Career Story: Firefighter

Ky-ree is a firefighter and is considering buying a house. Hear how he’s preparing to fulfill long-term goals while paying off his car loan and credit card debt.

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My name is Ky-ree Toadvine.
KY-REE, 25
FIREFIGHTER, LOS ANGELES

I'm a firefighter,
and currently I make anywhere

from 65 to 70 grand a year.

As a firefighter
every day is different,

there is not really a routine to it.

We could be going to a
medical emergency at one moment

which we're in someone's home
and helping them.

Or we could be going
to an actual structural fire

in which we will have
to utilize fire suppression efforts

to put out the fire effectively.

Or even, we could respond
to a traffic accident

in which there is a trapped,
pinned victim

and we need to unpin them.

There's a lot of different things
going on, and it’s always different.

Well right now
I'm just a probationary member,

and it’s not necessarily
a bad thing to be

a probationary member.

It just means that
I'm still learning at the moment.

I'm actually in the field,
I've passed the academy,

and I'm learning the ropes of what
to actually do while in the field.

And my main role I will say
is to learn as much as possible

so that I could be as effective
at my job as I possibly can

after this probationary year.

So, as a firefighter I currently
make 65 to 70,000 dollars a year

just for my probationary year.

There are pay increases
that come in through over time,

about six months in
I'll get another pay increase

and then a year in
I'll get another pay increase.

And then there are other
certifications that we could get,

like our paramedic certification
which will give us a bonus.

If you like to be USAR,
Urban Search and Rescue Certified

then you can also go
and take the classes to get

that certification which will also
give you sort of a bonus.

Same thing for hazardous materials

if you're at that specialized station
then you can get those classes

taken care of and receive
those certifications for that bonus.

I study as often as I possibly can.

There's loads of information
that I don't know anything about.

One such example is
building construction.

I didn't have a building
construction background

coming into this career field,

so I have to take the initiative
to make sure I study it

as often as possible just to make sure
that I don't let the knowledge,

or skill set, slip away from me.

I'm studying
building construction because,

say if we're on top of a roof
during a fire,

we have to ventilate the building.

We have to know what
typical rafter direction is

so that we can effectively
cut the roofing off of the roof

and allow the fire to ventilate
outside of the roof,

or to ventilate vertically.

That will allow us to also tell
if there may be

signs of collapse going on.

Also, I mentioned
being physically and mentally fit.

We have to make sure that
we take on a set of fitness

that's not just aesthetic.

You have to make sure
that its actual, functional,

actually functional, excuse me,
and take that and make sure that

we're actually adaptable
in the field as well

with our fitness and
what we can do in the field.

And it keeps us mentally fit as well

because it allows us to
keep the edge off

and takes off the stress
a little bit as well

so we can continue
to think effectively,

and be effective
in our field as well.

Within our work week,
we work three 24-hour days

out of a five-day work week,
typically.

From that we start our week
with working one day, 24 hours,

having one full day off,
working the next day 24 hours,

having the next day off,
and then working one last day,

and then having four days off.

But that's also not
counting any overtime

in which you may want to pick up
and which we also work 24 hours.

And within that 24 hours like I said

we would be responding
to a number of amount of incidents,

non-emergency, emergency,

maybe doing
community service as well.

So, during our 24 hours
we are at the station

a majority of the time.
That's if we're not running calls.

If it's not a busy day, that we may
be out running calls or

if there is an errand to be done,

then we may need to go out
and do an errand,

or if there's training to be done
we will be out doing our training

with another company.

When I'm working for 24 hours
at a time on platoon duty

we're not awake for exactly
24 hours throughout the day.

We do have times
where we can rest,

and cook or do whatever
we need to take care

of what we may need.

The station is basically like a house,
and we're all there together.

The challenges of a firefighter
within the city

versus say the country,

say LA versus,
like you said, Boise, Idaho,

would be the first thing I think of
is Downtown Los Angeles,

high rises,

they're tough to climb.

It's a lot of different construction
aspects to go into,

it's a lot of different
elevator problems

you will go into as well.

There's a totally different,
well not totally different,

but there is a different approach
you take to structural firefighting

within a high rise as well.
That's the first thing.

And also, a denser
population of people.

You have a lot of
different type of people,

you have a lot of tourists
coming through

so at any moment
you could be responding

to a medical call which we run
80 to 90 percent of

within the department.

But you may be running
on someone who's from Italy

and doesn't even speak English.

Okay, so different skills
and mindset that you need to have

is just more likely
just being adaptable.

You have to know that
there's never going to be

a been there, done that situation.

You have to be committed
to taking in loads of information

that you may know nothing
about at the time.

And also make sure that
you're able to comprehend

what may be going on at the time.

