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What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Fire Watch?

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Fire watchers need to have a high school diploma and special training.

  • Fire watch is an important job meant for preventing fires and getting help in case of an emergency.
  • Fire lookouts are the same as fire watchers but watch over a forest rather than a workplace.
  • Fire watch is a vital part of safe operations at any location where there is the possibility of fire.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Fire Watch?

There are relatively few requirements to become a fire watch. First, you need to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Second, you need to receive some kind of training, usually the kind provided by a fire watch course covering OSHA standards.

Although there are few qualifications to become a fire watch, the responsibility of a fire watch is very great. One mistake or moment of distraction can cost lives, just as one second or warning can save lives.

What Are Fire Watch Jobs?

Fire watch is an actual job in which you need to plan how to prevent fires in a workplace, monitor all work done there, and contact the fire department in case of a fire. Fire watch is very important, especially for workplaces that have combustible materials or employees that work with fire in some form or another.

Qualifications and Course Options

As stated above, anyone who has a high school diploma and has been trained to be a fire watcher can become one. What is most important is that you take a course and become certified to be a fire watcher.

There are many course options available, all of which are relatively short. Here at Hard Hat Training, we provide a fire watch course with a variety of class options. This course can be taken online on your own time, onsite with an expert teacher, or through a DIY training kit. If you are an employer looking to train your employees yourself, you can get our train-the-trainer module with the DIY training kit to prepare.

How Much Do Fire Watchers Make?

Fire watchers in the United States make approximately $15-17 dollars an hour, or somewhere between $30,000-40,000 a year. That being said, these jobs are incredibly few in number and are hard to find. Usually, employers will train employees at their workplace to be fire watchers, making it more of an added responsibility than a job in and of itself.

What do Fire Watchers Do?

Working as a fire watch is relatively simple, but it is vital to workplace safety and fire prevention. The fire watchers are responsible for preventing fires at the worksite, contacting the fire department in case of a fire, and providing the fire fighters with information regarding the type of fire they will be dealing with.

What does Fire Watch Training Teach?

Fire watchers are not necessarily responsible for putting out fires themselves. However, if the fires are small enough for them to take care of, then it would be their responsibility.

What does Fire Watch Training Teach?

In the training they receive, fire watchers learn primarily how to recognize fire hazards, prevent fires, classify the type and nature of fires, and know what to do in the event of a fire.

They will also learn about hot work, as well as the different systems and alarms in place in case of a fire. Most importantly, fire watchers will learn how to prepare a workplace for hot work operations and plan effectively to prevent fires before the work day begins.

Fire Types and How To Extinguish Them

There are different types of fires, and the classification of them is essential to know how to put them out. This is common knowledge for fire watchers and important information for them to pass on to emergency responders in case of an emergency.

  • Class A Fires: Any fire that is started with flammable materials such as wood, paper, rubber, or other plastics and kindling is a class A fire. These fires can be put out by any means, but they are most easily put out with water.
  • Class B Fires: These fires are started with chemicals such as tar, oil, paint, alcohol, or fuel of some kind. The best way to put these out is with foam or CO2 extinguishers. Water can sometimes enlarge class b fires and should not be used.
  • Class C Fires: Whenever electrical equipment is the source of a fire, it is a class C fire. To put these out, it is important to first shut off the power to the electrical equipment. Then, it can be put out using halogenated extinguishers. Halogenated extinguishers are non-conductive and non-corrosive extinguishers that are safe for use on electrical equipment.
  • Class D Fires: These fires are started with combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, lithium, etc. They are best extinguished with dry powder agents that absorb heat and prevent reignition.
  • Class K Fires: Class K fires are any fires started with cooking appliances or materials. This could mean grease, oil, or fat fires, to name a few. Wet chemical extinguishers are best because they will cool the substance while they smother the flames. Water should not be used for class K fires because they could possibly enlarge the flames.

What is Hot Work?

Hot work is any work that creates a lot of sparks or uses either gas or fire to perform certain tasks. Generally, hot work refers to welding, in which fire is used in a torch to cut and solder metal. Other hot work can include anytime that metal is drilled, cut, ground, or soldered. This creates high amounts of friction and can create sparks, which can start fires at a moment's notice.

Fire watch is required for any workplace that does hot work. Sometimes, more than one fire watcher will be needed for a workplace.

Hot Work Permits

Fire watchers are responsible for preparing the workplace for hot work and making a plan for how to safely perform those operations. This plan needs to be shared with the supervisor or manager of the workplace, who will then issue a hot work permit so the other employees can start their work.

A hot work permit needs to be issued daily and must be kept on file until all the hot work operations of the day are completed.

Safe Hot Work Practices

Hot labor involves a lot of controlled fire, but if it's used incorrectly, that fire can easily get out of control. The following are some crucial fire watch procedures for hot work:

  • Prepare the workplace before starting work ensuring that it is free of materials that are flammable.
  • Before any work is done obtain a hot work permit
  • Ensure that additional fire watchers are posted near materials that combust easily to specifically watch them to make sure they do not ignite during hot work operations.
  • The firewatcher should not allow themselves to be distracted by your phone or other co-workers.
  • The firewatcher should never leave their post unless they have been replaced by another trained fire watcher.

Adapting Fire Watch For Your Workplace

Fire watch is not a duty that applies to every business. A plan that works for one site might not be suitable for another. It needs to be modified to fit your workplace. Because of this, the planning component of your role as a fire watch is the most crucial and ought to be finished first.

Are Fire Lookout Jobs The Same As Fire Watch Jobs?

Fire lookout jobs are very similar to fire watch jobs, but they have a different kind of application. Fire watch jobs are intended for workplaces where hot work or other combustible materials are present.

Fire lookout jobs are intended for remote areas, such as in forests or national parks, where massive fires are a significant hazard. The biggest difference perhaps, is the fact that fire lookout jobs are usually voluntary and are not always paid positions.

Is Fire Lookout’s Work Easy?

Generally, fire lookout work is easy and not very intensive. It merely involves recognizing fires in the surrounding area and reporting it to emergency services right away. Fire lookouts work longer shifts than fire watchers because their responsibilities are less extensive.

Do Fire Lookouts Use Towers?

There are very few of them still in use, but yes, fire lookouts do still use towers. Many of these are manned by fire lookout volunteers throughout the country. These towers are usually placed somewhere with a high elevation overlooking the area they are in. They have a 360° view of their surroundings with a deck, in most cases.

The towers vary internally, though. Some are equipped for people to stay overnight for days, and others don’t have any space for living or even bathrooms.

The Need For Fire Watchers

Any workplace where there is fire involved or there are combustible materials, a fire watcher is absolutely essential. Any fire watchers who shirk their responsibilities will have massive consequences for their negligence. Fire watchers are an important tool for providing safe work conditions and without them, the chance of property damage, injury, and death increases significantly.

Demand is not high for this job, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very important job to have. Anyone can be a fire watch, and anyone that is in this position should take it very seriously.

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— Arthur Lee, CEO