How To Answer Firefighter Oral Board Questions. (Or…You’re Not Dan Allred.)

Have you had heroes in your life?

When I was young, it was “Superman”.

I’ve had very few as an adult who became a firefighter, paramedic, and student of the human condition.

I’ve learned that the term is thrown around by television and news to hype stories.  I also find that those news outlets typically begin looking for the “fallen hero” story before the ink has dried on their original story because it sells advertising.  A complete fool can be a news level “hero” if they’re in the right place at the right time, or its a slow news day.

Heroes are so, because they always were and always will be, not because CNN or Entertainment Tonight does a story on them.  However imperfect they may be as a human being…They’re a hero through and through.  They’re rare, but every now and again, you run into one.

Dan Allred is a hero. A working firefighter would be hard pressed to find fault in a guy who has demonstrated with his entire life a passion for the profession, has never been outworked, and who has more fire ground talent than anyone i’ve ever seen.  He leads by natural ability to get you to want to make him proud of your performance.  He teaches the most rudimentary drills over and over if needed with an enthusiasm and commitment to the guys he’s helping that exceeds that of a new captain.  In short, the term “hero” is merited when discussing a man like him.  He’s been the same amazing firefighter from a young man growing up in his dad’s firehouse to becoming a Battalion Chief on my department.

I wanted to model my firefighting career to be just like him after I came on the job.  He was and is worth it.  In thirteen years, this hasn’t changed, except for one thing…

No matter how hard I tried, I could never be Dan Allred.

This was a very real conclusion that I came to some years ago when I was ill and wondering what I would be able to do with the rest of my firefighting career.  It was extremely painful for a guy that loves the profession and what it stands for like I do.

But, I just was never going to be Dan.

It was at that point that I came face to face with myself, what different things I could bring to this profession, and where my personally great achievements might be made in life.  After the sting of realizing that i’d never be the best “Dan Allred”, I was met with the possibility and potential of being the best “me” I could be.

I’ve never regretted it.

I suggest you do the same when preparing for your oral boards.  What is it about you that makes you who you are?  What are you truly passionate about?  What unique skills, abilities, and talents do you have to offer?   How does this all relate to being a firefighter?  How are you DIFFERENT from your heroes?

Anyone mediocre candidate can rattle off “team player, leader, community focused, compassionate…”  Very few candidates can tell the story of themselves and let it reflectWHO THEY ARE AND WHAT MAKES THEM UNIQUELY QUALIFIED.

Think about what YOU have to offer the fire department and the rest of the world.  What’s your mission?  What story are you writing about YOU?

Answer these questions and then “Tell us about yourself” in your oral board interview.  You just might blow the interviewers away and amaze yourself by realizing that you’re never going to be Dan Allred or anyone else that you look up to…And that might just be what pushes your score over the edge and gets you the career your dreaming about.

Be you…And tell us about it.


PS.  I’d still buy a “Dan Allred Action Figure” if they made one…Seriously.

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