And not freeze up
or anything of that nature

when it's time to perform.

I'm Ky-ree Toadvine,
I'm 25 years old,
KY-REE, 25
FIREFIGHTER, LOS ANGELES

and I'm a firefighter.

I graduated high school in 2009,
from Crenshaw High School,

and I was initially going
to Cal Poly Pomona

for mechanical engineering.
I was pursuing that for a while,

thinking I wanted to do
something mechanical.

It didn't really
necessarily work out,

because I could tell by the way
that my performance was

that I wasn't very
passionate about it.

So, I decided to dial things
back a little bit

and go take different classes
at a community college.

And at that time when I was
looking up classes,

I actually had a
personal emergency happen,

not to me, but someone dear to me,
that required

the response of firefighters
and transport to a hospital.

That's when I realized that,
what type of job they have.

They have something
that was dynamic,

something that was always changing.

It just required you to be able
to have a working knowledge

and skill set that isn't,
that doesn't require you

to just sit at a desk,
but also requires you

to be able to continuously
think in many different ways,

and adapt as the times come.

And that's when I knew that
that was something

that I wanted to do.
That was along the lines

of what I wanted to do
with the rest of my life.

So, the steps needed
to become a firefighter would be
REQUIREMENTS TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER:

to first have your high school diploma
or an equivalent,
HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR EQUIVALENT

to have your EMT certification
and be at least 18 years old.
EMT CERTIFICATION
AGE 18 OR ABOVE

Once you meet those requirements,
then you can apply to

many different departments;
larger departments mostly.
PASS DEPARTMENT APPLICATION PROCESS

If you would like to open up that,

if you would like a wider
array of departments

to be able to apply to,
for example to smaller departments,

then you would need something
like a fire academy,
IN SOME CASES COMPLETE

some smaller departments
would like for you
FIRE ACADEMY OR PARAMEDIC TRAINING

to be a paramedic as well.

So, I enrolled in community college,

took my Emergency
Medical Technician class,

and it teaches you the basics for
basic life-saving skills, basically.

You can, it certifies you
to do basic things

like take blood pressures,
and respond to emergencies.

And gets you ready mentally,
especially, to be able to

respond to these incidents

and know the tools that you have
on board of the ambulance,

so that you can use,
you can utilize them effectively

to actually respond
to these emergencies.

After I finished my
Emergency Medical Technician class,

I went and found a job that
does emergency transports

with another fire department
within the city of Los Angeles.

I continued to work there
for two years,

and at that point,
I gained experience

and responded to many
different emergencies,

whether it be a gunshot
wound victim,

a stabbing victim,
or just someone

who needs to be
transported from a hospital

to another hospital.

Those are called
inter-facility transports

versus an emergency medical transport.

That gave me loads of experience
doing the inter-facility transports

and the emergency transports.

The emergency transports
gave me the,

I would say,
poise and knowledge

to be able to use the tools
and knowledge that I have

that I gained from my
Emergency Medical Technician class

to respond to different emergencies.

And an inter-facility transport
gave me loads of experience

with just dealing with people.

Just being able to make sure
that I'm a people person,

and that really lets you know
if you're cut out for this job.

The Fire Academy
was pretty rigorous.

We had, every day that we went in,
we worked 10 hour days

for four days, sometimes five,
where we come in for

an extra day for a few hours
to get more practice on

whatever tools that we needed
to get more practice on.

During those days,
we would start each day

with physical fitness.

So we would go into
the gym that we had,

and we would do
whatever training regimen

the cadre had for us.

We would do that for an hour,
hour and a half, two hours tops,

and then we would get that
part of the day done,

we'd set up for the
rest of the day as well,

and then get into whatever training
that we may have had.

For example, firefighter survival,
which is making sure

that we keep our cool
and that we're able to get ourselves

out of entanglements or collapse,
or know what to do

when we can't get ourselves out
to put out that Mayday call.

Every fire department has a test,
and an interview that you must pass

in order to become
an entry level firefighter

with that department.

So different fire departments
have different tests,

and they're geared towards
different things as well.

Some tests may have basic math
and English on it,

and some may go a little more
in-depth to other things

that the department may want to
gear their hiring towards,

or to gear the type of people
that they want to hire towards.

So, once you graduate the academy,

then you start
your probationary year.

And at that point, you start
to learn the different tools

and the different tools and tactics

that you need for
fire suppression efforts.

You also have to continue to train
on the things that you

learned in academy,
for example, throwing ladders.

And what we call phase testing,
which is actually taking

some of the things you've learned
while during the academy,

and actually doing them.

The growth opportunities are vast.

You can go into
pretty much anything.

If someone wanted to be
an emergency dispatcher

and see what that was like,

they can go into the dispatch arena
and become a dispatcher for a while.

