Six fire departments in King County are working to make the process of getting into a fire service career more accessible, affordable and inclusive.
WA Fire Careers (WAFireCareers.org) launched in mid-March as a collaborative effort between Eastside Fire & Rescue, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, Renton Regional Fire Authority, South King Fire & Rescue, Tukwila Fire Department and Valley Regional Fire Authority.
As a streamlined process for taking fire service entrance exams, WA Fire Careers aims to eliminate barriers some applicants face in the testing and hiring processes. It is now the sole route an applicant must take in order to apply for firefighter positions and be hired at any of the six departments.
When it comes to the fire service, there’s not a lot of question that there is a lack of diversity, said Katie Lewis, communications manager for Renton Regional Fire Authority.
“We want to try and create a fire service in King County that represents the communities we’re serving,” Lewis said. WA Fire Careers addresses these representation factors that create barriers, such as affordability and exam access, to show “it doesn’t matter what your background is — anyone can be a firefighter and represent our community.”
The organization now offers a fully electronic exam open over a 48-hour exam window, through a partnership with exam administrator Fire and Police Selection Inc. (FPSI) and exam proctor Examity. This shift removes previous barriers of transportation costs, childcare, or other personal obligations that applicants may have faced in needing to travel to a specific testing location in the past.
Compared to previous financial requirements of paying for an exam and then paying for your scores to be sent to various departments, WA Fire Careers offers the exam for $33 and sends exam scores to all agencies within the organization. In addition to the exam, the price includes the exam process orientation guide, exam sample questions, and the ability to choose an exam time slot within the 48-hour window.
While planning for the WA Fire Careers organization began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an electronic exam has become the safest practice for both staff and applicants.
“It wasn’t the driving force, but it’s certainly an added benefit,” Lewis said.
WA Fire Careers upcoming exam window is scheduled for Friday, April 30, through Saturday, May 1. The deadline to register for this exam window is Monday, April 19. Applicants who test in the upcoming exam window will fill recruit vacancies in the Sept. 2021 and Feb. 2022 fire academies for several of the departments.
Exams will be available about twice a year depending on the involved departments’ hiring opportunities. For more information, to register or to join the mailing list, visit WAFireCareers.org.