points in a hiring process FOR BEING AN INMATE?!?!?!?!?! I guess I am a dumbas* since I didn't SETTLE, give up on difficult testing processes and take a job with CDF......NOT. Supplemental???? Hired because you have every certificate?????? Bash me all you want, it's cool. It is funny to see most of those overweight FAE's trying to run a "2" man Type I or III engine, when most were LT II's forever (while trying to get on a city department ofcourse) and finally get hired. I don't want to fight with you people. I write straight from the hip, If it hurts people's feelings....I really don't give a sh*t. The truth sometimes hurts .

Reserve programs are different, some are very good and some are glorified explorers, without knowing about the particular program it is hard to give you much advice, you should look at CDF's salary and keep in mind it is seasonal work, if you have a good job and need the steady income the reserve program may be better. CDF will most likely give you much more experience, CDF is a great organization with alot of potential and variety. CDF has wildland engines, helicopters, tanker bases, structure engines, truck companies, rescue companies and hazmat units depending on where you work. CDF also has paid call and volunteer positions again depending on where you live. Right now is a good time to get into CDF because they have many openings in the permanent work force due largely to the pay and 72 hour work week, CDF does give extra points for CDF employment and their seasonals get better benefits than the Feds.

I don't know anybody who has worked for CDF that doesn't have good memories of their time working for them.

I don't know what stewpitts issue is with CDF but that opinion doesn't fit with my experience at all and I've worked around CDF alot.

CDF is definately different from "the big city" but not all that much different than many of the smaller departments out there.

I would go with the CDF position. If you talk to any firefighter who used to work with CDF they will tell you that they saw more fire working with CDF then their whole career working at some big city department. You will get a lot of experience which will help you w/anydirection you choose to take in the future. Most of us want to work for a "city department", but would we take a full time position with CDF? I would in a heart beat. You can always still test if you like. Stewpit, CDF is the largest dept. in CA so of course you will get all types of people who work there (some not as fit as others). Maybe everyone at your dept. can win the iron man competition, but I doubt it. I don't know why people bash other departments. I know people who used to work for CDF who now work for the large SoCal depts. and they all loved CDF. Riverside County CDF is a great place to work as well as San Diego. OCFA used to be CDF a long time ago. Many people who work there (OCFA) now were there when it was CDF. I would love to see Stewpit call them a dumb@ss, especially since you would be talking to a lot of Chiefs. My brother worked as a firefighter I for CDF (San Bernardino) for three seasons before getting picked up with LA City fire. He is very smart (just got his masters degree). His knowledge of wildland firefighting has helped him a lot with his job. Many people do not have a good knowledge of wildland firefighting, that is the great thing about the fire service, not everyone needs to be an expert on every aspect of the job. Everyone works together and combines their education and experience together to find a solution to the problem. Good luck Cultex. Which every decision you make you will gain experience which will help you in the future.

Awsome everyone, thanks again!

I'm going to get my CPR/First Aid Certs tomorrow before I go for interviewing. It's not much, but it's better than not having it.

I'm hoping my two degrees will help me get in for definate.

Some Quick Thoughts,
Take negative comments about CDF with a grain of salt. It is a very large (let me reemphsize, huge) department covering many different geographical and socio-economic areas. Each ranger unit is essentially it own department. Each has its own idiosyncracies. I have worked in and around CDF personnel from the Santa Clara and Butte units. Personnel from both units were very knowledgable regarding firefighting operations. The bottom line is, were will you get the most experience, and what are your future goals? If you have a particular city or municipality in mind I would speak with station personnel from that area. It is a question that you could definantly ask while doing station visists or ride-a-longs. When sitting on oral boards in the past, I have found that former CDF employees were knowledgeable and polite, and understood the role of the firefighter. I can't speak for each unit, but I can tell you I have never met a CDF firefighter that sat around the station all day and did nothing. The CDF stations I have been in have always been clean and full of personnel that understood there daily chores and performed them appropriately. There are also some ranger units with paid call firefighters, look into the units in your area and see if that is an option
Jon :8|:

Everyone is entitled to there own opinion, but I will say that CDF is pretty much the only department in the state that just about anyone can get away with bashing without fear of being immediately shouted down. (Try saying LAFD, or SFFD is full of "kookes" and see what the response is)!

CDF is not for everyone. Neither is any department. Every department has dead wood. If you think the traditional testing process can't be gamed, or picks only the cream of the crop to give the jobs, you clearly haven't been around this business long enough.
I can assure you that the majority of Rank and File CDF'ers would like to see a different testing process, but that involves politics the likes of which local jurisdictions cannot fathom.

The key questions to ask yourself before deciding on what path to take are:

1) What do I want to do with my career?

2) Where do I want to work?

3) What obligations do I currently have?

4) What sacrifices am I willing to make?

Stewpitt: If you are who I think you are, where's the love?
Good Luck!

I think in the position I stand, I have the oportunity to hopefully try out both CDF and a city department. I'm sure after that I would be able to make a better decision on where I want to take my firefighting career.

I love California, and definately want to stay here. Ideally I would work near the beach, but I'll take anything now.

Another lucky thing is, I don't have any obligations. I have no GF or children, so I can pretty much go wherever I want to.

And as far as sacrafice, I was in the Army, and know all about leaving my friends and family to achieve a dream and a life goal.

That is probably true that everyone feels so comfortable with bashing CDF....However why do we feel the need to bash anyone in the fire service. Think about it...CDF fights more fire, and more BIG fire then probably anyone in the nation, and they do it for a lot less money....maybe it's about time we stop and give them some serious overdue "props"....and as far as being dumb@@s'....Im sure all the company and chief officer in CDF really appreciate that. Im sure that so too do all the "city" fire folks who came through CDF ranks...I know many company officers and a few chief officers who started with the state. ALL say it was a great training experience and fought a lot of fire!

Think about it


I am a little late to this topic, but if you still are browsing responses here's my .02.

The benefits you will reap by starting your fire service career in the CDF are huge. First and foremost is a BOMB-PROOF WORK ETHIC. Say what you will about sched B-ers, but they know what it means to work from sun-up to sundown (and more) and will hike circles around most Type 1 strike teams. It is an experience you will continually draw upon not only during your pursuit of a permanent position, but when you achieve that goal as well. I too know many Captains and Chiefs of city dept's (including my own BC) that got their start with the Great State of California.

Also keep in mind that you can reserve/volunteer during the off-season to further your experience on the sched A side.

Take care and good luck.

I would just like to send out a sincere thank you to all the staff I had the pleasure to work for with CDF. They taught me everything I know about firefighting. I would'nt even be testing with any department had I not got ALL of my training through them. We should never have any thing negative to say about our brothers and sisters. Good luck anyone trying to achieve your dream.
God Bless, Scott Cowan