If you wanted to be a fire inspector,
you could be an inspector.

If you wanna be a paramedic,
you could be a paramedic.

If one day you wanna
become a captain,

then of course that takes
a larger skill set

than maybe the
rest of the professions,

but then you'll have to
continue to make sure

that you're as studious as possible
to pass that captain's test.

And also pass that captain's
interview to become a captain.

And then there are two
ranks of captain as well.

If you wanted to go
even higher than that,

to become a chief,

then you can do that as well
later on in your career.

So, the life of a firefighter
is pretty much

a long learning process.

As long as your career,
you will be learning

something new almost every day.

My advice to people just starting out
trying to become firefighters

is to go as hard
as you possibly can,

get as much under your belt
as you possibly can.

Myself personally,
I did everything I could

to make myself stand out,
and I also did everything I could

to make sure that that
interview went well.

For example,
when I was a CPR instructor,

I did that so that I can hone
or perfect my speaking skills

for the interview.

And I believe that
helped me tremendously.

You have to recognize
your own weaknesses,

and you have to fix it
or capitalize off of it.

My name is Ky-ree Toadvine.
KY-REE, 25
FIREFIGHTER, LOS ANGELES

I'm a firefighter
and currently I make anywhere

from 65 to 70 grand a year.

So, I feel pretty
good about my finances.

Compared to about five years ago
where I just working

for minimum wage at Target.

I've come a long way
and I feel like in the future,

my finances just have
nowhere but up to look.

So, for school
and for the fire academy,

I was able to pay for it
usually through financial aid

and when I didn't have financial aid,

I was able to sustain myself
with the money I was making

with my job as an EMT.

Currently, I am paying
for my credit card debt

that I procured while going
full-time into the academy

before I was able
to get my first check.

I am currently $3,000 in debt
in credit card debt

and I also have a car loan
that I'm currently paying off.

Living in Los Angeles is, of course
a higher cost of living

than it is in most places.

I'm not a very expensive person.
[laughs]

I don't really spend
a whole lot on food,

I would think anyways,
although I do eat a lot.

But I'm not home all the time,

so, I don't spend a lot on
bills and utilities like that.

I like living in Los Angeles
because it's home mainly,

but because we have
so many different things

going on all the time.

We have the beach, we have the city,
we have many different things,

and especially if you want to go to
a different part of California,

you can always just
drive up to Big Bear

or something like that,
go to the lake or anything like that.

And that's what really
makes it home for me

because it has a wide array
of things that you can do

and I think it's worth it
to live out here,

even if it is just
a little bit more expensive.

My basic annual salary
is $70,000 per year.
KY-REE’S BUDGET:

Monthly, we'll take about $5,800,
and then after taxes, pension,
MONTHLY SALARY $5,800

and the $400 that
I'm putting into my IRA
TAXES AND OTHER DEDUCTIONS
$2,900

to save up for the future
for retirement,
NET TAKE HOME INCOME $2,900

I will take home about $2,900.
Then, I have my expenses.

I share a place,
so I have a roommate,

so I pay about $1,350 per month.
RENT $1,350

For utilities, I pay about $60.
UTILITIES $60

And for the internet and TV,
I don't watch a whole lot of TV
INTERNET & CABLE

so I only pay about $50
which is only for the internet.
$50

My phone bill is $130 per month
usually monthly.
CELL PHONE $130

I have car payments, as well.
CAR PAYMENT $330

My car note is $330.
My insurance runs me $120.
INSURANCE $120

And for gas, I usually run
about $140 per month.
GAS $140

I don't eat a lot at home,
so I don't spend
FOOD

a whole lot of money at home
because we're usually at the station.

We have really good food
at the station, as well.

The people there are
usually really good cooks,

so I only spend about
$250 per month for food.
$250

For the gym,
I usually pay about $30,
GYM $30

and then for entertainment,
I'll usually pay about $120,
ENTERTAINMENT $120

which will usually run me
to about $320 to $350
REMAINING $320

left over per month.

But then there's plenty of
opportunities for overtime,

which allows me to
bring in more money

to put even more money
to save towards the house

that I eventually wanna get
in a couple years.

I am currently saving for the future.

I would like to be
able to buy a house

within a couple of years’ time.

That's the main goal right there.

I have not set up
an emergency fund yet.

Right now, I'm concentrating
on getting the credit card debt

taken care of and also
paying off my car, my car note.

And next up would be
to set up an emergency fund.

So, I'm hoping to have
the credit card debt

taken care of as soon as possible.

Since I started working, I've learned
that the more money you make,

you do tend to spend a little bit more,

but there are other ways
to hold onto that money.

For example, you can give that
money to different programs

that you may have
a soft heart towards, I believe,

or even just start putting it
towards savings.

You just have to have
a little more willpower

with your spending and be able
to put it into different places.

My name is Ky-ree Toadvine.
KY-REE, 25
FIREFIGHTER, LOS ANGELES

I'm a firefighter,
and currently I make anywhere

from 65 to 70 grand a year.

As a firefighter
every day is different,

there is not really a routine to it.

We could be going to a
medical emergency at one moment

which we're in someone's home
and helping them.

Or we could be going
to an actual structural fire

in which we will have
to utilize fire suppression efforts

to put out the fire effectively.

Or even, we could respond
to a traffic accident

in which there is a trapped,
pinned victim

and we need to unpin them.

There's a lot of different things
going on, and it’s always different.

Well right now
I'm just a probationary member,

and it’s not necessarily
a bad thing to be

a probationary member.

It just means that
I'm still learning at the moment.

I'm actually in the field,
I've passed the academy,

and I'm learning the ropes of what
to actually do while in the field.

And my main role I will say
is to learn as much as possible

so that I could be as effective
at my job as I possibly can

after this probationary year.

So, as a firefighter I currently
make 65 to 70,000 dollars a year

just for my probationary year.

There are pay increases
that come in through over time,

about six months in
I'll get another pay increase

and then a year in
I'll get another pay increase.

And then there are other
certifications that we could get,

like our paramedic certification
which will give us a bonus.

If you like to be USAR,
Urban Search and Rescue Certified

then you can also go
and take the classes to get

that certification which will also
give you sort of a bonus.

Same thing for hazardous materials

if you're at that specialized station
then you can get those classes

taken care of and receive
those certifications for that bonus.

I study as often as I possibly can.

There's loads of information
that I don't know anything about.

One such example is
building construction.

I didn't have a building
construction background

coming into this career field,

so I have to take the initiative
to make sure I study it

as often as possible just to make sure
that I don't let the knowledge,

or skill set, slip away from me.

I'm studying
building construction because,

say if we're on top of a roof
during a fire,

we have to ventilate the building.

We have to know what
typical rafter direction is

so that we can effectively
cut the roofing off of the roof

and allow the fire to ventilate
outside of the roof,

or to ventilate vertically.

That will allow us to also tell
if there may be

signs of collapse going on.

Also, I mentioned
being physically and mentally fit.

We have to make sure that
we take on a set of fitness

that's not just aesthetic.

You have to make sure
that its actual, functional,

actually functional, excuse me,
and take that and make sure that

we're actually adaptable
in the field as well

with our fitness and
what we can do in the field.

And it keeps us mentally fit as well

because it allows us to
keep the edge off

and takes off the stress
a little bit as well

so we can continue
to think effectively,

and be effective
in our field as well.

Within our work week,
we work three 24-hour days

out of a five-day work week,
typically.

From that we start our week
with working one day, 24 hours,

having one full day off,
working the next day 24 hours,

having the next day off,
and then working one last day,

and then having four days off.

But that's also not
counting any overtime

in which you may want to pick up
and which we also work 24 hours.

And within that 24 hours like I said

we would be responding
to a number of amount of incidents,

non-emergency, emergency,

maybe doing
community service as well.

So, during our 24 hours
we are at the station

a majority of the time.
That's if we're not running calls.

If it's not a busy day, that we may
be out running calls or

if there is an errand to be done,

then we may need to go out
and do an errand,

or if there's training to be done
we will be out doing our training

with another company.

When I'm working for 24 hours
at a time on platoon duty

we're not awake for exactly
24 hours throughout the day.

We do have times
where we can rest,

and cook or do whatever
we need to take care

of what we may need.

The station is basically like a house,
and we're all there together.

The challenges of a firefighter
within the city

versus say the country,

say LA versus,
like you said, Boise, Idaho,

would be the first thing I think of
is Downtown Los Angeles,

high rises,

they're tough to climb.

It's a lot of different construction
aspects to go into,

it's a lot of different
elevator problems

you will go into as well.

There's a totally different,
well not totally different,

but there is a different approach
you take to structural firefighting

within a high rise as well.
That's the first thing.

And also, a denser
population of people.

You have a lot of
different type of people,

you have a lot of tourists
coming through

so at any moment
you could be responding

to a medical call which we run
80 to 90 percent of

within the department.

But you may be running
on someone who's from Italy

and doesn't even speak English.

Okay, so different skills
and mindset that you need to have

is just more likely
just being adaptable.

You have to know that
there's never going to be

a been there, done that situation.

You have to be committed
to taking in loads of information

that you may know nothing
about at the time.

And also make sure that
you're able to comprehend

what may be going on at the time.

And not freeze up
or anything of that nature

when it's time to perform.